What makes somebody a great drummer? Technique, of course, is the most important thing. Originality is nice, as is showmanship. But none of those things are enough to make somebody the Best Ever; otherwise we’d all agree on Buddy Rich.
No, there’s gotta be an extra something to put a guy at the pinnacle. Something like historical significance. And on that score, nobody except Chick Webb matches the legendary Gene Krupa, born on this date in 1909.
Why Krupa? Simple. There are two legendary events of the Swing Era, and Krupa was involved in both. The first was the “battle of the bands” between the orchestras of Benny Goodman and Chick Webb at the Savoy Ballroom in 1937, which Krupa conspicuously conceded while seated at his drum kit. Maybe Krupa and Goodman were motivated by this pwnage to up their game–I dunno, but it makes a nice story–but the following January 16 Krupa kickstarted a performance of “Sing, Sing, Sing” that still electrifies 74 years later.
Much as I love bebop, it’s clear that the pinnacle of popular music in the US was the Swing Era. And the pinnacle of the Swing Era was this moment:
In fixing the previously incorrect video link, I saw this comment:
I used to sedate people during medical procedures. I played music to help the sedation. One day I was preparing an elderly african-american woman and she said she used to enjoy clubs in Harlem. I guessed she liked music of this era, so I played this song for her. I expressed my being impressed with the drum work and how amazing it was that someone would be able to keep up that pace for that long. Without a pause and as if she were telling me the time of day she said, “Oh, it was the cocaine”.