Posts Tagged ‘gene’


Friday, July 11th, 2008

You would think that Gene Krupa would have an FBI file that measures three feet in thickness, if only because of the unfortunate drug incident of 1943 and the reams of press surrounding it. Surprisingly, that is not the case. Some months ago, under the Freedom of Information Act, I petitioned the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice to release any records in their files related to Gene.

There are 14 pages in Gene Krupa’s file. Twelve were released to me. The two pages not released had to do with medical records which would constitute an invasion of privacy, and some info that may or may not have disclosed a confidential FBI source.

The majority of the papers carry a date of February, 1949, specifically February 12, 14, 16, 18, 21 and 23. These records are pretty difficult for the lay person to decipher, but it appears that on or about February 12, 1949, the office of Canadian Immigration contacted the FBI for a background check on Gene. The “FBI Radiogram” from that date reads, “Gena (sic) Krupa…please advise by radio if any criminal record at Bureau. Subject described as well-known dance band leader, age 39, native of Chicago, present residence 10 Ritchie Drive, Yonkers. Report received subject possibly was charged in California with contributing to delinquency of a minor. No further particulars available.”

(In all probability, Gene was playing at a venue called the “Armories” in Brockville, Ontario, which opened for business in 1948 The “rat” could have been someone at the Liquor Control Board there, in that liquor laws had been substantially relaxed in that year and there could have been concerned about having a wild-eyed “hophead,” i.e. Krupa–performing in a liquor-serving establishment. Just speculation.)

The rest of the documents relating to this incident, which must have had to do with a gig in Canada with or without the whole band, detail the sad events of Gene’s January 19, 1943, the actual charges against him, his time in jail, fines paid, and just what charges were overturned.

For those interested in such things, the actual fine for the misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor was $500. On May 18, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail but got out a few days early because of good behavior. However, on June 30, a jury found him guilty of a felony charge, “hiring and employing a minor to transport narcotics; marihuana cigarettes (sic).” He was sentenced to an unspecified term in San Quentin prison. Out on $5,000 during the appeal process, the felony charge was reversed by the California District Court of Appeals on June 30, 1944, because of double jeopardy.

On September 24, 1953, it again appears that Canada was suspicious of Gene, as a “Liaison Representative” from Ottawa, Ontario, seems to have asked the FBI for up-to-date dirt on the drummer. The reply, from none other than Ms. J. Edgar Hoover, reads, “Records of the FBI Identification Division reflect no reported arrests for Krupa since 1943.” Someone in Ottawa must have really had it in for Gene, as almost two years to the day later, the “Liaison Representative” asked about the dates and availability of fingerprint files within the FBI offices. The Bureau replied that there were no fingerprints taken after the 1943 incident.

Maybe this Canadian guy didn’t like be-bop. Or drum solos.

More interesting than the files themselves is what is not included. After all, in 1952, Krupa was the first American jazz performer to visit Japan, and during his during his Jazz at the Philharmonic days, he was all over Europe and points north and south. In the late 1950s, under Norman Granz’ aegis, he again toured Europe, and in the 1960s, went to South America and Israel, among other locations. And presumably, he was an annual visitor to the Frankfurt Music Fair, representing the Slingerland Drum Company, until he was too ill to travel around 1972.

Of all the cities and countries Gene visited in the world, only Canada caused a problem. Maybe someone knows the reason why.

There have been a few stories written in recent years, notably in Gene Lees’ “Jazzletter,” that suggest Gene was hounded by law enforcement officials, particularly during his Las Vegas tenures in the 1950s at the Frontier Hotel. Let the record finally show, that at least according to the FBI, he was not.

When I first went through all this paperwork and saw most of it dated 1949, my first thought was that some or all of this may have had to do with a messy drug situation that occurred within Gene’s big band in that year.

However, that incident happened in late July, five months after the Canadian nonsense. Although it was widely reported in the press at the time, and Gene was said to be very, very angry about it, what happened in Detroit on or about July 26, 1949, hasn’t been discussed for years. Since we’re on the subject of file openings, here’s what happened, courtesy of a Chicago Tribune article dated July 27, 1949.

It seems that three members of the Krupa band–guitarist Ralph Blaze, trombonist Herb Randel and trumpet John Bellow–were accused of possessing marijuana and later arrested at a downtown Detroit hotel. Presumably, the band was playing a theater or club in Detroit at the time. Police found Blaze in possession of two reefers and a pipe. The two members of the brass section were in for bigger trouble. They were found with cocaine, in addition to the pot, and ultimately pleaded guilty to violating federal narcotics regulations and were released on $1,000 bail pending sentencing. I don’t think Bellow or Randel did any actual time.

In addition to the drugs, Detroit police found three, 18-year-old girls in the hotel room. Two were from out of town and said they flew in to visit Randel and Bellow. The third was a home town girl who said she met Ralph Blaze “a week ago.” Blaze and the ladies were not charged with anything.

After leaving Krupa, Ralph Blaze had a long and successful career with Stan Kenton and many other west coast groups, and also established himself as a respected sculptor. He was active in the recording studio and in live performance into the early 1990s.

Herb Randel, a reliable section man, spent some seasons in Woody Herman’s 1950 to 1951 “Third Herd” after being relieved of duty by Gene (Woody had more tolerance for bad boys back then). Randel seems to have fallen off the radar screen after 1951,

John Bellow showed up in the trumpet section of a 1958 Charlie Barnet band and in a Quincy Jones-led studio group that backed Billy Eckstine in 1961. Tom Lord’s incisive discography, which lists Bellow as “Bello,” says he participated in 63 recording sessions from 1946 to 1964. After that, nothing.

Some good things happened in 1949, including some nice recordings for Columbia and Roy Eldridge’s happy return to the band, which lasted from February to October. I get the idea, however, that the Detroit incident, coupled with sad state of the band business in 1949, really helped sour Gene on the idea of keeping the large group together much longer.

The decision was almost made for him. In 1950, he lost his long-time Columbia Records contract and his switch to the RCA label was brief and not very productive. In the beginning of 1951, he cut down to a 12-piece crew. They sounded awful. Check out the CD entitled “Gene Krupa: London House 1964 and Cavalcade of Bands 1951” for an example.

In retrospect, it is simply incredible that Gene Krupa was able to keep a big band of any kind together until almost 1952. Benny, Woody, Les Brown, Dorsey and Basie gave up in 1950 (although all but Benny would ultimately re-form) and Ellington was barely hanging in there.

Gene would play, and play very well, in big bands again, on record and in person, but only for record sessions, special concerts or television shows. From 1952 until his death in 1973–21 years–this big band icon was a small group drummer.

Update and correction:

Our good colleague Mike Berkowitz, the marvelous drummer, conductor and leader of the wonderful “New” Gene Krupa Orchestra, has been kind enough to update us as to the whereabouts of trumpeter John Bello, who played on the 1949 Krupa band. Earlier in this column, I said I could find nothing on Bello beyond a 1964 record date.

This demonstrates the current limitations of the web as a research tool–and in this case, the current limitations of the researcher as well–especially when it applies to jazz.

As incredible as Tom Lord’s “Jazz Discography” is, how can researchers track a musician who played and recorded a whole lot of music that might have not been jazz?

Bello, by the way, is the correct spelling of his name, which has sometimes been listed as “Bellow.” He lived, according to Mike Berkowitz, in the Philadelphia/Atlantic City area for many years, and Mike actually used him on some band dates there. In earlier years, he also worked extensively with Maynard, Quincy Jones, in a number of Broadway pit bands, etc.

What is particularly astounding is that Bello was, for some years, Judy Garland’s lead trumpeter, having appeared on dates under the baton of Mort Lindsey, Bill LaVorgna and Howard Hirsch. Every Garland fan certainly has a copy of the famed, Carnegie Hall concert recordings. Lead trumpet player on that date: John Bello.

Our apologies to Bello, who lives in Florida and still plays with rehearsal bands here. And our thanks to Mike Berkowitz, who is, indeed, “extraordinaire.”


Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

There is virtually nothing that the Berlin-based Arthor Von Blomberg has not done in the entertainment industry. His experience includes stints as record producer, recording engineer, recording artist, author, jazz drummer, actor and band leader. I received a telephone call some weeks back from Arthor, who wanted to enlist some of my services in line with an upcoming project about Gene Krupa. The project? “The Gene Krupa Story,” a Broadway musical based on the life and music of that ace drummer man. At first, I was skeptical about the concept, but upon hearing further details about it and looking into Arthor’s extensive resume’, I concluded that this was, indeed, “the real thing.” Though still in the early stages, Arthor and his colleagues (and I proud to be one) are moving forward with plans for a national promotional tour with a big band that will include some pretty big-name players (like the great altoist Richie Cole), casting, discussions about merchandising, various presentations to potential backers, etc. Arthor Von Blomberg’s passion and knowledge of Gene and jazz is extraordinary, and if anyone can do something like this and do it well, it is Arthor. Gene Krupa led a life filled with superb, innovative music and a good deal of singular drama. Could there be any better material than this for a Broadway show? Anyone interested in being a part of “The Gene Krupa Story” should contact me directly at We will keep all of our JazzLegends visitors updated on the progress of the show and the tour.

As if everyone did not already know, the Krupa model drumstick from Bopworks are here and are currently available at We’ve received nice write-ups in several percussion publications and will be amply represented at various international drum shows, including the upcoming Vintage Drum Show in Sunbury, Pennsylvania. Bopworks, by the way, also makes Mel Lewis and Shelly Manne models that are exact duplicates of the fondly-remembered originals.

In the merchandising area, we are still in discussions with a cymbal company–sadly, not the one known as “the only serious choice–about a Krupa model cymbal or cymbals. Right now, we are zeroing in on a few possibilities, mainly a 24-inch heavy ride that Gene used through the 1950s and early 1960s, and his unbelievable swish cymbal. Gene’s cymbal sounds and cymbal models were as individual as his drumming.

I used to love PBS, the Public Broadcasting System. Upon release of my first video in 1993, “Gene Krupa Jazz Legend,” I was anxious to hook up with the Philadelphia PBS affiliate, in hopes that they would air the program. Talks with them did not go well, and as I recall, the only deal they offered was structured so I would be paying them instead of vice versa. Several years later, during the production of “Buddy Rich Jazz Legend,” I tried obtaining a screener of Buddy on a program called “The Mark of Jazz,” aired by the same, PBS Philadelphia affiliate. I’ve had easier times running marathons. And I don’t even run marathons. I did have permission to screen and use the footage from the actual producer, Sid Mark, but PBS demanded that I provide proof that Mark was the producer. The only way I could provide that proof was to get a screener of the footage which would clearly show on the credits that the program was “Produced by Sid Mark.” They said that they couldn’t give me a screener without proof that Sid Mark was the producer. Get it? We did get the footage in the end, but the whole situation was simply not pleasant. We tried getting clearance to use Buddy’s famed appearance with the Boston Pops Orchestra from the Boston PBS affiliate, WGBH. Their terms? We could use only two minutes of film, maximum, and that would cost $60,000. I told them that no one would pay that price and that we were the only people likely to ever produce anything like what we were producing on Buddy Rich. No go. I asked them, “If no one ever buys this film at this price, does that mean the video will eventually disintegrate and turn to dust?” Their answer? “Yes.” Several months ago, I received a phone call from WNET, the New York city PBS outlet. They were producing a documentary about New York city during World War II and were interested in obtaining footage of Gene, Glenn Miller, Count, Duke and Tommy Dorsey. I quoted them a fee and they turned it down. I cut the fee in half and they turned it down. Finally, feeling that maybe I should do something good for the PBS “cause,” I took several, full work days and assembled more than enough great footage for them. I sent it to the producers and told them that if they wanted to use any of it, they could pay me whatever they thought it was worth or whatever they could afford. Ultimately, I was told that they did use some of the clips, and that they would send me a dub of the program and what I judged as a reasonable fee or “honorarium.” This was over a month ago and I have yet to receive the fee or the dub. The last thing I heard–after bombarding the producer with emails and phone calls– was that the powers that be did not realize that I had to file a W-9 tax form. This was ten days ago, and still nothing. Based on my experience with PBS, little has changed with them in 25 years. They remain arrogant and haughty and continue to have the attitude of “being entitled.” The difference in 2007 is that there really is no need for PBS, their attitude and their beg-a-thons. Everything PBS does and a lot more, with the possible exception of the initial showings of Kenny Burns’ documentaries, is available on cable. Unless PBS changes their tune and offers innovative programming that cannot be seen elsewhere, they will go the way of the Dumont Television Network.

Robbie Cavolina and his talented colleagues have finished production on the documentary DVD, “Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer.” The project is absolutely marvelous in every way, and in my opinion, it is destined to be an award winner and thought of as a classic, alongside “Jazz on a Summer’s Day” and “Great Day in Harlem.” In addition to very rare performance and interview footage of Anita, including film from the TImex television special we don’t have, there are on camera talks with BIll Holman, Billy Taylor, Gerald Wilson, Maynard Sloate and many others. It is a gem. I am doing whatever I can to assist in getting this the proper, international home video distribution that it deserves. Hopefully, by that point, we will be able to offer it here as well.

Call this one–a DVD on the life and music of legendary cornetist, Wild Bill Davison–a discovery. This 100-minute project was actually a privately but very professionally produced video that was released, also privately, in 1991. When it sold out its run that year, it disappeared. It’s a wonderful document, based on extensive interviews with Bill, performance footage from the Sacramento Jazz Festival, rare film of Bill with Eddie Condon and more. This, too, deserves proper home video distribution, and we’re working on that as well. There have been rumors circulating for years about film taken during the famed “Jazz at the New School” concert with Gene, Wild Bill and Condon. If such film does exist, this would be the perfect place for it.

A good friend and a great supporter of music through the years (remember, we have to have listeners, too) has started an innovative, new business called “The Balloon Store on Wheels.” Serving the Greater Delaware Valley (areas of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware) the Balloon Store comes to your location and offers wonderful balloon arrangements for birthdays and just about every kind of private party or corporate event. Additionally, they design and offer one-of-a-kind gift baskets for all occasions, their special “Party in a Box” (containing everything from plates and utensils to invitations and table covers), as well as personally designed, take home “goodie bags.” We know that JazzLegends visitors are party people, so if you are having one and live in the Greater Delaware Valley, log onto and start partying as soon as possible. Until next time, keep swingin’.

Bruce Klauber, October, 2007


Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

At long last, Chris Bennett of the Bopworks drum stick company, the Gene Krupa Estate and yours truly are able to announce the pending availability of the first, officially sanctioned Krupa stick to hit the market since 1972. Those of you who follow this column and have asked about the sticks’ release are well aware of the time it’s taken to get this deal together. There were times, quite frankly, when Chris Bennett and I were about to throw in the towel, and it is a testament to his patience and dedication that this has finally happened. I can tell you that the stick is well worth waiting for. Bopworks puts out, in my estimation, the finest product on the market, and their Mel Lewis and Shelly Manne models are prime examples of the company’s integrity and dedication to quality and authenticity. expects to have the sticks available in the coming weeks, though the first ones to likely have them will be and the retailers they currently service. It is my goal to, at some point, have the Krupa model stick available everywhere drum sticks are available, including mega retailers like Guitar Center, Sam Ash and maybe even Target, to say nothing of web giants like Musicians Friend, Interstate Music, etc. If any of the visitors and supporters are retailers–or know of one–get in touch with Chris Bennett directly at: or visit the Bopworks web site. We may have mentioned that our good friend Michael Berkowitz, who leads the “New Gene Krupa Orchestra” (officially sanctioned by the Estate), is our first endorser, and it’s an honor to have him. There are none better and make sure you get his CDs. In many of the recreations I’ve heard through the years, either the band has been great and the drummer mediocre, or vice versa. In this case, both Berkowitz and the group are fabulous.

Because of our constant shuttling back and forth from Philadelphia to Florida, we are changing our mailing address in order to better serve our long-standing mail-order customers. Though the thought did occur to do away with mail order totally, it is certainly understandable that there are some supporters out there who would prefer not to order via the web and/or may not have web capability. The new mail-order address is: c/o Bruce Klauber, 450 Domino Lane #D-5, Philadelphia, PA 19128. Don’t forget to include the “D-5.” From time to time, we still get phone calls asking if we accept credit cards by telephone. No, credit card orders are strictly done on the web site with PayPal.

We are still discussing –with the greatest webmaster who ever webmastered –the possibility of making downloads available on some of our CDs and DVDs. I’m told that it’s quite an involved and possibly costly process, and we are thinking seriously about the pros and the cons. Bear in mind that such things would be available on a tune-by-tune basis for a cost of around $5.00, perhaps less. One idea that someone floated was to make “preview” downloads available, i.e., 30-to-50 second samples that would help a buyer decide what to buy. When first started back in the prehistoric days, we had Real Audio samples on the site, but there was really no way to track just how many folks took advantage of that feature. Feel free to mull this over in the Forum. will abide by your decision.

We are again urging you to support the Fresh Sound record label out of Barcelona. As the company who released our JATP in Hamburg package, Fresh Sound is doing things that absolutely no one else in the industry is doing. If this release does well, there is always the possibility that the company would release other JATP programs, with and without Gene. Remember that their product is available via,, and the Fresh Sound web site.

Also in the “urging” arena, we are constantly attempting to broaden our scope and our variety of selections. The name of the site, after all, is “Jazz Legends.” so we’re happy to have added artists like Count Basie, Gerry Mulligan, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Blakey, Coleman Hawkins, Boots Randolph, Kenny Clarke and many others during the past several months. Take advantage of what we have, and ask for the artists and/or CD or DVDs you seek. We’ll do our best to make them available. There is life beyond Gene!

We have reached the serious negotiating phase for the wide, commercial release of our “Jazz Legends on Television” DVD, a 90-minute, “best-of” compilation of the great, jazz-oriented TV specials of 1957 to 1962. Though we offer it on our site, this is one of those projects, like the JATP in Hamburg concert, that cries out for worldwide retail and international web release. For some reason, it’s been a tough sell, but something is up in the marketplace. The good folks at Jazz Icons did so well with their first spate of DVD releases, that a half-dozen more new discoveries are now set for release. These include titles by Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Dexter Gordon and something that we cannot wait to view: John Coltrane and Stan Getz in concert, together! Though these giants were poles apart stylistically, they did have a great, great deal of respect for each other. When a jazz writer once asked Trane his thoughts about Stan Getz, Coltrane replied, “Let’s face it…wouldn’t we all want to sound like Stan?”

Now in the final editing stage is the long-in-preparation “Classic Rock Drum Solos” DVD from Hudson Music. This has taken all of us over two years to put together, and we all eagerly anticipate the final result. Whatever your feeling about rock and rock drumming, there is no question that all of these players are technically astounding in their own way. Just to refresh your memory about the stellar line up of soloists, they include Louis Prima’s Jimmy Vincent, Louis Jordan’s Shadow Wilson, tributes to Lionel Hampton and Krupa, Bill Haley’s Ralph Jones, The Ventures’ Mel Taylor, Sandy Nelson, Ginger Baker, Carl Palmer, Ron Bushey, Ian Paice, Michael Shrieve, Clive Bunker, Carmine Appice (who also hosts) Cozy Powell, Don Brewer, Keith Moon, Neil Peart and Steve Smith. We only await permission from the family of John Bonham in order to complete this DVD. Watch this space and for release dates.

Finally, Joy Adams joins me in thanking all of you who attended our recent show in the Philadelphia area. As they say in the vernacular, “the joint was mobbed,” and we hope to do something like this several times per year.

God bless and keep swingin… Bruce Klauber, July, 2007