During the heyday of swing the two best known drummers were Gene Krupa (when I 'deejayed I introduced him as 'Genie with the light brown drumsticks), and Buddy Rich. The rock era has introduced the younger set to many others who play the instrument that was once banned from the Grand Ole Opry stage. (Bob Wills took care of that tabu).
I had never seen Rich in person but, whenever Krupa brought his band to New York City's Paramount Theater I was there. He was a great instrumentalist and a great showman who would often come down to join his fans and, with sticks in hand, he would keep the musical excitement going by bamming on the seats.
Another drummer never quite made the history books, but I became a fan, an avid fan, after reviewing the movie, "Hoodlum Girls" for Jimbo. Among other things in the movie was an outstanding performance by Karl H. Kiffe. I was engrossed - totally - watching this young man in action. I just had to find out more about this 'cat'. Turns out, he got around. He was highly respected, and performed with several of the biggest names in the music business.
He was a Vegas resident for 44 years - a non-gambling resident. Those games of chance were used to entice visitors to that city. He died in 2004. He was born in 1927. When he was all of 14-years-old he won the semi-finals in a competition sponsored by his hero - Krupa. Two years later he organized his own group, "The Hollywood Canteen Kids." Obviously, the 'kids' performed for servicemen on leave. His reputation grew swiftly and, before long, he was sitting in with the Krupa crew - also with Rich and Dizzy Gillespie. And, he performed with one of his heroes - Benny Goodman, the king of - you-know-what. That included an appearance on Ed Sullivan's show.
Kiffe was cavorting with the big boys - (coincidentally, as I was writing this, Sonic Tap was playing Krupa). He played with such singers as Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, Dinah Shore, and Wayne Newton. TD recommended him to his brother, JD, when the youngster was all of 18-years-old. He stayed with Jim Dorsey for two years. And, he was with a group of fellow musicians featured in a Mitzi Gaynor TV special.
The theory was - 'I live in Vegas - might as well perform there -. He often worked with Sammy Davis, Jr. - also an excellent drummin' man. I mentioned his solo spotlight in "Hoodlum Girls" - he also worked with Jane Powell in "Song Of the Open Road,"and appeared in a Warner Brothers short, "Jr. Jive Bombers." And, no surprise here, he appeared in "The Fabulous Dorseys."
And, he worked with some other well known musicians recording 26 15-minute transcriptions for the U. S. Marines recruiting program. And, speaking of our armed forces, Kiffe got his draft notice. The good doc was also a musician and, when Kiffe told him he had just gotten an invite to join Jimmy Dorsey - he got a deferment.
He was 76 when he died. His dad wanted him to be a violinist but, fortunately, he opted for the drums and, if you want to see him in action, order up the Jimbo copy of "Hoodlum Girls."
* * * *
This is an appropriate time to pay tribute to a dear friend who died earlier this year. Martin Parker spent a decade performing with Ricky Skaggs, who always kidded him about his wild shirts and, he spent two decades performing with Vince Gill. He worked with several of the Grand Ole Opry performers. His favorite? Patty Loveless. About a month before he passed away, Gill and Loveless drove to his hometown of Edenton, N. C. to visit their favorite drummer.
* * * *
A quicky drum history. They have been traced back - waaay back - to 6000 BC. The drums were made of clay. Clay is my son's name and, yes, he was a drummer. He organized a band, two guys and a gal which, for some reason, was called Detour. One day, they performed at a fund-raiser which featured, for the most part, swing and country. Detour rocked and, it was loouud rock. A man in front of me complained to his wife about their'loudness'. I resisted the temptation to tap him on his shoulder and brag - 'that's my kid'.
* * * *
So much for drums. Now, drum roll please, for some quickie stories about music in general. What was the greatest battle song ever written? "Here Comes the Bride." -- Didja hear about the woman who bought a record player (remember?) home? It was a six-foot disc jockey. -- A teenager comes home from a rock 'n roll concert. Mom asks how it went. The kid said, "it was great, mom. You would have hated it."