In 1943, Gene Krupa was arrested for possession of two marijuana cigarettes and was given a 90-day jail sentence, of which he served 84 days. He was also charged with, but acquitted of, contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was exonerated/acquitted of all charges when it was subsequently proven that the entire episode was a trumped-up “frame”, as the prosecution’s key witness was paid to falsely testify against Krupa.
Gene Krupa’s version of the incident:
“By then I was the glamour boy-15 camel hair coats, three trunks around me all the time-and my and a friend couldn’t think what to get me for a gift. Finally he thought, ‘Gee I’ll get Gene some grass.’ At that time, California was hot as a pistol, you could park your car for a bottle of beer and get arrested. So he had a rough time getting the stuff. He probably shot his mouth off a little-‘I’m getting this for the greatest guy in the world, Gene Krupa.’ Gene decided to leave the marijuana at his hotel. The police, being tipped off, began searching the theater where Gene’s band was currently playing. “I suddenly remembered the stuff’s at the hotel where they’re going next. So I call up my new valet and say, ‘Send my laundry out. In one of my coats you’ll find some cigarettes. Throw them down the toilet.’ But the kid puts them in his pocket and the police nail him on the way out, so I get arrested.” “The ridiculous thing was that I was such a boozer I never thought about grass. I’d take grass, and it would put me to sleep. I was an out-and-out lush. Oh, sure, I was mad. But how long can you stay mad? So long you break out in rashes? Besides, the shock of the whole thing probably helped me. I might have gone to much worse things. It brought me back to religion.”
Gene has often been considered to be the first drum “soloist.” Drummers usually had been strictly time-keepers or noisemakers, but Krupa interacted with the other musicians and introduced the extended drum solo into jazz. His goal was to support the other musicians while creating his own role within the group. Gene is also considered the father of the modern drumset since he convinced H.H. Slingerland, of Slingerland Drums, to make tuneable tom-toms. Tom-toms up to that point had “tacked” heads, which left little ability to change the sound. The new drum design was introduced in 1936 and was termed “Seperate Tension Tunable Tom Toms.”“ Gene was a loyal endorser of Slingerland Drums from 1936 until his death. Krupa was called on by Avedis Zildjian to help with developing the modern hi-hat cymbals. The original hi-hat was called a “low-boy” which was a floor level cymbal setup which was played with the foot. This arrangement made it nearly impossible for stick playing. Gene’s first recording session was a historical one. It occured in December of 1927 when he is noted to be the first drummer to record with a bass drum. Krupa, along with rest of the McKenzie-Condon Chicagoans were scheduled to record at OKeh Records in Chicago. OKeh’s Tommy Rockwell was apprehensive to record Gene’s drums but gave in. Rockwell said “All right, but I’m afraid the bass drum and those tom-toms will knock the needle off the wax and into the street.”
Gene Krupa will forever be known as the man who made drums a solo instrument. He single-handedly made the Slingerland Drum Company a success and inspired millions to become drummers. He also demonstrated a level of showmanship which has not been equaled. Buddy Rich once said that Gene was the “beginning and the end of all jazz drummers.” Louie Bellson said of Gene, “He was a wonderful, kind man and a great player. He brought drums to the foreground. He is still a household name.