Great Encounters #7: When Gene Krupa hired Roy Eldridge

July 29th, 2004

Great Encounters

Book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons

 *

When Gene Krupa hired Roy Eldridge

 _____

Excerpted from

Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant

by

John Chilton

______________

     The booking at the Capitol was extended into 1941, but Roy’s long term prospects looked no better than they had a year earlier. However, Roy’s old friend drummer Gene Krupa was about to offer him a life-changing opportunity. Krupa had finished his stint with Benny Godman almost three years earlier and was now one of the foremost bandleaders of the era. Krupa’s Band played at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago during late 1940 and Gene often visited the Capitol (with his wife Ethel and manager Frank Verniere) after he’d finished his sets. Sometimes Roy went off with Gene to find a nightspot on the South Side where they could jam and eat ribs. During this Chicago stay Roy, as ever, was always game for an “after-work” blow, and when Cab Calloway’s Band was in town he greatly enjoyed jamming at the Du Sable Hotel with his old sidekick Chu Berry (sadly, not long after these sessions, Chu lost his life in an automobile accident). Roy took no rest on Sundays, he usually played at jam sessions organized by Harry Lim. During Krupa’s Chicago stay, his trumpeter Clarence “Shorty” Sherock had to miss a couple of dates and Gene was delighted when Roy agreed to deputize. Krupa had always been a fan of Roy’s playing, but his admiration increased when he felt the degree of swing that Roy’s musical presence brought to the band. Krupa, encouraged by Shorty Sherock’s enthusiasm for the idea, decided to offer Roy a permanent place with the band. Roy was thrilled to receive the invitation but pointed out that he was still under contract to Joe Glaser, who would have to approve the deal; Roy had also taken the lease on an apartment at 55th and Michigan. Metronome magazine must have been well abreast of the situation: a small news item in its November 1940 issue was headed “Eldridge for Krupa?” Meanwhile, Roy played through to the end of his booking at the Capitol Lounge, prior to beginning a four-week stint at the Blatz Club in Milwaukee (from February 26, 1941). When that was completed Roy disbanded and moved back to New York prior to playing a split-week in Providence, Rhode Island, as a guest star with Gene Krupa. Things went well, so Roy decided to request formally that Joe Glaser release him from his contract, but Glaser insisted that Krupa would have to pay for the five years that were left on the agreement which Roy had signed with him in 1938. Roy went to the White Rose Bar in New York and relayed this information to Krupa’s manager, who told Roy that Gene didn’t want to pay for the contract. After further negotiations, Glaser agreed to sell the contract back to Roy for $1,000 – the amount to be paid in installments from money taken from Roy’s wages with Krupa.

Roy was now at liberty to become a full-time member of Gene’s Band. He did so by joining the outfit for their six-week residency at New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania, beginning in April 1941. Roy’s wages were $150 a week, $25 more than he had been making with his own quintet in Chicago. Roy was happy with the deal, but realistically pointed out, “I turned out to be the big thing for the band.” Swing fans were absolutely delighted by Roy’s move, as were the musicians in Krupa’s Band. According to Canadian trumpeter Graham Young (then only 19 years old) the band had recently been taken apart in a “Battle of the Bands” with Jimmie Lunceford’s Orchestra at a ballroom in Baltimore:

We lost terribly. There had been talk about hiring Roy Eldridge but the officials at M.C.A., who ran the band at the time, were afraid of the public reaction of having a black person sitting in a white band. However, after the Lunceford fiasco, Gene just hired Roy the next day and didn’t ask M.C.A.

The only disgruntled note came from the Chicago Defender‘s columnist Al Monroe, who, under a heading “Roy Eldridge Turns Ofay to Hook up with Gene Krupa,” wrote:

Fletcher Henderson and Roy Eldridge both had bands and broke them up to accept positions with the outfits with which they now travel. This meant that many musicians were thrown out of work. Raiding bands is new to the profession. It means more money, perhaps, for a few musicians, but will this offset the harm it does to our name Negro bands.

At the time, Roy commented, “While I was happy leading my own band, I found I had limitations, and at times it was tough keeping the men together.” Graham Young (who became a lifelong friend of Roy) spoke of Eldridge’s stay in Krupa’s band:

Roy was a wonderful man and he said he wouldn’t join the band if it meant any of the trumpet players had to get fired, so he came on as a feature. No arrangements were written for him at that time, he had to take some of the jazz solos that Shorty Sherock had been playing. After a while, Shorty flipped and got mad at Roy (not at Gene), so Shorty was gone. Roy sat next to me, he was a great guy and inventive. Every night was a jazz lesson, and it was like that for a year and a half.

It wasn’t only the band’s trumpeters who benefited from Roy’s arrival; the rhythm section also felt they had been given a huge lift by Eldridge’s playing. Bassist Ovid “Biddy” Bastien emphasized this, saying:

Back in 1940, I met Roy through pianist Tony D’Amore: we were both with Gene Krupa and Roy invited us up to his apartment in Harlem for a jam session. We had a great time musically and socially, so it was a pleasure to welcome him into Gene’s band. Shorty Sherock was also a real good pal of mine, but he knew he wasn’t the jazz trumpeter that Roy was; he tried to play like Roy but to my ears it came out more like Ziggy Elman.

Shorty Sherock was a great fan of Roy’s playing, and took his admiration to the point where he had his suits made in the same style as Roy, he ordered the same type of spectacles, and bought the same model of car that Roy drove (a La Salle convertible). He was delighted to have made a private recording with Roy, together with pianist Tony D’Amore and Lloyd Hundling (a trumpeter and vocalist with Charlie Barnet’s Band, who lost his life in August 1941 as a result of the car crash that killed guitarist Gus Etri). Roy said the acetate recordings were made at his apartment “just for fun,” and the only title he could remember was The Sheik of Araby. Shorty Sherock’s then wife was Jean Bach, who said:

Shorty certainly idolized Roy’s playing, and took inspiration from it, so much so that trumpeter Bobby Burnet commented on the fact, which led Shorty to say, “When I change, I change all the way.” Shorty was very likeable, a darling blond teddy bear, and he kept suggesting that Gene hire Roy. But when Roy played in the band Gene found himself thinking, “This is the real thing,” and though Gene was a decent, sweet guy he didn’t feel like keeping Roy and Shorty, so Shorty left. He was getting $85 a week then, but had already drawn his wages in advance. Roy and Shorty certainly didn’t become enemies: in fact their friendship stayed as before. But Roy, who I’d known since Three Deuces days, asked me one day “How’s Shorty?” When I told him he was fine, Roy said, to my surprise, “But like all ofays he turned.”

At the heart of the problem was the fact that Roy was allocated a lot of what had been Shorty’s solo spots, and naturally Shorty, who had less and less to play, became vexed. After suffering for five nights at the Café Rouge section of the Hotel Pennsylvania, Shorty launched into an altercation with Krupa’s manager Frank Verniere, and ended his association with the Krupa Band (he left and soon joined Tommy Dorsey). From this point on Roy ceased to be a featured attraction out-front of the band, and instead took his place in the four-piece trumpet section. Roy was still known as “Little Jazz,” but his new colleagues admiringly called him “Leather Lip” (a name that Joe Marsala had originally used about Roy) because of his stamina, range and power. Gene Krupa summed up the esteem that he, and his musicians, felt: “Roy became our spark plug. Every time he played it was like a light going on in a dark room.” Roy and Gene shared a relaxed friendship that was apparent both on and off the stage. Critic Barry Ulanov commented on the band’s stay at the Hotel Pennsylvania:

Roy Eldrige is almost singly responsible for making the Gene Krupa Band the fine outfit it is today. His volatile personality and incredibly versatile trumpeting have sparked the band to a point where it can truly be said to be coming on.

______________________

Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant

by

John Chilton

*

From Roy Eldridge: Little Jazz Giant.  Used by permission of John Chilton and Continuum Press

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

"Zambramomania" by Roberto Nucci/CC BY-NC-SA-4.0 DEED
“The Eye Tapes…Monument to my Jazzy Eye” by Anita Lerek

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Black History

The Harlem Globetrotters/photo via Wikimedia Commons
A Black History Month Profile: The Harlem Globetrotters...In this 2005 interview, Ben Green, author of Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters, discusses the complex history of the celebrated Black touring basketball team.

Black History

photo of Zora Neale Hurston by Carl Van Vechten/Library of Congress
A Black History Month Profile: Zora Neale Hurston...In a 2002 interview, Carla Kaplan, editor of Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, talks about the novelist, anthropologist, playwright, folklorist, essayist and poet

Black History

Eubie Blake
A Black History Month Profile – Pianist and composer Eubie Blake...In this 2021 Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Eubie Blake biographers Ken Bloom and Richard Carlin discuss the legendary composer of American popular song and jazz during the 20th century

Feature

Jamie Branch's 2023 album "Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))"
On the Turntable— The “Best Of the ‘Best Of’” in 2023 jazz recordings...A year-end compilation of jazz albums oft mentioned by a wide range of critics as being the best of 2023 - including the late trumpeter Jamie Branch's Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((world war))

Essay

"Lester Leaps In" by Tad Richards
"Jazz and American Poetry," an essay by Tad Richards...In an essay that first appeared in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poetry in 2005, Tad Richards - a prolific visual artist, poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer who has been active for over four decades – writes about the history of the connection of jazz and American poetry.

Interview

photo of Pepper Adams/courtesy of Pepper Adams Estate
Interview with Gary Carner, author of Pepper Adams: Saxophone Trailblazer...The author speaks with Bob Hecht about his book and his decades-long dedication to the genius of Pepper Adams, the stellar baritone saxophonist whose hard-swinging bebop style inspired many of the top-tier modern baritone players.

Interview

IISG, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Judith Tick, author of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song...The author discusses her book, a rich, emotionally stirring, exceptional work that explores every element of Ella’s legacy in great depth, reminding readers that she was not only a great singing artist, but also a musical visionary and social activist.

Poetry

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole is an occasional series of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film. This edition is influenced by Stillpoint, the 2021 album by Zen practitioner Barrett Martin

Playlist

“Latin Tinges in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...A nine-hour long Spotify playlist featuring songs by the likes of Horace Silver, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Ahmad Jamal, and Dizzy Gillespie that demonstrates how the Latin music influence on jazz has been present since the music’s beginnings.

Poetry

[Columbia Legacy]
“On Becoming A Jazz Fanatic In The Early 1970’s” – 20 linked short poems by Daniel Brown

Short Fiction

Christerajet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #64 — “The Old Casino” by J.B. Marlow...The author's award-winning story takes place over the course of a young man's life, looking at all the women he's loved and how the presence of a derelict building informs those relationships.

Feature

George Shearing/Associated Booking Corporation/James Kriegsmann, New York, via Wikimedia Commons
True Jazz Stories: “An Evening With George,” by Terry Sanville...The writer tells his story of playing guitar with a symphony orchestra, backing up jazz legend George Shearing.

Short Fiction

Defense Visual Information Distribution Service/via Picryl.com
“Afloat” – a finalist in the 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest – is about a troubled man in his 40s who lessens his worries by envisioning himself and loved ones on a boat that provides safety and ease for all of them.

Poetry

The poet Connie Johnson in 1981
In a Place of Dreams: Connie Johnson’s album of jazz poetry, music, and life stories...A collection of the remarkable poet's work is woven among her audio readings, a personal narrative of her journey and music she considers significant to it, providing readers the chance to experience the full value of her gifts.

Book Excerpt

Book Excerpt from Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song, by Judith Tick...The author writes about highlights of Ella’s career, and how the significance of her Song Book recordings is an example of her “becoming” Ella.

Community

Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII

Interview

photo courtesy of Henry Threadgill
Interview with Brent Hayes Edwards, co-author (with Henry Threadgill) of Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music...The author discusses his work co-written with Threadgill, the composer and multi-instrumentalist widely recognized as one of the most original and innovative voices in contemporary music, and the winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Music.

Poetry

art by Russell duPont
Three jazz poets…three jazz poems...Takes on love and loss, and memories of Lady Day, Prez, Ella, Louis, Dolphy and others…

Playlist

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
“A Baker’s Dozen Playlist of Ella Fitzgerald Specialties from Five Decades,” as selected by Ella biographer Judith Tick...Chosen from Ella’s entire repertoire, Ms. Tick’s intriguing playlist (with brief commentary) is a mix of studio recordings, live dates, and video, all available for listening here.

Poetry

"Jazz Trio" by Samuel Dixon
A collection of jazz haiku, Vol. 2...The 19 poets included in this collection effectively share their reverence for jazz music and its culture with passion and brevity.

Jazz History Quiz #170

photo of Dexter Gordon by Brian McMillen
This bassist played with (among others) Charlie Parker, Erroll Garner, Nat King Cole and Dexter Gordon (pictured), was one of the earliest modern jazz tuba soloists, and was the only player to turn down offers to join both Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars. Who is he?

Interview

From the Interview Archive: A 2011 conversation with Alyn Shipton, author of Hi-De-Ho: The Life of Cab Calloway...In this interview, Shipton discusses Cab Calloway, whose vocal theatrics and flamboyant stage presence made him one of the country’s most beloved entertainers.

Community

Nominations for the Pushcart Prize XLVIII...announcing the six Jerry Jazz Musician-published writers nominated for the prestigious literary award

Poetry

Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“Devotion” – a poem and 11 “Musings on Monk,” by Connie Johnson

Photography

photo of Mal Waldron by Giovanni Piesco
Beginning in 1990, the noted photographer Giovanni Piesco began taking backstage photographs of many of the great musicians who played in Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, that city’s main jazz venue which is considered one of the finest in the world. Jerry Jazz Musician will occasionally publish portraits of jazz musicians that Giovanni has taken over the years. This edition is of the pianist/composer Mal Waldron, taken on three separate appearances at Bimhuis (1996, 2000 and 2001).

Interview

Leffler, Warren K/Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
A Black History Month Profile: Civil Rights Leader Bayard Rustin...

Community

FOTO:FORTEPAN / Kölcsey Ferenc Dunakeszi Városi Könyvtár / Petanovics fényképek, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
.“Community Bookshelf, #1"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Short Fiction

photo by Thomas Leuthard/Wikimedia Commons
“The Winslows Take New Orleans” a short story by Mary Liza Hartong...This story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, tells the tale of Uncle Cheapskate and Aunt Whiner, those pesky relatives you love to hate and hate to love.

Short Fiction

painting of Gaetano Donizetti by Francesco Coghetti/via Wikimedia Commons
“A Single Furtive Tear” – a short story by Dora Emma Esze...A short-listed entry in the recently concluded 64th Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest, the story is a heartfelt, grateful monologue to one Italian composer, dead and immortal of course, whose oeuvre means so much to so many of us.

Interview

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950’s Quartets...Long regarded as jazz music’s most eminent baritone saxophonist, Gerry Mulligan was a central figure in “cool” jazz whose contributions to it also included his important work as a composer and arranger. Noted jazz scholar Alyn Shipton, author of The Gerry Mulligan 1950s Quartets, and Jerry Jazz Musician contributing writer Bob Hecht discuss Mulligan’s unique contributions to modern jazz.

Book Excerpt

“Chick” Webb was one of the first virtuoso drummers in jazz and an innovative bandleader dubbed the “Savoy King,” who reigned at Harlem’s world-famous Savoy Ballroom. Stephanie Stein Crease is the first to fully tell Webb’s story in her biography, Rhythm Man: Chick Webb and the Beat that Changed America…The book’s entire introduction is excerpted here.

Short Fiction

pixabay.com via Picryl.com
“The Silent Type,” a short story by Tom Funk...The story, a finalist in the recently concluded 64th Short Fiction Contest, is inspired by the classic Bob Dylan song “Tangled Up in Blue” which speculates about what might have been the back story to the song.

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Easily Slip Into Another World: A Life in Music, by Henry Threadgill and Brent Hayes Edwards

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Art

Designed for Dancing: How Midcentury Records Taught America to Dance: “Outtakes” — Vol. 2...In this edition, the authors Janet Borgerson and Jonathan Schroeder share examples of Cha Cha Cha record album covers that didn't make the final cut in their book

Pressed for All Time

“Pressed For All Time,” Vol. 17 — producer Joel Dorn on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s 1967 album, The Inflated Tear

Coming Soon

An interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 - 1960;  an interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow? An Oral History of the 60's Girl Groups;  a new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive