(Updated) Whiplash: Buddy Rich Shades Gene Krupa

Buddy Rich with Boston Pops Orchestra, West Side Story

We're celebrating our first anniversay this week by pulling out some favorite posts from the past year. This Gene Krupa story originally appeared in a different format when we launched on March 23, 2015. In the beginning, we had long-form stories with just a photo. That format morphed as we came to better understand what the audience wanted, but also for sheer logistical reasons. The story was reformatted and updated on September 1, 2015. The third time is the charm as we post it once again in celebration of our first year rocking the web. Enjoy. - Jacqui

The 2014 movie “Whiplash” has put drumming very much back in the public mind, but in the 40’s and 50’s Big Band drummers were totally famous. There were two guys who were household names, one was Gene Krupa and the other Buddy Rich and they were in a blood feud. One day in San Francisco in 1969 I was told that Buddy Rich and his Big Band were coming to play the Fillmore. I’d had TRAFFIC there the previous week and all I could think of us was all the hippy kids sitting on the floor in a cloud of dope smoke, how would they react to his music? But he was booked, and my opinion didn’t matter at all, but I was warned that he could be an acerbic tyrant. For whatever reason we got along fine, even after an in-store autograph event fell flat on it’s face due to no one attending.

Birdland - Buddy Rich Big Band

Turned out the gig went really well, the place was full and the kids showed real appreciation for his music, but I was afraid he’d had a heart attack when I saw him after the show holding his heart (Please don’t let him die on my watch), but he was just winded. Later on at some point, as if walking on thin ice, I asked Buddy about the great competition between him and Gene Krupa back in the day. Honestly, who was really the better drummer? Rich replied, “I was kid, because I wasn’t the junkie.”

Sing, Sing, Sing - Gene Krupa with the Benny Goodman Band

Gene Krupa/Buddy Rich drum battle

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