Gene Krupa and the Waffle House
Let me state the obvious at the outset: I got nothing for you. Spent the last few weeks immersed in reading four Elmore Leonard novels from the 1970s and have been binge-watching murder and mayhem on Netflix from all over the globe. I also have Movie Pass, the service which allows me to go out and see one film each day for only ten bucks a month, and although it’s yet to become a daily addiction, it fills up my time. And then there’s my soundtrack of late: old time jazz, primarily between the twenties and forties. Punch Miller, the Arkansas Travellers, Gus Arnheim, Kid Ory, Sidney Bechet, The Goofus Five, Buster Bailey, and on and on. Over time I’ve also developed an appreciation for Benny Goodman, especially when he had Gene Krupa hittin’ the skins.
Up until the other day I had no idea that Krupa is credited with inventing the rimshot. A percussion technique on the snare drum that’s sometimes followed by a crash on the cymbal, it is described as “ba-dam tsss’” and has been often used to accentuate the punchline of a joke. It’s applied liberally by every late night talk show host during their monologues, and its roots are traced back to the great old summer resorts of the Catskill Mountains in New York, when the primarily Jewish comedians of the Borscht Belt would entertain with a style of rapid-fire one-liners. No drums here, but a great example nevertheless.
On an unrelated topic, John Travolta returned to Brooklyn this week to promote his new film about gangster John Gotti. He visited Lenny’s Pizza on 86th Street, which was featured in the opening shot of Saturday Night Fever, and was honored by having a slice named after him. There was a large crowd that waited for hours to get an autograph or a selfie with the actor, and he showed up wearing a white leisure suit. A local politician made a speech and said Travolta’s performance in the 1977 film culturally put Brooklyn on the map. (I seriously doubt that.)
And finally on not stayin’ alive, I was a fan of writer and chef Anthony Bourdain’s television programs, and his death has shaken me. Rolling Stone‘s website paid tribute to his “numerous encounters with musicians” that were featured on his shows and it’s an excellent read. He carried a certain rhythm in his speech that I often found as comforting to listen to as the food he spoke of, and watching Parts Unknown was always an experience that seemed to bring faraway places and the people who live there a little bit closer to me. Never met him and didn’t know him, but he had that rare quality of being able to share both his fearlessness and fear. An imperfect man in an imperfect world. A non-comedic rimshot, a fade to black.
Many of my past columns, articles, and essays can be accessed at my own site, therealeasyed.com. I also aggregate news and videos on both Flipboard and Facebook as The Real Easy Ed: Americana Roots Music Daily. My Twitter handle is @therealeasyed.