Drumboogie (1984), Inks, 70 x 100 cm © Rodney Matthews

Drumboogie - a Crazy Drum Story!

Drumboogie - a Crazy Drum Story!

My younger self channeling an inner John LennonFor those of you who don’t know, I am a drummer, having played the drums ever since discovering my dad’s old kit in the attic in 1959 (the year I left school!) During the 1960s and 70s, I was involved with several rock bands – Pentworth’s People, Originn and Squidd to name a few. It was an amazing time and I was fortunate to support some now “big names”, such as Eric Clapton and Deep Purple, and I played the first Glastonbury Festival – out of sight man!

Although my band’s performed rock music, I loved jazz (I’d spent a lot of time listening to my dad’s jazz records) and I always tried to include its rudiments into my playing. Oh, how I would have loved to have played like my heroes, the legendary American drummers of the jazz age, Buddy Rich, Joe Morello and Gene Krupa – an impossible task of course!

Have you seen the 1959 biopic ‘Drum Crazy’ (aka The Gene Krupa story) in which Krupa plays a solo around a series of water pipes in a boiler room? 

Courtesy of YouTube you can view it here:


Well, I once tried this myself while drumming for the Milneburg Six, a local trad jazz band, during a pub gig. I worked my way around this and that, eventually putting in some stick work on my full beer glass that stood on a side table … the glass shattered with resounding affect, showering me and the kit with beer and glass fragments – what pratt I made of myself!

Anyway, you can imagine then how amazed I was when, a few years after having sat down at the kit for the first time and having endlessly played Gene Krupa records, my French brother-in-law Jean-Paul Gilles announced that he was a drinking partner of the great man himself! Jean-Paul was one of life’s high-flyers. Literally! He was an executive of Air France, stationed in New York City, with my sister Beryl and niece Maureen.

Jean-Paul and Krupa’s drinking haunt was the famous Metropole Café, a jazz club, in New York. 

Art Prints
On a visit in 1965, my brother-in-law took me to the club, and being well-acquainted with the owner, soon found himself saying to him that his nephew was a drummer. Before I knew it, the on-stage drummer was turfed from his seat and I was told to play instead!  I ended up doing three nights with a band called The Detours!

Sadly, I didn’t get to meet my hero, because he was out of town at the time, but Jean-Paul did bestow this signed photo upon me: 

My Gene Krupa autograph
Krupa, pictured with my brother-in-law's secretary Collette

And now finally I get to the point of my blog, the inspiration for my painting, ‘Drumboogie’. Well, that came from Krupa, who had studied African tribal drum rhythms! My fantasy versions of an elephant and rhinoceros can be seen almost dancing to the evocative rhythm laid down by the duo of four-armed drummers in a parched African landscape.

Drumboogie (1984), Inks, 70 x 100cm by Rodney Matthews

Drumboogie (1984), Inks, 70 x 100cm by Rodney Matthews

I will leave you with a video of my hero, playing the track ‘Drumboogie’ at the Metropole Café in 1965: 


First, this is a terrific piece and I love hearing the history on how you arrived at creating this image.

Second, I know this isn’t the place to ask questions, but the Help and FAQ page seems to not be working. I have loved your work since I was 17 and made the trip to London (1979). I was very poor and I think I had 200 pounds to spend for the entire 10 day trip. What did I bring home? Several of your posters (which caused a lot of fuss with customs – oh, yes, I’m from the USA).

Now I am cough not 17 and have a bit more than 200 pounds to spare. I’d love to own one of your color pieces, but I have no idea if that’s even an option. Someone on an art forum told me that if I emailed you, I might have a chance – and here I am. My apologies for going this route.

I love the pencils, but color would be a dream.

Thank you for your time,

Julie Matthews

Met Gene in 1972……what a kind gentleman. He was with a pickup band of musicians from the Connecticut Jazz society……all great players of course. I was a high school kid there with two other drummers from our school jazz band. My Dad got the tickets from a friend ….Lee Rome, a member of the CT Jazz Society. Gene amazed us all …then sat at our table and took photos with us. Great memories….great gentlemen.

Thomas Chapin

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