Saturday, May 26, 2012

Freddie Crump - another forgotten genius

It seems as though I am always trying to track down forgotten drummers (Manzie Campbell, the drummer whom Papa Jo Jones proclaimed to be the best in the world, and John Kornfeld - the man who is credited with teaching Louis Cottrell sr. who may actually be the real root of US drum kit playing.) My quest to learn more about Crump started when a friend emailed this clip to me:

Unlike Cambell and Kornfeld, there is a wealth of information about the drummer, including personal reminiscences from those who remembered and played with him posted in response to the clip, to icons such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Victor Feldman. However, there are still gaps, such as when he was born, where he died, and the other details - personal and professional - that provide a portrait of a man's life.

Information provided with the clip included, Freddy Crump was with Gonzelle White's band 23-25 (with Count Basie). Thomas and Crump moved to Britain in 1937 and became a fixture in the Music Halls. In 1944 Crump joined the excellent Johnny Claes Big Band and did regular radio work on the BBC including his own comedy routines.

Comments by other viewers clearly indicated that Crump was well know in Europe up until his death in 1980. I managed to get that date from this Jazz Professional page.

He is also mentioned by the great Victor Feldman (see this article written by Michael Cerra.) Some research indicates that Crump was born in Richmond, VA (where I grew up), and judging from his age in the 1929 clip, he was born circa 1910.

A brief mention of him is in an August 20, 1938 article in The Afro American and Richmond Planet about his brother, Pleasant R. Crump. At that time, according to the article, Freddie was already in Europe. We know from other sources, including comments on the video, that Crump was a popular fixture in the UK. Also, he may have been based out of Denmark by the mid-1960s. This information is extrapolated from this document, which contains this tantalizing tidbit talking about Duke Ellington: Duke then introduced Freddie Crump, an American drummer who apparently had lived in Denmark for some time, known by Duke but unknown to us and not listed in any of the jazz encyclopedias.

Count Basie (who was with him in Gonzelle White's band from 1923 to 1925) mentioned him in his biography, Good Morning Blues, further indicating that Freddie was well known and remembered when you consider that Duke Ellington remembered him in the mid 1960s. Here is what Basie had to say:

I stumbled across these personal reminiscences in
JARS Issue 111 - March/April 1998 (Jazz at Ronnie Scott's newsletter):


Also, a very diminutive Mr. Crump had an uncredited role in a 1942 movie titled King Arthur Was a Gentleman (with a very young Victor Feldman also on drums.) Here is a clip:

One final photo I managed to track down:

We have some information about this remarkable (and from the accounts listed highly regarded and respected) man. There are still many pieces missing. If you can fill in the blanks, please do contact me or provide what information you may have in comments.

Oh, and how may of you were so focused on Freddie in the first clip that you failed to be stunned by the pianist starting around 4:10? My jaw dropped. He was as good on piano as Mr. Crump was on drums in my opinion.

5 comments:

Topsyturvy said...

I saw Freddie Crump's act in 1946 or 1947 in one of the cafes on the Esplanade at Blankenberge, Belgium. His signature tune was "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and he dressed as a chef, just as in the photograph you have. He was a terrific act, so good that he has stayed in my mind all these years.

fromnabulax said...

I just came across Freddie for the first time on a DVD set of old Vitaphone shorts from the 1920s. I was so stunned I ran right for the web to learn more about the guy and found your site.
the Harlem-Mania short is simply astounding. I have no doubt Duke Ellington knew who this guy was. Many of Duke's early drummers had a flair for showmanship, but Crump tops them all. What an entertainer.
Thanks for all your fine detective work as well.

Styver said...

I can confirm Freddie was in Denmark in the late sixties. I had a gig with my band at a High School in the city of Herning. He was there when we played, because he had a daughter studying at the school. I was the drummer in the band and during our show, Freddie came up and asked me, if he could play a drum solo. No problem, I said... and the next 10 minutes I will never forget. :-)

BR B. Styver - DK

Ray Wick said...

I discovered Mr. Crump in the early 1960s. He was touring US army bases in Germany with a small band. I had no idea who he was but went to the performance out of boredom. The first thing he did was apologize because his personal set of drums had been shipped to a different base and he was using what ever drums he could collect on site. None the less the performance was phenomenal. By the end of the show I knew I would never forget who Freddie Crump was.

per oldaeus said...

Crump is mentioned on page 43 in the book RIFFTIDE: The Lif and Opinions of Papa Jo Jones, by Albert Murray.