A Profile in Courage

For this month’s From the Past article, my focus is on the great Chick Webb, an astoundingly fine player and bandleader from the mid 1920s and ’30s. Chick was a special person who had to overcome significant adversity in his life, namely a severe physical handicap. Yet he managed to forge on to not only drive what was arguably the best band of the era, but he also discovered world-class jazz vocalist Ella Fitzgerald, and he was a source of inspiration for subsequent drumming superstars, including Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

As I was gathering data on Chick Webb for this article, I rediscovered a classic Modern Drummer article from the July 1977 issue that was authored by Robert Hillary. Robert captured everything I would want to say about Chick, so it seems only fair to reprint Robert’s article here for your enjoyment.

Unfortunately, there’s very little audio or video content available of Chick, but there is a YouTube clip entitled “Extremely Rare Footage of Chick Webb and Gene Krupa,” which is narrated by Louie Bellson. That video, plus Robert Hillary’s fine early Modern Drummer article, do well to celebrate this great drummer.

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