Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Carl "Battleaxe" Kinney, world champion drummer

When Paul Whiteman, who proudly bore the title of "The King of Jazz," was asked by New York music critics in the 1920s to name the All-American band by selecting the best players of each individual instrument from across the nation, he pronounced Carl “Battleaxe” Kenny "The World's Greatest Drummer." Battleaxe was born in Columbus around the turn of the century. At the age of fourteen he joined Charlie Parker's Popular Players. He was nicknamed "Battleaxe" by local millionaire, Sam Esswein, owner of Esswein Plumbing, who was one of his biggest fans. Three years after he began to play professionally, Battleaxe was hired to fill a featured spot in James Reese Europe's 45-piece orchestra, rated as the best in the country at that time. For twenty-two years, Battleaxe found work in a number of Broadway productions, however, his most thrilling moment was when he competed in a drummer's contest at New York’s Winter Garden Theater and took home the gold medal awarded to him by Vernon and Irene Castle. In 1938, Battleaxe returned to Columbus, attending to his mother's illness. To the end of his life, he wore his gold medal on his watch chain, becoming a recluse and dying alone in 1970. Columbus historian and drummer Tom Smith would like to someday remember Battleaxe with a headstone for his unmarked grave in Columbus’ Evergreen Cemetery .

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