Obituary for Radio Drummer Roy C. Knapp

Photo of the old-time radio drummer and percussion teacher Roy C. Knapp playing the drums
Drummer and percussion teacher Roy C. Knapp

Roy C. Knapp, a network orchestra musician during radio's golden area in Chicago and a highly respected percussion teacher in the city for decades, died June 16, 1979, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. He was 87. The cause of death was not released.

Knapp was a longtime resident of Chicago's Near North Side. He was born on Oct. 26, 1891, in Waterloo, Iowa, where his father operated the town's first movie theater. Knapp could play several musical instruments and when the drummer for the theater's orchestra became ill, Knapp filled in for him. The experience inspired him to pursue music as a career.

The young stickman moved to Chicago in his twenties, becoming a sought-after studio musician skilled as a drummer, percussionist and xylophone soloist. He then extended his craft by becoming a teacher whose students included the jazz drummers Gene Krupa, Dave Tough, George Wettling and Louie Belson. He was a longtime orchestra member on shows broadcast on WLS.

In 1938, Knapp and his wife opened the Roy C. Knapp School of Percussion in Chicago at 509. S. Wabash Avenue. Ads proclaimed the Knapp school of music as "the cradle of celebrated drummers," offering students tutelage in the skills needed to join a "top flight" radio, television, theater or concert orchestra.

In addition to his performances for radio and movies, Knapp played the drums on the National Barn Dance from 1923 to 1960. He also played on Chicago's radio program The Breakfast Club. Though he was retired as a performer he still offered private lessons at the time of his death.

A Chicago Tribune obituary lists his survivors as a daughter, Dorothy Law; sons Donald Knapp and James Knapp; seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Related Stories:


Thank you Roy for everything. You were the greatest teacher for drums and percussion. You made me the swing drummer that I am today.

Roy Knapp was a masterful teacher and percussion educator. I enrolled with Roy as one of his last students. At 13 years of age I diligently took the train into the City to his studio. Rudiments were of paramount importance in his book. When I mastered some of them I was allow to get my first snare drum. You know the drill from there. Roy taught me how to smile to a audience when playing on stage. I never forgot that. Over the years I played in numerous bands and did some studio recording. Thanks a million for nurturing my love of percussion
Larry Meyerson

Add a Comment

All comments are moderated before publication. These HTML tags are permitted: <p>, <b>, <i>, <a>, and <blockquote>.