August 20, 1931 – Frank Capp was born Francis W. Cappuccio on August 20, 1931 in Worcester, Massachusetts. His uncles worked at Walberg and Auge, a percussion accessory manufacturer. One of them brought a pair of drumsticks home when he was four or five years old. He started banging on the furniture with the sticks, and I ultimately became a drummer. At age 14 he worked in the same music manufacturer shop which got him to the next phase of drumming. And when his dad later bought him his first Slingerland kit, he started a high school dance band and drumming became his life.
At age 19 he was recommended by a mutual friend and began playing with Stan Kenton in California starting in 1951 and remained with Kenton for a couple of years.This auspicious beginning was followed by a career as one of the hardest-working studio players in Los Angeles and as a drummer sought after by some of the world’s biggest singing stars and bandleaders—accomplishments that have almost been eclipsed by his success as a musical contractor.
Capp spent eight months with Kenton. In a 2008 interview he was asked why he left Kenton. “I remember we were up in Canada and Stan took about six guys and he said, “I’m going to have to let you guys go.” Then he took me into a room in private and said, “Frank you are going to be a great drummer one day, but you are not experienced enough to handle some of the heavy music that I’m playing. And it was; it was a heavy band – 10 brass and five saxes. “Although I have great confidence in you,” Kenton said. ‘You will be back someday. I’ll tell you what I’ve done. I found you another job with the Neal Hefti Orchestra. It’s a smaller orchestra, it only had like three trumpets, two trombones and two saxes, lighter music, easier music.’ It’s really where I should have started then I would have been more prepared for Kenton. But he had enough confidence in me.’
Later he often accompanied Peggy Lee on her road dates and subsequently came to Los Angeles where he joined Billy May and recorded on numerous rock and roll sessions with the studio session group The Wrecking Crew.
About formal music training he once said during an interview:
I went to Boston University, but I didn’t major in percussion or performance; I majored in music education, because I thought I was going to be a teacher. I used to write but I gave that up because I was so slow. I wrote a chart for Stan Kenton’s band once, and I wrote a couple of things when I was with Neal Hefti. But I can’t say that I’m an arranger or writer.
He was the drummer on Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes Own” and played on quite a few Beach Boys recording sessions. Together with Nat Pierce he founded the Capp/Pierce Juggernaut Big Band in 1975, a sixteen-piece group, like the Count Basie Band. They did festivals like the Playboy Jazz Festival, the Mt. Hood Festival, and the Monterey Festival.
His early experience included Stan Kenton (1951), Neal Hefti (1952), Peggy Lee (1953-54), Dorothy Dandridge, Betty Hutton, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy May, Harry James, and Charlie Barnet (1955-56); Stan Getz, Red Mitchell, Marty Paich, Art Pepper, and Dave Pell (1953-1956 and joined the Andre Previn Trio in 1957 to 1964), began recording dates with Benny Goodman (1958), Terry Gibbs (1960), Stan Kenton and Turk Murphy (1961), Barney Kessel (1965). Throughout the 1960s, Capp performed on countless radio and television shows, as well as film soundtracks.
In the 1970s, Capp began working regularly with singers Ernestine Anderson and Joe Williams, as well as instrumentalist Dave Pell and Bill Perry (into the 1990s). In 1975, Capp became a co-leader of a big band with pianist Nat Pierce, first as the Capp-Pierce Orchestra, and later the Juggernaut. Stars in that band include Snooky Young, Blue Mitchell, Marshall Royal, and Plas Johnson. The group recorded extensively for Concord. Throughout the years, Capp also gigged and recorded with Joe Pass, Chet Baker, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Lena Horne, and Tony Bennett, among many others, as well as studio dates with the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds), Monkees (“Mary, Mary”) and the Ventures (“Wipe Out” w/Hal Blaine).
A Select Discography shows him on more than 300 albums including Sinatra ’65 (w/Frank Sinatra), Keely Sings Sinatra, (w/Keely Smith), Previn Plays My Fair Lady (w/Andre Previn on Columbia), Five Brothers (w/the Herbie Harper Quintet on VSOP), Marty Paich (w/Art Pepper), A Man Who Used to Be (w/Chet Baker), Hello Reverend (w/Bill Perry on Concord), More than 300 albums.
Frank Capp was a smart operator, who followed the rapid developments of the music industry in the 60s and 70s and became a music contractor for TV shows and commercials and movie productions, which meant he put the musician packages together. He worked closely with the composers to pick the right musicians for the types of music. Capp’s career has been characterized by hard work, an ability to find his place in a shifting and sometimes fickle music scene, and a devotion to playing his instrument that has not diminished with the years. Perhaps most importantly, when responsibility has called, Frank Capp has always been there to accept it.
Capp played well up in his 80s and even did a Tour of Japan at 80.
He died from natural causes on September 12, 2017 at the age of 86.
Frank was famous for complaining that rock drummers had ruined drum hardware. By playing harder than jazz drummers, cymbal stands were built heavier over the years. Frank said, “I used to be able to move my entire drum kit by myself on the NYC subway.”
A well conducted interview on www.jazzhistorydatabase.com gives a great insight in the life and times of Frank Capp.