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  WORLD'S YOUNGEST DRUMMER

When Russ Tarby, JAZFAX Editor, mentioned to me that his father had worked for the Shubert Theater organization, I told him about all the wonderful original Broadway shows I had seen thanks to my parents being theater buffs. The first musical I saw  was was "Jumbo" in 1936 when I was five years old, at the Hippodrome Theater which occupied an entire block on Sixth Ave. in NYC between 43rd and 44th streets. It was the largest and most spectacular theater in the world with 6,100 seats.  

Once inside you never forgot the elegance and grandeur. A Brooklyn woman once wrote a letter to the owner that the Hippodrome was the one place of entertainment where she could attend on the Sabbath and still feel that she was in direct communion with God.

With music by Rodgers and Hart, “Jumbo” featured the song “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" and “My Romance”.  I still remember when Jimmy Durante walked on stage followed by a live elephant which supposedly had been stolen from the circus. Asked by a policeman what he was doing leading an elephant, Jimmy looked surprised, shrugged his shoulders and replied, “What elephant ?”

When I mentioned the story about the Hippodrome to Danny D’Imperio I was stunned to learn that Danny’sfather, Bob D'Imperio (also a SC-6 alumnus), played the Hippodrome Theater in 1923 when he was four years old and billed as “The World’s Youngest Drummer”. (Years later, Buddy RIch became famous in vaudevlle as “Traps the Drum Wonder” playing drums at 18 months old!)

Bob’s mother played the piano and his father the violin in their act. They were on the same bill with "Baby Rose Marie" who later was called “Rose Marie” on the Dick Van Dyke Show. “I have to laugh”, says Danny, “because, back in the fifties, he would see her on television lying about her age and  would say...’That's a bunch of crap’. I know how old she is because I was working with her in 1923.’" 

  Danny enclosed a copy of the Centerfold of the New York Times from July 29,1923 proclaiming young Bob D’Imperio to be the “World's Youngest Drummer”. It is in poor condition. He once went to the New York Public Library to find a better copy on microfilm but the sepia tint was not present on the microfilm. (Also in the same centerfold is16 year old Crown Prince Hirohito, the future emperor of Japan.)    

A master of the stride piano and a mainstay in the SC-6 rhythm section for several years, along with Danny, Bob's career had included several years with Pee Wee Hunt. You can hear Bob and Danny on Jack Maheu and Wild Bill Davison’s "Tie A Yellow Ribbon" cd,  available for $18, including postage, from Jazzology Records, 61 French Market, New Orleans, LA 701116, or by e-mail at: geobuck@bellsouth.net.  Bob is also on two tunes from Jack's "Blue Prelude" album:  "Blue Prelude" & "Black and Blue".