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Over the years, that dedication to the local drummer paid off. The shop didn't just survive; it passed the million-dollar mark years ago. Rupp's Drums now occupies 2,400 square feet at 2045 South Holly Street. In 2001 Rupp's was given a Retailer of the Year award from Music & Sound Retailer, the leading trade magazine for music-store owners, managers and sales personnel.
But that's just a plaque. The true testament to Rupp's shop is in the smiles of third-generation drummers who buy all of their gear there. It's in the collective gasps of the music community as its members find out that Rupp's about to morph into a memory. It's in the words of the many, many people who have called him a friend over the years. Not only has Rupp been a tireless supporter of local skinsmen over the years, but innumerable drummers in the "rock star" tax bracket have also benefited from his kindness and honesty. As proprietor of Rupp's Drums, he's forged many lifelong friendships.
"All my buddies who were my heroes -- whether they were childhood heroes or modern heroes -- are now my friends, my drinking buddies," says Rupp. He's referring to guys like Bernie Dresel, Brian Setzer's drummer; Terry Bozzio from Missing Persons; Stephen Perkins from Jane's Addiction; Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers; Dave Abbruzzese, Pearl Jam's original drummer; and Ginger Baker from Cream.
When Uncle Nasty (aka Greg Stone) roasts his longtime pal, a few of his friends phone KBPI. "Well, you know, I don't know if I have any specific dirt on Bob," says Mark Schulman, who's played with acts like Foreigner and Cher. "The thing that I love about Bob the most is -- you know, I only get to see Bob about once a year when I come out there touring with any artist -- and every time I come out to see Bob, he's playing in a different-style band and he's got the hair to match!"
"I can't play to save my life, but I look really good doing it," responds Rupp.
Schulman's statement is dead-on: Whether Rupp was playing in the Rumble, Fear of Sleep, Love Garage, Sex With Susie, Vinyl Oyster or Paul Galaxy and the Galactix, he was able to successfully mold his image to match the outfit he was playing with.
In the '80s, when Rupp played with the Rumble, his mod persona must have been pretty convincing. The act won a national talent search on MTV's Basement Tapes that was decided by viewers and received two months of regular rotation on the channel. The Rumble also inked a deal with a U.K.-based label, Hi-Lo records. And Rupp finally made it out to Los Angeles. In fact, the group played there so often that members kept gear in storage lockers that they could retrieve whenever they flew into the city. It was Rupp's first taste of real success as a musician.
His next life-changing moment came when he was playing with Vinyl Oyster and members of the band went to see Brian Setzer live. Inspired, they decided to play their version of rockabilly as a side project named after lead singer Paul Galaxy, Rupp's best friend. Once VO had freed itself from a bad record deal it had signed with a local imprint, the Galactix polished their act and hit the road. Although he had a blast, the touring was tough; Rupp had developed carpal tunnel syndrome, and it was painful to keep playing night after night. Before each show, he'd soak his arms in hot water; afterward, he would soak them in buckets of ice, and the next day he'd wear braces. It took a toll, and that, coupled with the difficulties of managing a shop while on the road, eventually led to Rupp's departure from the band -- one of the hardest decisions he's ever made.
The next voice on the air belongs to Zorro, Lenny Kravitz's live timekeeper and another friend of Rupp's, with another story:
"The best story I can tell you about Bob is more one of his character, more so than one of the funny ones," says Zorro from his home in Southern California. "The story is, I went to Denver about three or four years ago. I was doing a clinic at a competitor's store; it wasn't even Bob's store. I don't think we could hook it up at that time or whatever, but just to show you what kind of a guy Bob is, what kind of character he has, after I was done with my clinic, he went and picked me up from the competitor's shop and then he took me out to dinner. Not the people that had me in for the clinic, God forbid -- they didn't take me out. Which to me, you know, it's a hilarious story -- but it just shows a lot of character and just what a sweet guy Bob is and why so many people in the drum industry just love him. 'Cause he's a people person."
Indeed, he's a man of the people -- his people, his friends, his scene. But Rupp still can't understand what all the fuss over his leaving is about. Or maybe his humility won't allow him to hear of it.