Rollie Culver

Biography by

The drummer known as Rollie Culver was originally named Rolland Culver and may have regretted the transformation. The longer name, subdivided into "roll and," sounds like an excerpt from a discussion…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

The drummer known as Rollie Culver was originally named Rolland Culver and may have regretted the transformation. The longer name, subdivided into "roll and," sounds like an excerpt from a discussion of basic drum techniques -- a good place to start with Culver considering that his favorite drummer was the highly technical Buddy Rich, fond of combining sustained rolls with complicated snare and tom-tom patterns. Culver's best-known association comes from a much less showy style of jazz, however: the lyrical and lightly swinging combo of trumpeter Red Nichols.

This drummer was with Nichols in the early '40s, followed by a much longer stint from the middle of that decade onward. His boss was so well-liked in Hollywood that it could be said this was a Nichols in the film studios' pocket, resulting in much on-screen time for Culver. He is in at least 20 films and can be seen in the company of Bing Crosby in the entertaining Say One for Me from 1959. Culver came from a Wisconsin family deeply interested in music, although largely as a hobby. His two brothers both played drums, for example, but never professionally. It was the same sort of beginning for Rollie Culver, high-school band and orchestra, but soon he was not only drumming but tap dancing in vaudeville theaters.

Between 1930 and 1940, prior to joining Nichols, the drummer's main gig seems to have been a band led by a couple named Wally and Heinie Beau. Good taste suggests that no further comment be made about possible translative interpretations of the latter name, but such discipline is unfortunately lacking. Culver also performed and recorded with Phil Harris and Kay Starr.