Replacing the dynamic Gene Krupa in the band of the oppressively demanding Benny Goodman could not have been easy, especially for a fellow dimunitive enough to have wound up with the nickname "Mousie." A 1957 concert review, however, seems to indicate that Elmer "Mousie" Alexander did just fine sitting at the traps: "Mousie Alexander may not have the fire of Krupa, but he has a fine, crisp technique and does more with brushes than many do with sticks." Mastery with brushes--a drummer's drummer kind of thing--is only one of the reasons many jazz fans adore the playing of Alexander, whose impressive discography is loaded with great sessions backing up leaders such as guitarist Johnny Smith and pianist Ralph Sutton.
Alexander hailed from the midwest; his father played violin, and the young drummer studied music at the Ray Knapp School in Chicago and privately in New York City with Sam Ulano. In the late '40s he began gigging professionally with Jimmy McPartland, moving over to the band of that leader's wife, pianist Marian McPartland, in 1952. The fascinating recordings of Sauter-Finegan from the mid '50s often feature Alexander, but he really hit his stride collaborating with guitarist Smith on a series of small combo dates around the same time. In 1956 he joined the Goodman band for a year, getting in on a Far East tour. In the late '50s he worked with artists such as Bud Freeman and Eddie Condon, pledging allegiance to the swing school for the balance of his career. Jazz discographers track Alexander on various jazz dates up through 1988. One of the best documents of his playing is a 25-minute film that was one of five such jazz performances commissioned by the Goodyear tire company in a series entitled Good Years of Jazz. This 1962 show features a band led by guitarist Mike Bryan that is packed with swing masters, including tenor saxophonist Georgie Auld, trumpeter Doc Severinsen and vibraphonist Harry Shephard.