He began playing drums in vaudeville when he was 18 months old, billed as Traps the Drum Wonder. At eleven he was performing as a bandleader. He received no professional drum instruction. In 1937 he entered jazz with Joe Marsala's group, then played with Bunny Berigan (1938), Artie Shaw (1939), Tommy Dorsey (1939–1942, 1945, 1954–1955), Benny Carter (1942), Harry James (1953–1956), Les Brown, Charlie Ventura, and Jazz at the Philharmonic, as well as leading his own band and performing with all-star groups. For most of the period from 1966 until his death he led a successful big band in an era when big bands were no longer popular.