Monday, February 14, 2011

The Leedy Broadway Standard Snare Drum

The story of the Leedy Drum Company is convoluted and intrinsically connected to the histories of both the Ludwig Drum Company and the Slingerland Drum Company. It would take a small book to give the complete picture, but I will try to give a general overview. For a more complete and exhaustive story, the reader should seek out the excellent book, The Great American Drums, by Harry Cangany.

The Leedy Drum Company story begins with Ulysses Grant Leedy. It was he who started it all in 1895 in Indianapolis. The company motto was, "The Worlds Finest Drummers Instruments," and Ulysses was very successful throughout the roaring 20s. But the crash of 1929 changed everything and Leedy sold his company to the Conn Musical Instruments Company.

At the same time, Bill Ludwig Sr., who owned the Ludwig and Ludwig Drum Company, was also affected by the crash. He also decided to sell to Conn Instruments, but he retained a small interest in the company.

In 1936, Bill Sr., having had quite enough of the Conn executives, sold his share and started the WFL (William F. Ludwig) Drum Company. Meanwhile, Conn made both Leedy Drums and Ludwig and Ludwig Drums out of the same factory in Indiana.

The pictured drum was the flagship Snare Drum of the Leedy Drum Company. This Beauty, called the Broadway Standard, dates from the late 1940s. She has 16 Beavertail lugs, thick Stick Shredder hoops, and the Broadway Snare Strainer. The craftmanship of this drum is beyond compare. A number of famous players used these drums including Sonny Greer with Duke Ellington and Zutty Singleton with Louis Armstrong.

In 1951, Conn merged both lines and the Leedy and Ludwig Drum Company was born. This lasted until 1955, when Bill Ludwig bought his old company back, dropped the WFL moniker, and named his company simply, The Ludwig Drum Company.

Meanwhile, Bud Slingerland, not wanting to be left out, purchased the Leedy Drum Company from Conn and began to market them as a separate line. This was not a success and soon Leedy Drums faded into obscurity.

But the line didn't die. Collectors sought these drums out and drummers who played them, swore by them. Ginger Baker, while with Cream, endorsed Ludwig, but played a Leedy Snare Drum.

In more recent times, Fred Gretsch, of the Gretsch Drum Company, bought the line and the Broadway Standard Snare Drum lives again. The new Leedy motto is, "For Drummers Who Care." Tre Cool, the drummer with Green Day, plays Leedy.

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