Monday, March 21, 2011

The Slingerland Student Model Radio King Snare Drum

It can't be overemphasized how much Gene Krupa's association with the Slingerland Drum Company affected its bottom line. Unlike almost all of his contemporaries, Gene stayed with Slingerland throughout his career. His influence extended beyond the drum throne. Before Gene, drummers weren't even considered musicians. Gene brought the drums "out front" Even everyday folk knew who Gene Krupa was. Only the great Buddy Rich could claim a similar influence.

Bud Slingerland, and the execs at the company, were no fools. It's true that they fumbled the ball when it came to Rock music, but they had been in the forefront of big band jazz and they could read a sales sheet as well as the next guy. The name "Krupa" and the label "Radio King" meant sales and the Gene Krupa Radio King Snare Drum was the drum to play. And why not? With its steam bent solid maple shell and its Radio King snare strainer, the drum was the "cat's meow" for drummers everywhere. (See blogs Feb 27th and Dec 20th)

But there were a whole group of musicians like students, non-professionals, and weekend players who couldn't afford the Radio King. In 1948, Slingerland introduced its Student Model Radio King. The pictured drum was a different animal entirely. It really wasn't a Radio King at all. It had a 3 ply shell rather than a solid shell and it was only offered in lacquer or mahogany finishes and it originally came with nickel plated hardware. Perhaps this is the reason that Krupa's name was not linked to it all. Certainly, Slingerland hoped the buyer would associate the two.

This drum stayed in production from 1948 to 1967. In 1960, the drum simply became advertised as the Student Model Snare Drum. The drum came with stick shredder hoops that were fastened to the 8 lugs with clips. I suspect this was done to save money. This model also comes with a rapid strainer rather than a 3 point strainer. In any case, the drum sounds fine. A Radio King it's not. But it takes more than just advertising slogans to make a true Radio King.

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