Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The 4 x 14 Slingerland Radio King Snare Drum

In 1936, the Slingerland Drum Company introduced the Radio King Snare Drum. It was the flagship snare drum of the company and quickly became associated with Slingerland's number one endorser, Gene Krupa. For many years, the drum was simply referred to as the Gene Krupa Radio King. The drum came in various sizes--5 x 14, 6 1/2 x 14 at first, then 7 x 14 and 8 x 14 later. Many big band drummers used the larger sized Radio Kings in their bands so they could be heard over the horn sections. Or at least, that was the theory.

But, in the 40's, particularly after the war, Be-bop became the fashion and with it drum sizes began to contract. Drummers began favoring smaller sized snare drums. Indeed, the Gretsch Drum Company began marketing 4 x 14 snare drums and associating them with their endorsers, particularly the great Max Roach.

Other drum companies followed Gretsch's lead and began making 4 x 14 and 4 x 13 snare drums. Between 1948 and 1962, Slingerland produced the 4 x 13 Bop snare drum. The drum wasn't associated with any particular drummer, but it did offer the aspiring drummer yet another choice in snare drums. Which brings me to the very rare and very beautiful snare drum you see pictured here.

You will not find this drum in any Slingerland catalog. There is no factory information anywhere on a 4 x 14 Radio King. The inside of the steam bent maple shell is stamped Sept. 1941. The badge is an early 50's Slingerland badge. Otherwise, the drum is correct in every detail. It has the Radio king stick shredder hoops, the nickel plated Harold R. Dobbs twin internal muffler, and the three point strainer. There are no other modifications to it. It is not a cut down shell.

A couple of things come to mind about this beauty. The drum was, I believe, either a special order or an endorsers request. Slingerland did stockpile shells and the Second World War affected production immensely. Drums made during the war were subject to the 10% rule. Metal could not constitute more than 10 % of a drum's total make up. Wood became the major material in construction, even in the case of lugs. Drum production didn't really hit its stride until after the war. As mentioned earlier, Be-bop was the rage and the 4 x 14 snare drum was part of that excitement. I think this snare drum was but one result of the times.

But how does it sound? Simply great. The drum is extremely versatile--at home in various musical situations. With the choices one has today in drum heads, the mind boggles at what this drum is capable of.

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