Monday, December 20, 2010

Slingerland Radio King Snare Drum

I think it's probably pretty safe to say that, at one time, the Slingerland Radio King Snare Drum, was the most popular snare drum in the world. Gene Krupa played Slingerland Drums his entire carreer and many other drum stars of the 30's and 40's such as Buddy Rich, Dave Tough, Ben Pollack, Ray McKinley and Barrett Deems played and endorsed these drums.

The 1930's-60's Radio King was made of either metal or solid wood. The solid wood models, which are highly prized, came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. It came with the Krupa strainer and double flanged hoops. The top hoop was engraved with the words, "Slingerland Radio King". The drum was offered with either nickel or chrome plating. By the late 1940's, the drum was actually referred to as the Gene Krupa Radio King, such was the influence of this Chicago drummer.

Throughout the 50's and 60's, Slingerland continued to offer the Radio King. The metal model was made of brass, as were the hoops, which were now known as stick saver hoops. The name of the drum changed to the Super Gene Krupa Snare Drum and other models, playing off the Radio King name, were added to the catalog. The Gene Krupa Sound King, the Concert King, and the Super Sound King were made to entice drummers everywhere. These models achieved various degrees of sales success.

The pictured drum is from the 1950's. A few Drum Historians and Collectors believe that these drums from the 50's and early 60's were the finest drums that Slingerland ever made. This drum is also covered in a White Marine Pearl Wrap which was Krupa's favorite finish.

Slingerland is still in existence---now owned by Gibson Guitars. But this drum is from a time that is long passed and will never return.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Rogers Wood Dynasonic Snare Drum-B and B lug

This particular drum holds a special significance for me. As the reader can see, it's a Rogers Wood Dynasonic with "Bread and Butter" lugs. These lugs were made of brass and they tended to break and crack. It's unusual to find a drum like this with perfect lugs. The drum is also wrapped in the rare wine red ripple pearl. It's difficult enough to find a Wood Dynasonic in any finish much less this wrap. But that's not what really sets this Rogers Dynasonic apart from others.

Many years ago, I went to see Louis Bellson at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. Louis would come in every year for a week stay at the club. I would go to every show and marvel at his playing. One time, I decided to bring this drum into the club and show it to him. I was somewhat nervous but, hell I thought, what was the worst thing that could happen.

He saw me come in with the drum and he motioned me over to him. He had big smile on his face and said he wanted to talk to me about the drum, but after the show. Needless to say, I stayed until the last set was over. What followed was one of the most enjoyable times of my drumming career. Louis picked up the Dynasonic and started to recall his time with Rogers Drums and Buddy Rich. In particular, he focused on a drum caravan that toured Japan in the 60's. Buddy, Louis, Philly Joe Jones, and Art Blakey were all part of the troupe. Louis played the Rogers Wood Dynasonic at the time. According to Louis, Buddy was enamoured with the sound of Louie's Snare drum and wanted him to give it to him. Louie quickly changed the subject and the drum never changed hands.

Louie graciously signed this drum for me that night. It was a wonderful night that I will never forget

Monday, November 15, 2010

Elvin Jones and Gretsch Drums

The Jazz Showcase has been one of the premier Jazz clubs in the Chicago land area for many years. Other clubs have come and gone, but the Showcase rolls on. It was at this club that I heard the great Elvin Jones right after he left the John Coltrane Quartet.

I remember the night quite vividly. My date and I arrived fact we were the only people in the place, outside of the owner. The club, as it were, was really a storefront. The location of the club would move every few months. Sometimes it would stay in one place for a year or more, but then it would move somewhere else. This particular venue was a one off. I never saw anyone else play there and I don't believe it was ever used again.

In any case, Elvin arrived with his wife Keiko and began setting up his drums. He played Gretsch Drums and the kit was a Satin Flame Wrap. I gathered my courage and went up to him, introduced myself and began to chat. What followed was over a hour of conversation involving Gretsch Drums, Coltrane and his new trio. There are no words to describe how I felt. My teacher, Max Mariash, had spoken about Elvin with great admiration and here I was talking to one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time.

The album cover pictured was the first release by the Elvin Jones Trio. That night they played many tunes from this release. Joe Farrell was there, but Jimmy Garrison was not. That night was the start of a love affair with Elvin's playing. Not counting the great Louis Bellson, I saw Elvin Jones play more than any other Jazz Drummer.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gretsch Gladstone Snare Drum

Billy Gladstone was a theatre show drummer in New York City in the 1930's. He was accomplished drummer who also had some very definite ideas about drums and their construction. He invented an ingenious tuning system that allowed him to tune his snare drum without lifting it off its stand. This three way, or in some cases, two way tuning system was revolutionary for the time. Billy also believed that the drum shell should be free of any reinforcing rings that would in his estimation distort the true sound of the drum He took his ideas to Gretsch and the Gretsch Gladstone Drum was born.

It was through my teacher, Max Mariash, that I became aware of this drum, albeit in a rather roundabout way. As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, Max turned me on to Papa Jo Jones. The first picture that I saw of Papa Jo showed him sitting behind a complete set of Gretsch Gladstone Drums. That was it.....if the great Jo Jones played those drums, I needed to find out more about them.

Back in the day, the 1960's, there wasn't a lot of information about drums. No one thought about collecting them. You bought a kit, used it until it fell apart, then you bought another one. But I, like many others, were fascinated by all the different drum companies and their products. Those drums that interested me, like the Rogers Wood Dynasonic Snare Drum, I wanted to buy and play. The Gretsch Gladstone fit into this category.

I never thought I would ever get to play this drum until one fall afternoon I walked into a drum shop in the upper Midwest and, lo and behold, there sat the drum you see pictured at the top of this entry. To say she's beautiful, is a colossal understatement. The drum is a dream to play. All in all, the Gretsch Gladstone occupies a special place in American Drum History.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Rogers Wood Dynasonic Snare Drum

Most drummers have a favorite drum or drumkit that they play or that they would like to play. In that way, they are no different than guitar players, bass players, horn players......all musicians really. For me, that drum kit was made by the Rogers Drum Company and the snare drum is the Rogers Wood Dynasonic.
My first drum set was the Ludwig Super Classic Outfit in Black Diamond Wrap. I still have that kit. My father bought me the set in 1964. It listed for 465.00 dollars and he bought it for 350.00. It has seen many smokey bars and clubs and it has always come through like a champ.

But I was always fascinated by Rogers Drums. Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson played the drums and if they were good enough for them, then I had to check them out. Little did I know about endorsements at the time. The drums sounded great and the hardware was state of the art for the era.

It was many years later that I was able to afford a Rogers drum kit. I wasn't disappointed. I bought quite a few kits in various colors and I tried to get the Wood Dynasonic Snare drum with each kit. The Dynasonic was a marvelous snare drum, but it was finicky to tune and, truth be told, some of them sounded better than others.

Both Louis Bellson and Buddy Rich used the drum in the early 60's. When I spoke to Louis about the Dyna, he waxed eloquently about one particular Dyna he owned that sounded terrific. But even he mentioned that there were other Dynasonics that just didn't have it.

The Rogers Dynasonic has become a highly collectible snare drum, but that only applies to the wood shell model. The drum also came in a metal shell, but it's no where near as desirable or expensive. There are some Rogers Drum collectors who believe the early brass "bread and butter" lug drums are better than the "beaver tail" lug models.
In any case, the Wood Dynasonic is a part of drumming history. These drums are excellent examples of the golden age of American Drum Companies

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hal Blaine

I remember sitting in the family sedan and listening to the radio in the early 60's and being totally blown away by, what was then called, "Surf Music." I lived in the Midwest and the whole California culture thing was tempting....exotic even. Hell, I wouldn't of recognized a surf board if it hit me in the head, but the music....that was a different story. It was the drumming that did it. A real up front sound, real fat and propulsive. When tunes like "Surf City", "Drag City","Surfer Girl", and "Surfin'USA", were played on the air, I would play "air drums" and imagine myself leading the band.
At the same time, Phil Spector, the legendary record producer, was introducing his Wall of Sound recording artistry to the public. The drumming wasn't as up front on these recordings, but you couldn't mistake the drive. Tunes like "Be my Baby" by the Ronettes and " He's a Rebel" by the Crystals, affected me in much the same way that Surf Music did.
It wasn't until a few years later did I realize who Hal Blaine was and how he contributed to the sound of these records. It was also then that I learned that the great Earl Palmer played drums with Hal on some of my favorite Surf records. They played double drums, writing out all their parts and then playing them together. Thus, the incredible fat sound.
Hal played on over 350 Top Ten records, 40 Number One records, and 8 Grammy Records of the Year. He seems to have worked with just about anyone who recorded in the 60's. His drumming on the Mama's and Papa's records and with the Fifth Dimension are textbook examples of how to play drums in the pop music genre.
Hal played Rogers Drums at first, but switched to Ludwig Drums in the 60's. He actually invented a monster drum kit that later became known as the Ludwig Octaplus kit. In addition to a standard 4 piece kit, the Octaplus configuration added 7 toms.
The pictured book is required reading for Drummers of any discipline.....hell, it should be required reading for anyone interested in American culture. It's a wild and wonderful story. It captures a time that we will never see again.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Papa Jo Jones

My time studying with Max Mariash involved not only rudimental practice, but listening and savoring the playing of great jazz drummers. Max was able to listen to a recording and quickly identify the drummer. It didn't make any difference who was playing--Chick Webb, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Louie Bellson, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Buddy Rich, or Gene Krupa.
But there was one drummer who brought a smile to Max's face and the statement, " Yeah, really swinging." That drummer was Papa Jo Jones. I still remember the first time I heard the great Count Basie Band with Papa Jo playing on Jumping at the Woodside, One O'clock Jump, Swinging the Blues, and Every Tub. His playing was propulsive, yet somewhat understated---elegant even, but always, always swinging.
Louie Bellson appeared at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago many, many times. I would go to every show that I could and chat with Louie after the gig. More than once, Louie would talk about Papa Jo and rave about his playing. He described his brush playing, "like that of a fan dancer."
The pictured LP is actually a French release. I purchased it many years ago when I worked at the local record store. Papa Jo is on the cover and he plays on a number of cuts. His playing is wonderful. There's no other word to describe it.
His influence still resounds through the years. His playing with Count Basie and others never "gets old." He was one of the greatest drummers ever.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Max Mariash and WFL Drums

The pictured ad is courtesy of Scott Mariash, Max's son. Max Mariash endorsed Ludwig Drums from 1950 to 1956. This ad is from somewhere in that period. I was simply thrilled to see it, for I didn't even know it existed. Max can be seen just below Buddy Rich and right next to Cozy Cole---select company indeed.

I studied with Max for 6 years. To those of you who have visited my site, my feelings about Max are no secret. I was lucky to have met him, but perhaps, even more importantly, I was lucky that he kept me on as a student. At first, I was a terrible student--mad at the world and constantly battling with my father about each and every little thing. My father was, and still is, a very conservative man. He's a World War 2 survivor, a veteran of the Guadalcanal campaign. For him, being a musician, and a drummer too boot, was simply taboo.

Max occupied the opposite pole of my father. Max was a lifelong musician, who know many famous players and associated with them. He was constantly talking about drums and drumming. He was no way dogmatic in his teaching philosophy. But he would constantly push me and he pushed me a lot. His favorite word was "invent". It's written all over my lessons. I remember one time in particular when Max told me to " take out my dick and hit the snare drum if that was the effect I was looking for". Needless to say, I turned beet red. I never forgot that. I also never tried it, but he had made his point.

Max charged me 5.00 a lesson. At first the lessons were 1/2 hour. Then they went to 45 minutes. Then 1 hour. We would go through the rudiments and then listen to records and Max would dissect what was going on. It was a wonderful experience.

Max would always tell me, "You'll get out of this, what you put into it." No truer words were ever spoken. I'm still pushing myself with those words ringing in my ears.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Earl Palmer

This is where it started for me. This is where that insane desire to play the drums began to permeate my whole being. This desire has grown exponentially as I get older. Tomorrow, I celebrate my 61st birthday. I practice more than ever....I play more than ever... and it's never enough. But I'm getting ahead of myself.......

I grew up in a solidly middle class neighborhood in Chicago. My parents were not musical. The radio was always turned to the MOR station. Even here, I was fascinated by the drumming that I heard. It wasn't much, but hell, it was music.

I don't remember the circumstances or how it happened, but somehow I became aware of " the Fat Man", the great Fats Domino. This music hit me like a ton of bricks, particularly the drumming on the tunes, "I'm Walkin," and "I'm in Love again." Here was something I could sink my teeth into. From there, I became aware of Little Richard and his drummer, Earl Palmer. I soon realized that it was Earl playing on all those Fats Domino hits.

My older sister could buy 45 rpm records and I became more exposed to "the Beat." I became engulfed by it. And, in many cases, it was Earl Palmer playing the drums on the records. His list of playing credits is stunning. He's the drummer on Little Richard's "Good Golly Miss Molly", "Slippin and Slidin", "Tutti Frutti", and "The Girl Can't Help It". He's the stick man behind Shirley and Lee's "Let the Good Times Roll", Ritchie Valen's "La Bamba", and Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues". That's him playing on all of Sam Cooke's records. He's the drummer on the Righteous Brothers hit, "You've Lost that Loving Feeling". The list goes on and on.

The pictured CD is required listening for anyone even remotely interested in rock and roll and rock drumming. It shows Earl in various settings, always playing in the pocket. His sense of timing and rhythm was infectious. Even today, those songs still affect me in the way they originally did. It was Earl who started me on my life's drumming path.....Earl and his Rogers Drums.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Slingerland vintage drum sticks

It's hard to believe that, in this age of huge drumstick manufacturers, there was a time when drummers usually bought their drumsticks from Drum companies---in most cases, from the same company that manufactured their drum kit. The selection was limited and quality was questionable. But all the companies produced sticks that bore the name of their endorsers. The pictured stick is the Slingerland Louie Bellson model drumstick. It has a nylon tip and is about the size of a standard 5A. Most of the companies had 5A models, in addition to 2A's, 3A's, 8A's, 9A's,and 11A's. But the similarity stopped there. A Rogers 3A was slightly different from a Ludwig 3A which was different from a Gretsch 3A. Plus, every so often, the company would change the size of the stick or would drop it entirely. Thus, it became quite maddening when you became use to a stick and it would suddenly disappear.

With the emergence of Regal Tip and Pro Mark, the drumstick landscape began to change drastically. Options were plentiful. Different woods beside hickory were selected and tried. Drummers now had the opportunity to endorse drumsticks separately from other equipment. And new companies like Vic Firth, Vater, Los Cabos, Silverfox, and even Zildjian cymbals entered the marketplace.

Today a few Drum companies still offer sticks, but, for the most part, they've left the field to the stick manufacturers. Happily, the times have never been better for drummers. The options are endless. There are simply hundreds of styles to choose from...for any application

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dave Tough

When I started taking drum lessons as a wee lad, my drum teacher, Max Mariash, turned me on to many jazz drummers. I really knew very little about jazz. I knew about pop and rock and roll, but that was it. Max talked about Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Jo Jones, Big Sid Catlett, Chick Webb, and, of course, Gene Krupa. But he also mentioned a drummer that, over the years, had slowly slipped from the scene. That drummer was Dave Tough.

Perhaps it was because Dave died in 1948. In any case, Max waxed eloquently about Dave. He was simply " a tremendous big band drummer" that could lift a band "like nobodies business." I had to check him out and I did. Max was right---Dave Tough could swing like a madman. His recordings with the Woody Herman band are marvelous. He had a way of ending tunes with a simple flourish of his bass drum. It was his signature and it is instantly recognizable.

Over the years, I went to hear Louie Bellson perform. I saw him perform live more than any other drummer. Consequently, Louie would recognize me and we would chat for long periods about drummers and drumming. Louie lived for a short period with Dave. Naturally, they talked about drums. Dave constantly complained about his press or buzz roll. He claimed he couldn't play one. Louie laughed this off. Dave didn't like drum solos, because he claimed he had no technique. Louie pointed out what a great complimentary player he was, but Dave couldn't accept that. He was his own worst critic.

In addition to Woody Herman, Dave played with Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Bud Freeman, and Eddie Condon. As his career progressed, he become more and more unreliable. His feelings of inadequacy and his bouts with alcohol took their toll. He died at age 40.

In the book, Drummin' Men by Burt Korall, Buddy Rich talks about Dave Tough. Quote "His energy force was so strong that you'd think there was a 400 pound guy sitting up there." Strong praise indeed. Dave Tough was one of the greats.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Phil Seaman

I remember going to the Cellar in Arlington Heights, Illinois as a young lad to see Cream. I liked Ginger Baker and I so enjoyed the band. Subsequently, I would grab any article that I saw in a magazine that talked about the group. Ginger talked about his idol, Phil Seaman and I set about finding out all that I could about him. There was very little available in the States, but in 1972, Phil joined Ginger in the group AIR FORCE. A double live LP was issued of the group. Both drummers play marvelously on the record.
Some years after that, I purchased a book entitled, PLAY LIKE ELVIS--How British Musicians bought the American Dream by Mo Foster. In it, the author relates a number of humorous stories about Phil during his playing days. The book is a good read and I recommend it, if you can find a copy.
In any case, I began to search out more information about Phil. He had a varied career, playing everything from theater shows ( West Side Story), jazz groups ( Tubby Hayes), and Rock groups (Air Force). His playing was forceful, yet flowing.
In Ginger Bakers Drum tutor, Phil is quoted and Ginger offers some quite useful rudimental exercises that he picked up from him. Again, if you can find a copy, buy it.
Phil passed away in 1972 at the age of 46. Search him out....he was a great player

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Frank Isola

The old Downbeat magazine is dated March 30, 1961. It is the 5th annual percussion issue. In it is an article by Don DeMicheal call THE EVOLUTION OF THE DRUM SOLO. There are many familiar names quoted in the article with an analysis of drum styles. But there is one drummer whose name was not familiar to me---Frank Isola.
I was curious and began to search him out. There is an old Stan Getz recording on Prestige called Stan Getz jazz classics. This record was a re-issue. It was originally called Early Stan and the recordings were done in 1953. The drumming duties were split between Shadow Wilson and Frank Isola. I was familiar with the great Shadow Wilson but Frank's drumming is a revelation. It was tasteful, swinging, elegant even.
In the aforementioned article, Mr. DeMicheal called Frank " a representative of the Cool School of drumming. " His recordings with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, and John Williams bear this out.
Frank was from the Detroit area. I don't believe he ever left Detroit. He played throughout the city during his career. Many drummers are not familiar with Frank's playing and it's a shame. He was a great player.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Louie Bellson

I've seen Louie Bellson perform live more than any other drummer. When he appeared at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago, I would attend every show and chat with him between sets. He was a wealth of knowledge and I so enjoyed talking to him. He would talk about musicians and other drummers.

In particular, I remember him mentioning Dave Tough, Woody Herman's drummer, who used a beat up old ride cymbal in the band. Flip Phillips, the great saxophonist, said that Dave could " drive a man to orgasm" just by playing that ride cymbal. Louie was a great man and a greater musician. I miss him.

Max Mariash--My drum teacher

I've already mentioned Max on my website, but it bears repeating. He was a great player and a marvelous teacher. He was well known in the drum community. When Buddy Rich gave a drum clinic in Chicago, Max was mentioned as being in the audience. Buddy immediately acknowledged him.
As mentioned on my web site, Louis Bellson knew him well. They both studied at the Roy Knapp percussion school.
Max enjoyed talking with other drummers about their drumming. I remember Max telling me that he spent some time talking with Rufus Jones when he was touring with Duke Ellington. Max was always curious about what other drummers were studying---how they were trying to improve their playing. He was a one of kind drummer and musician. I feel extremely fortunate to have known him and studied with him.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2010 Chicago Vintage Drum Show

This last weekend I attended the 20th anniversary of the Chicago Vintage Drum show. There were more exhibitors than ever and the show was truly first rate. I decided not to have a booth, but I exhibited at the Drum Experts Slingerland display booth that presented its history to the hundreds of drummers that attended. They accomplished this in spades.

Perhaps the best part of the whole show was getting together with old friends and fellow drum collectors. Paul Mason, the owner of Tempus Drums, was his usual jovial self. Ronn Dunnett, the owner of Dunnett Custom Drums, seemed to be everywhere...taking pictures, talking up his drum line, and hinting at new projects he's working on.

Terry Hawkins, the owner of Skins and Tins Drum Shop in down state Illinois, brought his usual fine collection of vintage drums for sale. In fact, my only purchase was done with him. He had a very fine Paiste 602 ride cymbal that, for my tastes, was perfect. Even over the din of many drummers banging away on various drums, that cymbal cut through. I looked at many snare drums and drum kits, but decided against buying anything else.

There was a Premier piccolo drum and a Slingerland Buddy Rich piccolo that sparked my interest, but I didn't buy either one. Perhaps next time... Joe Morello, the great jazz drummer with Dave Brubeck, was scheduled to put on a clinic, but canceled due to health concerns. The other clincians that were there, particularly Danny Seraphine from CTA, put on a great show. And finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Asian and European buyers who attended. These gentlemen were in a buying frenzy. They knew what they wanted and had the cash to buy. And buy they did. All in all, it was a fabulous weekend.