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.