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.