Friday, December 16, 2011

The Ludwig Downbeat Snare Drum

The Ludwig Downbeat Snare Drum had a varied and short life in the history of the Ludwig Drum Company. But despite it's short life, this drum has a very interesting pedigree. The origins of this beauty really began with William Ludwig and his WFL company.

In the late 40's, Be-bop was the rage and drum companies scrambled to add endorsers to their rosters. Smaller diameter drums became very popular, perhaps as a counter balance to the big kits that were used during the height of the big band era. There were Be-bop big bands, but most of the bop ensembles at the time had fewer musicians and didn't require the volume that bigger drums provided, or at least, that was the thinking.

In the late 40's, William Ludwig signed Buddy Rich to be his top endorser. Slingerland had Gene Krupa and Bill felt that he needed Buddy to compete in the marketplace. Ludwig promptly "married" Buddy with the Be-bop phenomena and in 1949, the Buddy Rich Be-bop Snare Drum was offered in WFL catalogs. The drum came in two sizes, 3 x 13 and 4 x 14. In 1951, the name of the 4 x 14 was changed to the New Compacto Snare Drum. In 1956, the drum was dropped from the Ludwig line up completely.

But in 1960, the 4 x 14 you see pictured above reappeared in the Ludwig catalogs. Called the Downbeat model, this little cupcake delivered " the goods." In production until 1970, the Downbeat was surprisingly versatile despite its smaller size. The wood shell was composed of a 3 ply mahogany/poplar/mahogany mix. At the same time, the 3 x 13 reappeared as the Jazz Combo model. This model lasted until 1970 when it was replaced by the Ludwig Piccolo Drum ( See blog dated Nov. 30th).

This particular Downbeat is wrapped in the very desirable Black Oyster Pearl covering. This, of course, is the same finish that Ringo had on his Ludwig Super Classic kit. The wrap alone increases the value of this drum immensely. But regardless of the finish, the Downbeat Snare Drum remains one of the finest 4 x 14 drums money can buy.

The book on these 3 x 13 and 4 x 14 snare drums is "still open." Ludwig, to this day, offers smaller diameter snare drums in their catalog. Among their Classic Maple Snare options, one can buy a 3.5 x 13 or 3.5 x 14 snare drum. They also sell the Carl Palmer "Venus" Signature Snare Drum. This 3.7 x 14 "power piccolo" sports a green lacquered metal shell, die cast hoops, and brass-plated tube lugs.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Ludwig Piccolo Snare Drum

The Ludwig Drum Company, perhaps more than any of their competitors during the 60's and 70's,did its best to align its drums with the growing youth market. Truth be told, Ludwig had a head start in the marketplace because of its association with Ringo Starr and other drummers from the British invasion. But many American drummers also played the brand. The great Hal Blaine, who played on hundreds of hit records, played and endorsed Ludwig Drums.

The Supraphonic 400 was Ludwig's top selling snare drum. It was offered as standard on many kits at the time. The jazz great, Joe Morello, played the drum. But Ludwig executives continued to dream up other snare drum offerings. After all, the "Now Generation", also known as "Boomers" in later years, were huge in number and they had money to spend. Which brings us to the drum you see pictured here.

The Ludwig Piccolo Snare Drum was sold from 1970 to 1991. This 3 x 13 drum was the metal version of the Jazz combo snare drum. The copy from an early 70's Ludwig catalog describes the drum as follows. "Presenting the PICCOLO snare drum, a new solo soprano percussion voice ideal for today's intricate rhythmic patterns. The all metal shell produces the crisp sound demanded by so many of today's top recording artists."

In this case, the catalog description wasn't simply ad verbiage. This little beauty does produce a very distinctive " crack'. Because of it's size, there's not a lot of heft to the sound, and it's not for everybody. The idea was to offer it as the primary snare in a bop setting. It's best use is perhaps as a secondary snare voice in an expanded kit. Nevertheless, you can't help but notice it when you play it. The drum really sings.

In addition to offering the Piccolo as a stand alone item, Ludwig presented it as part of their Modern Snare Quartet. This package included 4 snare drums that would commonly be used in a concert setting. Along with the Piccolo, the prospective buyer could purchase a 12 x 15 Super Sensitive, a 6 1/2 x 14 Super Sensitive, and a 5 x 14 Super Sensitive Snare drum. All the drums had metal shells and concert stands were included.

To read more about the Ludwig Drum Company and Joe Morello kindly click on the following links.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Rogers Dynasonic Snare Drum

Perhaps no other snare drum from the 1960's has created as much controversy as the Rogers Dynasonic snare drum. Every drummer who has played the drum has an opinion. And the opinions are varied to say the least. One drummer will claim that the Dynasonic sounds best tuned high and tight with Diplomat heads. Another will say that the drum sounds better with medium to low tensioning with Ambassador heads. And still others, some who don't even know anything about the drum, will say the drum sounds " terrible" in any tuning range. There simply is no middle ground.

To my way of thinking, all of this quarreling is really a " tempest in a teapot." The Dynasonic was designed to be the most responsive and sensitive snare drum of its time. Rogers designers, in particular Ben Strauss, did their best to make a snare drum that was playable "right out of the box." A special sheet indicating how to tune the drum was included with a Dynasonic purchase. As with any product, some Dyna's were better than others. If you happened to purchase a "good" one, you bought a hell of a snare drum. And the drum could be tweaked to no end.

The drum you see pictured is from the mid 60's. This beauty is wrapped in red sparkle and she still sports her original heads. The clockface strainer has a black background around the logo which indicates a pre 1964 vintage. After 1964, the black background was dropped and the shape of the strainer changed somewhat. Every Dynasonic was outfitted with a metal snare bridge that, theoretically, would keep the snare wires flat and in even constant contact with the snare head.

The drum came in wood and metal shells and in 5 x 14, 6 1/2 x 14, and 8 x 15 sizes. The shell was a 5 ply maple/poplar mix and was finished in a clear varnish. Rogers tom and bass drums, on the other hand, were finished with either black or grey speckled paint. Early Rogers Dynasonics came with brass "bread and butter" lugs. This model has the "Beavertail" lugs which replaced the earlier brass ones.

Many famous drummers played the Dynasonic, including Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson. Perhaps because of this association, the Dyna has become a very collectible drum, particularly the wood shell model.

To read more about the Dynasonic, kindly click on the following link

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

the Premier Royal Ace Snare Drum

The Royal Ace snare drum was the flagship snare drum for the Premier Drum Company. Every drum company back in the day offered a top of the line snare drum that represented the best that particular company had to offer at the time. Indeed, Slingerland, for example, had the Radio King. Rogers sold the Dynasonic. Camco offered the Super 99. And Premier presented the drum you see pictured here.

The Royal Ace garnered a full page in the 1966 catalog. It came in two sizes, 5 1/2 x 14 and 6 1/2 by 14., in either a wood or metal shell. The snare mechanism set it apart from its competitors. The parallel action strainer allowed the snare wires to " float" against the bottom head. Perhaps the best way to describe this strainer is to quote directly from the Premier catalog. " The patented Premier floating snare system brings snare response to a new high level. The perfect snare action keeps the 20-strand snare wires always under tension. Unwanted snare "buzz" is completely eliminated. No longer are the snares attached to both sides of the shell, choking the sound and stifling the vibrations."

Certainly some of this explanation is advertising verbiage. Nevertheless, it did work as advertised. The drum is responsive. And it comes with die-molded counter hoops, eye catching chrome plating and a choice of various finishes, some of which were exclusive only to Premier. This drum is wrapped in Red Sparkle Pearl and to say she's beautiful is an understatement.

A number of famous players endorsed Premier. Sam Woodyard with Duke Ellington, Gus Johnson with Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Elliott of the Hollies and, of course, Keith Moon of the WHO----all endorsed Premier.

To read further details about the Royal Ace snare drum and the players who endorsed Premier, kindly click on the following link.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Premier Hi-Fi Snare Drum

Almost every drum manufacturer in the 1960's, except for perhaps the Fibes Drum Company, offered the aspiring drummer a choice in snare drums. Wood and metal shells came in various sizes with, in some cases, different hardware and hoops. The hope was to provide a drum for everyone's taste and budget. Every company pushed it's "flagship" snare drum as THE drum to own and play. Rogers had the Dynasonic. Slingerland sold the Radio King. Ludwig offered the Black Beauty. Premier featured the Royal Ace. And Camco bragged about it's Super 99.

But all of these companies also offered snare drums of more modest means. These snare drums were less costly, but no less effective. Rogers had the Powertone, Slingerland sold the Artist model. Ludwig offered the Jazz Festival. Camco displayed the Orchestra Tuxedo. And Premier "pushed" the drum you see pictured here. Indeed, in the 1966 catalog, it is the first snare drum you see advertised after the display of drum kits.

The Premier Hi-Fi snare drum came in a wood or metal shell, and in the case of the metal drum, came in two sizes, 5 1/2 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. The wood shelled model was designated the '31', the metal drum was called the '37'. The drum came with one piece die molded hoops and a conventional snare strainer that closely resembled the Ludwig P83 Ludwig snare strainer of the time. Gut snares could be ordered at no extra charge if so desired.

The chrome plating on these drums was something to behold. Called "Diamond Chrome" by Premier, the catalog stated that "It's the plating you can trust." This was no idle boast. The plating was second to none and it has stood the test of time. Many Ludwig and Slingerland snare drums from these times show serious chrome plating deterioration.

This beauty is wrapped in the very rare Aqua Shimmer wrap. Along with Blue Shimmer and Grey Shimmer, these finishes were exclusive to Premier and no other company offered anything remotely close to it. And, as to its sound? No apologies are needed. It's a fine drum that's in no way hindered by its humble origins.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rogers Swiv-O-matic Hardware

William Ludwig Jr. spent the later years of his life, proudly celebrating the legacy of his drum company. For a number of years, he made an appearance at the Chicago Vintage Drum Show talking about Ludwig Drums and the company's rich history. One moment in particular sticks in my mind and it's directly related to the topic I'm addressing today.

During his visit to the show, Bill would host a question and answer symposium. At one point, a fellow drummer asked Bill which competing Drum Company, during the 60's heyday, caused him the most concern. Without hesitating, he said that Rogers, "scared the dickens out of him."

The Rogers Drum Company was aggressive in promotion, marketing, and innovation. The picture here is a copy of the 2nd page of the Rogers 1962 catalog. The Rogers Swiv-O-Matic hardware was truly revolutionary for the time. The uni ball idea allowed the drummer to place his hanging toms in almost any imaginable position. In addition, the hardware was tough and durable. In the 50's, the rail consolette, or the Ray McKinley tom holder as Slingerland called it, was the holder of choice. Indeed, Ludwig, Slingerland, and Gretsch all used the rail. It made its first appearance in 1947 and it was solid, but very limited, particularly concerning height and angle. The Swiv-o-Matic tom holder changed the playing field dramatically.

Soon, other companies began to change their hardware. Slingerland adopted the uni ball idea and came up with the Set-O-Matic holder. Fibes used the concept almost exclusively. Even Camco shipped some kits with the Rogers hardware attached. On the other hand, Ludwig and Gretsch continued with the rail, continuously improving it.

In the 70's and 80's, as rock music became louder, drum companies were forced to adapt. Rogers changed to their Memriloc hardware. It was beefier and much, much heavier. Slingerland followed suit with their Magnum hardware. Even Ludwig began selling sets with their Modular series hardware.

But it's the Swiv-O-Matic hardware that caught the fancy of drummers so many years ago, even drummers who didn't play Rogers Drums. The link below shows Keith Moon with his Pictures of Lily Premier kit and the Rogers Swiv-O-Matic hardware.

And here's the great Buddy Rich.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Premier Super 4 Snare Drum

The 1960's was a time of intense competition between Drum companies. American companies like Gretsch, Ludwig, Camco, Slingerland, Rogers and,to a much lesser extent, Leedy did their best to attract the prospective buyer. But they weren't the only players on the field. European drum manufacturers entered the fray as best they could. Two German companies, Sonor and Trixon, promoted and marketed their drums using all means possible. But it was a English company that really carried the standard for the "Old World." That company was Premier.

Premier was founded in 1922 in central London. Premier made drums up until the Second World War. After the war, they resumed production. Premier attracted it's fair share of endorsers. I was first made aware of the company when I saw a picture of Sam Woodyard playing a double bass drum kit with Duke Ellington. Other jazz players like Rufus Jones and Barrett Deems also played Premier. Ringo Starr played Premier at first, but then switched to Ludwig. And the irreplaceable Keith Moon, of the Who, played the brand his entire career.

But Premier faced an uphill battle in the U.S. Perhaps it was the distribution. Or maybe it was the fact that the early Premier drums were metric sized. The fact that 3 of the major American Drum companies were based in Chicago, with a 4th one in Ohio, certainly didn't help Premier sales in the American Midwest. But you could find the drums if you looked for them. Both Frank's Drum Shop and Drums Unlimited in Chicago carried the line. And Premier was worth investigating, which brings me to the drum you see pictured here.

The 1960 Premier catalog called this model the Super 4. This little beauty sports one piece die cast hoops and Premier's parallel snare action strainer. The strainer was designed to allow the 18 snare wires to "float" against the snare head. Tension across the head would be consistent and the drum wouldn't choke, at least that was the theory. Premier was the only company in the world using this system in a 4 x 14 snare drum.

But does it work? Well. by the sound of the drum, it works just fine. The drum sounds as good as its American competitors. It's heavier than a comparable Ludwig, Slingerland, Gretsch, or Camco 4 x 14. Surely, the strainer has something to do with this. But it's a fine drum, solidly constructed, with state of the art chrome plating.

In the early 60's, the name was changed from Super 4 to the Royal Ace 4" model. And, for many years, it was a staple in the Premier catalogs.

As of this writing, Premier's future seems to be in limbo. That's unfortunate. Premier made some fine drums in the 60's ( and 70's, 80's and 90's). The company always seemed to be " swimming against the current." But its place in the history of drum companies is assured.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Fibes SFT 690 "Black Beauty" Snare Drum

In 1966, Bobby Grauso and John Morena founded the Fibes Drum Company. The shells were constructed of fiberglass which was revolutionary for the time. Clear shells were offered along with solid fiberglass shells covered with wraps. In addition, a sprayed on finish called Fivel was featured in the early Fibes catalogs.

The flagship snare drum of the Fibes Drum Company was the SFT 690. In fact, it was the only snare drum offered by the company. In a previous blog (See January 27th), I spoke at length about the 5 1/2 x 14 SFT. It was, and still is, a fine musical instrument. And it has enjoyed a great run. No less an authority than the great Buddy Rich played one even while he was endorsing Slingerland.

Bur Fibes didn't sit on its laurels, so to speak. The company started offering different wraps and different shells. Actually, the shells were still fiberglass, or Crystalite as they called it, but the company began to fiddle with the look. They came out with a " bumpy" or dimpled shell that looked frosted when held up to the light. Fibes also made a solid black acrylic shell, which brings me to the drum you see pictured above.

Perhaps the best way to describe this drum is to quote from a Fibes Ad in Downbeat Magazine, dated March 14th, 1974. The ad is titled, "Bobby and the Black Beauty." The copy reads as follows. "Our new Fibes drum is a beauty, but it's black. Black like you've never seen black. Made with our regular Cystalite shell, but with a difference, the color has been impregnated internally so that scratching of its high gloss blackness will never occur. We're proud of the Black Beauty and proud of Bobby Grauso, who thought of black being beautiful on a drum."

Now it's important to remember that this is Ad copy. When one thinks of a Black Beauty, one thinks of Ludwig, not Fibes. Nevertheless, up to this time, black wraps were used to cover drums. There were no solid black shells, although Fibes shells were made of black fiberglass.

Clearly, this was an attempt to sell more drums and drum companies, since the beginnning of time, have been trying to do that. More importantly, this is a very fine sounding snare drum in the rare 6 1/2 x 14 size. The drum is loud, but very sensitive and very similar to her smaller sister.

I haven't seen many of these and I suspect it was not a sales success. Still it's a important drum from the golden age of American Drum Companies.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Rogers Century Snare Drum

Like all the Drum Companies in the 60's, the Rogers Drum Company offered a variety of snare drums for every taste and budget. The Powertone snare drum was clearly the mainstream choice.(See Blog Aug.10th). But in an effort to increase sales to the concert drummer, Rogers offered up the drum you see pictured here.

The Rogers Century Snare drum was the largest snare drum that ever graced a Rogers catalog. This beauty was 8 inches deep with a 15 inch diameter head. The early 60's catalog describes this drum as a "Perma-Built" snare drum. This was simply a slogan that Rogers used in its catalogs to indicate the strength of its shells. Indeed, the 1956 catalog showed a photo of 5 employees balancing themselves on a Rogers parade drum shell.

The drum came with triple flange hoops, the standard swivomatic snare strainer, the maple/poplar shell with Maple reinforcing rings, 16 self aligning lugs, and 20 strand snappy snares. The drum listed for 95.00 dollars in the mahogany or lacquered version, 105.00 dollars in the Pearl version. For an extra 2.00 dollars, one could opt for gut snares.

The Rogers Century was designed to be played in a concert band or an orchestral setting. It's large size allowed it to be heard in an environment where it had to compete with 100 other musicians playing large scale symphonic pieces. As one can imagine, it's a loud drum, but not particularly sensitive. Sensitivity was up to the player. The cost of the drum put it right in the middle range of Rogers Snare drums. The Rogers Dynasonic was the price leader at a suggested list of 150.00. Today, that doesn't seem like a lot of money, but in 1962 that wasn't peanuts.

As far as I can tell, the Rogers Century was never associated with any particular player or orchestra. I never seen one used in a commercial band. It would seem to be perfect for a loud rock or metal band. I suspect that the issue is one of availability. Also, I don't imagine many have survived over the years. It's not a very collectible drum and I've never seen one at the many vintage drum shows I've attended over the years. I picked this sweetheart up for a song at a drum store in Toronto Canada many years ago.

This drum's time has come and gone. Nevertheless, the Rogers Century Snare Drum still occupies a place in drum history.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Rogers Wood Powertone Snare Drum

Every Drum Company in the 60's had its "workhorse" snare drum. It was usually a drum that was competitively priced and one that was offered as standard equipment on the majority of drum kits one could purchase from a specific company. For the Ludwig Drum Company, that drum was the Ludwig Supraphonic 400 ( See blog dated Jan. 5th). In the case of Slingerland, both the Radio King ( See blog dated Feb 27th.) and the Gene Krupa Sound King ( See blog dated June 29th) shared the limelight. And in the case of the Rogers Drum Company, it was the drum you see pictured here--- the Rogers Powertone Snare Drum.

Both the wood shell model and the metal shell model were featured in Rogers catalogs. Indeed, in the 67-68 catalog, the wood shell Powertone is standard on the Headliner kit, the Cozy Cole Constellation kit, and the Dave Clark Londoner kit. The metal shell is standard on the Rogers Timbale-Twin double bass outfit. The Rogers Dynasonic is also featured, but that's a story for another time.

The wood shell model came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. The finish choices were either pearl, lacquer, or mahogany. The drum came with 8 Self aligning lugs and 20 strand wire snappy snares. The pictured Beauty is wrapped in the Black Onyx Pearl wrap. This Pearl finish was only available for few years in the 1960's. In addition to Black, Blue Onyx and Red Onyx were also offered. These wraps were exclusive to Rogers and only Slingerland sold anything that was remotely similar. Indeed, the Slingerland Blue Agate pearl wrap does resemble the Rogers Blue Onyx in a side by side comparison.

The shell was a composite of maple and poplar. Early models were 3 ply, but later models were 5 ply. Both had maple reinforcing rings. Originally, the interiors were sprayed with a flat gray sealant. Later models show a light gray speckled treatment.

This drum has skyrocketed in value over the last ten years. But the metal shell model has not kept pace. In any case, the Powertone is extremely versatile and over the years more and more drummers are discovering what a fine snare drum it is.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Rogers Super Ten Model Snare Drum

The Rogers Drum Company, like Ludwig, Slingerland, Camco, Leedy, and Gretsch, tried to offer a drum or drum kit for everyone's budget. In the case of Rogers, the Dynasonic snare drum was the flagship of the company followed by the Powertone (See blog dated July 20th). Over the years, collectors have made the Dynasonic, particularly the wood shell version, one of the most prized and sought after snare drums in the marketplace. Prices have gone through the roof. Certainly, the fact that both Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson played the Dyna helped matters considerably. But Buddy also played a wood Powertone and although it too has increased in value over the years, that increase hasn't come close to that of the Dynasonic.

As mentioned earlier, Rogers offered other models during the company's lifetime. Not all of these drums have weathered the test of time as well as the Dyna. In fact, it's a truism that just because a drum is old, doesn't necessarily make it good, desirable, or collectible. The same can be said about anything that is considered an antique. Which brings us to the drum you see pictured here.

The Rogers Super Ten was introduced in 1973. Its production run lasted until 1983. It came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. The shell was made of steel, as were the hoops, and it had ten lugs, thus the name Super Ten. In 1983, a wood shell model was offered, although I've never seen one in the flesh. The Super Ten replaced the Powertone, which had finally run its course.

The 1976 Rogers catalog describes the drum as follows. " At last, a snare drum you can dig into and it still responds and feels good....carefully designed snare beds provide that thick sound that has become so popular....easy to play, easy to tune, and durable, the Super Ten gives a funky sound that is so much a part of today's music."

Suffice it to say, that the above catalog ad copy is just copy. The reality is somewhat different. There's nothing special about the Super Ten. The carefully designed snare beds are a figment of someone's imagination. It's not a bad drum, but it has no specialness about it at all. The sound of the drum is rather pedestrian, although with the choice of drum heads nowadays, a drummer could tweak the Super Ten to his heart's content. No endorsers were ever connected to the drum. And perhaps that's the problem. In any case, you don't see many of these in the marketplace and they are not considered very collectible.

It's all rather ironic really. Here's an average musical instrument that is currently considered not very desirable. Yet, it is relatively rare and it does share the same Rogers hardware as her more expensive sisters. It's true that the Rogers Drum Company had started its long slow slide into oblivion around the late 70's. Unfortunately, this drum was one of the casualties.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Rogers Powertone Snare Drum--metal shell

The Rogers Drum Company occupies a special place in the history of American Drum Companies. Like its competitors, Gretsch, Ludwig, Leedy, and Slingerland, Rogers had a long illustrious run producing fine drums and accessories. Unlike these aforementioned companies, Rogers early ( 1930's) snare drums and drum kits were not as desirable as those from Slingerland and Ludwig. The great Gene Krupa saw to it that Slingerland ruled the roost during the 30's and 40's. Ludwig, and to a lesser extent, Leedy were always nipping at Slingerland's heels during that time. In the mid 40's, Ludwig signed Buddy Rich to an endorsement deal in an attempt to put a dent in Slingerland sales. At the same time, Gretsch attempted to ride the Be-bop revolution with the great Max Roach.

Rogers, on the other hand, quietly made drums and stayed out of the fray. Indeed, for a while, Rogers had a working relationship with the Camco Drum Company buying parts and hardware.On May 5th 1955, the world changed for Rogers. On that date, Henry Grossman, the owner of the Grossman Distributing Company, announced he had bought the Rogers Drum Company. Henry brought two gentlemen into the company with him, Joe Thompson, a musican/engineer, and Ben Strauss, a marketing and sales professional. These three proceeded to turn the Rogers Drum Company into a powerhouse.

By the early 60's, Rogers was offering top of the line drums and hardware. They had snagged two of the drum world's most famous names, Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson, as endorsers. But they didn't stop there. There list of endorsers included Cozy Cole, Irv Cottler, Jim Chapin, Roy Burns, Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer, Frankie Capp, and J. C. Heard.

The company was innovative....and very aggressive. Rogers offered something for everyone in the percussion world. Snare Drums, Drum Kits, Marching Drums, Glockenspiels, Deagan Marimbas, Vibraphones, a full line of drumsticks and mallets, Pasha and Zildjian cymbals, FIPS, (an early silent practice drum kit), Conga's, Bongos, Maracas, Timbales, Temple blocks, tuned bells, complete Rhythm outfits, twirling batons, and bugles (soprano, baritone, bass baritone, and French!!!!). They even offered a U. S. regulation Bugle for sale.

But it was the hardware and shells that made the Company's reputation. The Swiv-o-matic hardware was revolutionary at the time. There was simply nothing like it. The Dynasonic snare drum was a wonderment. And the various drum configurations and finishes were special.

Rogers offered 7 different snare drum model's. These included the top of the line Dynasonic, the Powertone, the Century, the Tower, the Luxor. the Banner, and the Student model. The Dyna and the Powertone came in both a wood shell and a metal shell. Over the years, the wood models have increased in value 5 to 25 times above the original price. The metal shell drums have not increased in value nearly as much.

The pictured drum is a metal Powertone. The 5 x 14 listed for 99.00 dollars and 6 1/2 x 14 listed for 102.00. At the time, this was a lot of money. If you figure in dollar devaluation and inflation, such a new drum would list for 1000.00 today. Given that, the drum is of quite humble origins. It's competitors in the marketplace, the Ludwig 400 and the Slingerland Gene Krupa, had brass shells and, in the case of Slingerland, brass hoops. The lowly Powertone was made of steel. The Powertone had no special strainer. It shared the Swiv-0-matic strainer that graced its more expensive sisters. There was only an 8 lug version.

Nevertheless, this drum could more than hold its own against its competitors in the most important category when talking about a musical instrument----the way it sounds. It's a solid, fine sounding snare drum. She will give you everything you ask of her, and then some.

The wood model is more desired ( I'll address that in a future blog). But no matter, and no apologies are needed. The Rogers metal Powertone is a fine snare drum. It's a fine example of a drum made in the golden age of the American Drum Company.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Slingerland Gene Krupa Sound King Snare Drum

Gene Krupa was Slingerland's top endorser. He was on the cover of every Slingerland catalog from 1936 to 1967. As mentioned in earlier blogs ( See Dec. 20th, March 21st, and Apr. 12th), Slingerland wasted no opportunities when it came to Mr. Krupa. It's no exaggeration to say that Gene Krupa was the best drum salesman Slingerland ever had----which brings us to the beautiful drum you see pictured above.

This ten lug cupcake was known as the Gene Krupa Sound King Snare Drum. It came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. It was in production from 1963 to 1977. There was an eight lug model that was an option and, although not plentiful, is not too difficult to find in the vintage market. The ten lug is more difficult to find, especially one like this. But more on that later. The shell is made of brass and the hoops are also brass. The drum is outfitted with the Zoomatic snare strainer, the standard Slingerland Strainer for the time. This snare drum was the last Slingerland snare drum to bear the Gene Krupa name. Indeed in 1976, " Gene Krupa" was dropped from the listing and the drum was simply known as the Sound King.

This particular drum has a special uniqueness. She is brand new. I bought this drum yesterday. The drum has never been tuned, much less played. The small bag hanging from the lug contains the drum key and the warranty paperwork. It goes without saying that everything on her is totally original. This drum had been sitting in a music shop for 35-40 years until I happened to see it 2 weeks ago.

Obviously, I can't comment about its playability. But I hope to rectify that situation shortly

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The 1968 Downbeat Magazine Annual Drummers Poll

In addition to having an Annual Percussion Issue (See blog dated June 8th), Downbeat also published an issue with ratings for various musicians and their recordings. These popularity contests were somewhat skewed because the only votes that counted were those that were mailed in by readers who took the time to do so. Nowadays, a few clicks can get you almost anywhere in cyberspace, but back then, snail mail was the way to go.

Anyway, these polls covered all jazz musicians who played an appropriate instrument. Guitarists,pianists, horn players, drummers---you name it and there was a poll for it. The poll only applied to jazz and, in a few cases, pop musicians. There were no classical, country, or world musicians. There was even a category for Record of the Year. These polls were only for the readers of Downbeat. No critics or commentators were allowed to vote. There was a separate issue for a critics poll.

In any case, the poll you see pictured here is the drummers poll from 1968. It's self explanatory, but the number in parenthesis indicates the standings from the previous year's poll. No numbers in parenthesis indicates a new entry for the year.

The poll gives a snapshot, albeit a small one, of the popularity of jazz drummers in 1968. All the drummers on the list were active at the time, some more than others. The first 3 names were, as can be seen, interchangeable from the previous year. Elvin Jones had left John Coltrane and had his own trio. Buddy Rich had his big band. And Tony Williams had left Miles Davis and was in the process of creating his ground breaking group, the Tony Williams Lifetime. All had a unique style. All equally valid.

The rest of the top 10 is interesting. Roy Haynes is still playing brilliantly. A few weeks ago he appeared on the David Letterman show. Joe Morello recently passed on, but his legacy as a player and a teacher is secure. Grady Tate is still playing and, at the time, played with the some of biggest names in Jazz. Max Roach and Art Blakey are household names within the drumming community. If you're a drummer, and you're not familiar with them, you haven't been paying attention. And Ed Thigpen was a great brush player who also played with some of the biggest names in jazz.

The rest of the list is equally interesting. Perhaps it's here that many drummers would begin to quibble with the ratings. There were, and are, a number of Shelly Manne fans. They would insist the he belongs in the top 10. The same would hold true for Mel Lewis fans. For me, Louis Bellson and Papa Jo Jones should be rated higher. And Gene Krupa? His career was winding down at the time, but 15th? Jack DeJohnette was playing with Miles Davis, so perhaps he should have ended up higher in the ratings. Joe Cusatis was very underrated, but not so in this poll. He's gone on to write some fine drum books. And Chico Hamilton, I believe, continues to play.

Only 2 drummers with a legacy in rock drumming made the list, Ginger Baker with Cream and Mitch Mitchell with Jimi Hendrix. Both had backgrounds in jazz and r & b, so to refer to them as simply "rock " drummers, as some critics did at the time, is a disservice. They were the only two drummers from the pop music world to make the list. Neither Hal Blaine or Earl Palmer made it, although it's understandable since both toiled in relative obscurity cranking out hit record after hit record.

Both Milford Graves and Ed Blackwell were active in the Avant Garde jazz scene. Here, too, some of the more opinionated critics at the time, questioned their style and talent.

The last 3 drummers were all active in big bands. Rufus "Speedy" Jones, Sonny Payne, and Sam Woodyard all played either with Count Basie or Duke Ellington.

It's important to remember this was a popularity poll. It's clearly a moment frozen in time. I'm sure anyone could find something to question. For example, where is Philly Joe Jones on this list? Also no Keith Moon? What about Dino Danelli? Bernard Purdie? Charlie Watts? Ziggy Modeliste? John Bonham? The list could go on and on. It should be pointed out that Downbeat was a jazz magazine. So perhaps that explains some of this. Drummers such as Billy Cobham, Steve Gadd, Neil Peart, Carl Palmer, Bill Bruford, and Simon Phillips were just starting to make their mark.

Their time was coming...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Ludwig Super Sensitive 4 in 1 Snare Drum

From 1929 to 1935, the Ludwig Drum Company offered a snare drum it called the Super Sensitive. The drum had a metal shell, tube lugs, and two separate snare strainers. One stretched across the bottom head, but the other pressed up against the batter head. Ludwig called this device, " the sensitive mechanism." The drum was a success and in 1932 Ludwig even offered an engraved black shell as a buyers option. By 1935 however, the drum was dropped from production.

It wasn't until 1961 that Ludwig reintroduced the beauty you see pictured here. Ludwig called the drum the Super Sensitive 4 in 1. The 4 in 1 designation referred to the 4 sets of snare wires that were offered. These included an 18 strand wire, a 10 strand wire, all gut, and a 6 wire, 4 gut set.The drum has a heavy brass shell and has 10 self aligning Imperial lugs. The dual snare strainers can be controlled by a single lever and the individual snare wires can be adjusted from either side. But the internal "snare mechanism" from the earlier model was dropped.

Ludwig advertised this drum as "having more exclusive features than any other." Indeed, the whole idea here was to offer a drum that could be used in jazz, in classical, and even in rock situations. The drum came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. The 5 x 14 listed for 120.00 dollars, the 6 1/2 for 124.00. Ludwig stated that " the drum was supplied in glistening chrome plate only."

As the decade of the 60's wore on, the drum changed somewhat. The brass shell was dropped and replaced with one made of metal. Ludwig called the metal Ludalloy. The snare strainer guards were changed and even more snare wire options were offered. The 1967 Ludwig catalog shows 6 different snare units offered. The 1973 Ludwig catalog shows 8 different snare units available. Each could be quickly changed and each snare wire strand could be adjusted individually. In addition, the drum came supplied with a specially designed "thermolene" plastic head.

To my knowledge, the Super Sensitive wasn't associated with, or endorsed by, any particular drummer. The Ludwig Supraphonic 400 was the drum of choice for most Ludwig players. Nevertheless, the Ludwig Super Sensitive is an excellent playing drum that offers a drummer a whole world of tonal possibilities.

As a brief historical footnote, William F. Ludwig II presented Ringo Starr with a gold plated Super Sensitive Snare Drum during the Beatles fall tour of the US in 1964.

I believe Ringo still has that drum.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Downbeat Magazine-the Annual Percussion Issue

For many years, Downbeat was the magazine favored by jazz connoisseurs. On the other hand, there were some folks in the early 60's who thought it was a magazine for jazz snobs. But that's a story for another time. In any case, Downbeat published an Annual Percussion Issue. They also would publish an Annual Guitar issue, a Horn issue etc. The writers would focus on a particular instrument and analyze it in depth. There would be comment, interviews, and written musical examples.

The pictured cover is from the 1958 Annual Percussion Issue. As the reader can see, it's really quite eye catching and it features the great Max Roach. The magazine cost 35 cents. I was too young in 58 to buy it. Hell, I didn't even know it existed, but by the mid 60's, I was hopelessly hooked on drums, drummers, and drumming. I then started buying current issues and back issues.

What I found particularly informative, besides the interviews, was the analysis of drumming technique that graced the pages of the Percussion issue. One such article was written by Don DeMicheal in the March 30th 1961 Percussion Issue. It was called, " The Evolution of the Drum Solo." This article was a treasure trove of information. Mr DeMicheal analyzed the styles of 12 drummers. These included Baby Dodds, Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Cozy Cole, Sid Catlett, Philly Joe Jones, Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, Shelly Manne, Frank Isola, and Art Blakey. He referenced recordings of each player. For example, with Big Sid Catlett, he transcribed the complete 12 bar solo from a tune called 1-2-3 Blues which Sid recorded in 1946.

In other sections of the article, Mr. DeMicheal compared and contrasted the styles of all the drummers. For me, to read, listen to, and compare the styles of say, Buddy Rich vs Chick Webb vs Gene Krupa vs Big Sid Catlett was absolutely captivating.

Nowadays, there are numerous publications that deal with jazz drumming, rock drumming, funk drumming, etc. There's so much information and so many publications that it's quite mind boggling. But for a young drummer in the mid 1960's, that was not the case. The Downbeat Annual Percussion Issue filled a void.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

3 Amigos--Gene, Barrett, and Buddy

In the aftermath of the Chicago Drum Show, I thought I'd post this picture. Perhaps many of you readers have seen it and are familiar with it, but it's a great picture that captures three drummers who excelled in the art of big band jazz drumming.

The picture is a promotional shot that Barrett used to promote his orchestra's salute to Gene Krupa. I have no idea of the time frame here. I'm guessing middle 1950's, if slightly later. Barrett is sitting behind a Ludwig drum kit. He endorsed Ludwig from 1948 until late 1950's. Buddy, too, was an endorser of Ludwig at the time. Gene, on the other hand, was a Slingerland man all the way.

Older drummers and musicians would have no trouble identifying who is who in the photo. But for younger players, a brief description of each might suffice.

Gene Krupa is in the center of the photo, in between Barrett and Buddy. It was Gene who brought the drums out front and center during the Swing Era. Before Gene, drummers weren't even considered musicians. A big band was described as, " 14 or 15 musicians and a drummer." Gene had such a charismatic presence that it was only a matter of time before he ventured out on his own. He fronted his own big band and he featured great soloists (Roy Eldridge) and singers (Anita O'Day). Gene Krupa was truly an ambassador for drummers everywhere.

Barrett Deems billed himself as "the world's fastest drummer." He played with Louis Armstrong and, as the promotional photo shows, fronted his own orchestra. Barrett played in all sorts of groups in his hometown of Chicago. He played well into his 80's and I remember seeing him hanging out at the Jazz Showcase whenever a famous jazz drummer came into town to play the club.

Buddy Rich is standing next to Gene. If you're a drummer, and you don't know who Buddy Rich is, you're in serious trouble. I still remember the first time I heard him on record. Max Mariash, my teacher, played a tune on his record player with Buddy playing drums. He then asked me to write down what I thought he was playing. I sat there open mouthed. True, I was only 14 at the time and Max did this exercise with other drummers' recordings e.g. Max Roach, Jo Jones. It was a great way to learn about drumming style and technique. More often than not, Buddy Rich, occupied center stage in these listening sessions.

Buddy's history with big bands, both his own and others, is well known and there's no need to rehash it here. Suffice it to say that his technical virtuosity remains unmatched, even in this day and age.

We drummers of today stand on the shoulders of giants

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The 21st Annual Chicago Vintage Drum Show (revisited)

The 21st Annual Chicago Drum Show is now in the books. It seems like the show gets bigger every year with more exhibitors and more drum companies joining the fold. Attendance, though, seemed down this year. I'm not sure if this was a result of the economy or perhaps the foul Spring weather.

In any case, it was good to see friends, check out the various drum clinics, and vintage drums. There were plenty of bargains. Some incredible kits and snare drums were sold to aspiring drummers and collectors. But it was meeting again with old friends that really sparked the event for me. Ron Dunnett brought his usual stable of snare drums. Terry Hawkins, the owner of Skins and Tins Drum shop in Champaign, Illinois had some nice drums for sale. Steve Maxwell, of Steve Maxwell Vintage Drums, seemed to be everywhere, chatting up his new shop. Bun E. Carlos had a pristine Ludwig Top Hat and Cane complete drum kit on display. And, yes dear reader, I too took plenty of pictures and video which will all be uploaded in the weeks to come.

The drum clinics were informative and entertaining. I didn't get to see all the performers, but, I did see Clayton Cameron, Bryan Hitt, J.R. Robinson, and Les DeMerle. Francine Bellson was there keeping the Louie Bellson legacy alive. It was quite touching when Les DeMerle dedicated his drum solo to Louie. He then proceeded to play up a storm.

As for me? Well, I purchased the drum you see pictured. This WFL beauty was known as the New Classic Snare Drum. For a short time, it was also known as the Ray McKinley model. It was produced from 1947 until 1956. It came in only one size, 6 1/2 x 14. It isn't a particularly well known model and it's history isn't exactly star studded. But it's a fine snare drum and it occupies center stage in one of Buddy Rich's finest photos. It graces the cover of Buddy Rich's drum book, Modern Interpretation of Snare Drum Rudiments. I've also seen this photo silk screened on t-shirts.

In any case, it's a drum I've wanted to add to my collection. I've seen them before, but not in this condition. I feel lucky that I finally own a WFL New Classic Snare Drum.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The 21st Annual Chicago Vintage Drum Show

This coming weekend, May 21st and 22nd, marks the return of the Annual Chicago Vintage Drum Show. It's held at the Kane County FairGrounds, which is approximately 35 miles Southwest of downtown Chicago. Admission is 15.oo. This is THE premier vintage drum convention in the United States. You will not find more vintage drums under one roof anywhere else on the continent.

This is the 21st year for the convention. I remember its first few years. Initially, it was just a gathering of drum geeks who sold or traded drums and hardware. The location moved around and sometimes it was a one day event, sometimes two. There were no drum clinics and the event was ignored by current Drum Companies. In fact, there was a certain snobbishness directed at the event and at event attendees.

Things have changed in 21 years. The event has grown in size and stature. The Ludwig Drum Company, the Gretsch Drum Company, and the Yamaha Drum Company all have booths at the show. The list of small custom Drum Manufacturers is most impressive. These include Paul Mason and his Tempus Drum Company, Ronn Dunnett of Dunnett Custom Drums and the George Way Drum Company, the Craviotto Drum Company, the Joyful Noise Drum Company, and the Palmetto Drum Company. Even Stick and Cymbal companies are represented. These include Zildjian and Sabian Cymbals and Regal Tip sticks.

This influx of current manufacturers has changed the environment for the better. Indeed, the show is advertised as the Chicago Drum Show. The "vintage" word has been dropped. But make no mistake. This is vintage drum heaven. There is a good sized consignment section. Steve Maxwell, one of the most respected vintage collectors, has a booth for his wares. Bun E. Carlos, the drummer for Cheap Trick, sells vintage gear at his booth. Guitar Center, the big box music retailer, sells used stock from its local stores. And there are a number of small respected retailers like Skins and Tins Drum Shop who sell vintage drums, cymbals, and hardware.

Last, but not least, there are a number of Drum Clinics given throughout the two day event. This year's clinicians include J.R. Robinson, Clayton Cameron, Bryan Hitt, Johnny Rabb, Jane Boxall, Les DeMerle, Daniel Glass, and Cora and Josh Dunham.

As you can well imagine, the show attracts visitors from throughout the world. Drummers, drum collectors, drum geeks, drum manufacturers, even (gasp!!!) guitarists---all can be found wandering the aisles. It's a collection of characters, a real slice of humanity. As they used to say in the 60's, "It's bitchin." Or to put it another way---Be There or be Square.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Slingerland Hollywood Ace Snare Drum--1960's version

From 1939 to 1957, Slingerland sold the Hollywood Ace Swing Model snare drum. (See blog dated April 18th). It was a Radio King, had a solid maple shell, and had the Radio King Snare Strainer too boot. It was a top of line snare drum for the company and it had good long run in the Slingerland catalog.

In 1957, the drum was dropped from production. But Slingerland executives didn't drop the nameplate, "Hollywood Ace." In 1958, in their attempt to produce a drum for everyone's taste and budget, Slingerland offered the drum you see pictured here. This Hollywood Ace was definitely not a Radio King. The shell was no longer solid maple. It was now 3 ply. The Radio King Snare Strainer was also dropped and was replaced with the cheaper, but functional, 673 Rapid Strainer. This snare strainer ended up being used on all the student model snare drums that Slingerland sold at that time. It's eerily very similar to the Ludwig P83 strainer that graced the Ludwig Supraphonic 400 Snare Drum of the 1960's.

This snare drum was described in the Slingerland catalog as being "a very popular medium priced snare drum." It listed for 82.00 and came in two sizes, 5 1/2 x 14 and 7 x 14. The buyer also had a choice of pearl wraps or lacquer finishes.

This Hollywood Ace has its strengths. It has solid maple reinforcing hoops, it has the standard Slingerland lugs and it has the famous Slingerland brass hoops. This beauty is wrapped in Blue Agate Pearl. It's interesting to note that Slingerland, unlike many of the drum companies of the current day, offered the same finishes for almost all of their snare drums regardless of price.

Slingerland ceased production of this drum in 1976. This Hollywood Ace had a good long run. It's a fine drum despite its somewhat humble origins.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Slingerland Super Sound King Snare Drum

The 60's was a decade of excitement, innovation, and, in the case of Drum companies, profitability. Everything and anything seemed possible. Ludwig, Slingerland, Rogers, Camco, Gretsch, Fibes, and Premier--all offered a myriad of drum kits and snare drum choices. And all of them sold their version of " the most sensitive and responsive snare drum in the Drum Industry."

Rogers, for example, sold the Rogers Dynasonic Snare Drum. Ludwig had the Super Sensitive Snare Drum. Camco offered the No 99 Super. And Fibes trumpeted its SFT 690. Slingerland, of course, was not to be out done, particularly since Ludwig, its cross town rival, had the Super Sensitive Model.

The drum you see pictured was Slingerland's answer to the Ludwig Super Sensitive. The Super Sound King Snare Drum came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. It has ten lugs. It made its debut in 1967 and it has a very heavy brass shell and the typical " guaranteed for life" brass stick saver hoops. Its real difference from other Slingerland snare drums is the Dual Super Snare Strainer. It was the only Slingerland drum to use this strainer. Each side of the drum had a snare strainer. The drummer could release the snare wires on both sides of the drum simultaneously with one handle, or he could adjust each side separately if he so desired. One knob was used to adjust the tension on the snare wires.

Slingerland, in the 1968 catalog, said the "Super Sound King Snare Drum is the most sensitive and responsive snare drum ever designed." And, as a clear dig at Ludwig, stated, " needs no sound disturbing center bead." The drum listed for 130.00 dollars, which was 30 dollars more than the Gene Krupa Sound King and 38.00 dollars more than a Radio King Snare Drum.

The initial reaction to this drum was somewhat muted and , over the years, the drum has been overshadowed. The Super Sound King never really had a chance. Slingerland ceased production of this model in 1976. As far as I know, this snare drum was never associated with any Slingerland endorsers. Yet, it has all the components that make up the classic Slingerland metal snare drum---the heavy brass shell, the stick saver hoops and the twenty wire snappy snares.

Perhaps Slingerland executives tried to make too much of a good thing. They already were selling one of most sensitive and responsive snare drums in the market at that time--the Slingerland Radio King. The Sound King got "lost in the shuffle."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Slingerland Artist Model Snare Drum

Slingerland, like many of the drum manufacturers of the 1960's, tried to offer a drum for every taste and budget. Business was simply booming. It was not unusual for music stores to sell 5 drum kits a day! Drum sticks, cymbals, drum hardware---it all sold quickly and in huge quantities. Naturally, drum company executives reasoned that you were better off presenting as many choices as possible in a given year. Throughout the decade, Slingerland, along with Ludwig, Rogers, Gretsch, Camco, and Premier offered various kits and snare drums in a wide variety of wraps and lacquered finishes. These finishes came and went depending on how well they sold during the year.

The pictured drum was known as the Slingerland Artist Model. It first made its appearance in the 1963 catalog. This beauty has 8 lugs, brass hoops, the famous Slingerland solid maple shell, and the new, at the time, Zoomatic strainer. This strainer replaced the Clamshell strainer that, although beautiful, proved to be problematical. ( See April 21st blog entry). The Zoomatic strainer was simply designed and entirely functional. In fact, the strainer was still used by Slingerland into the mid 1990's.

This drum was originally offered in two sizes, the 5 1/2 x 14 and the 7 x 14. There was also a 10 lug version. The 7 x 14 drum was dropped due to poor sales. For one year, 1968, Slingerland referred to this drum as the Buddy Rich Artist Model. He was the only drummer to have his name associated with this snare drum. Buddy was a Slingerland endorser at the time and company executives took every opportunity they could to use his name to sell their drums. Production of this model ceased in 1979.

The wrap on this drum deserves some mention. The Slingerland catalogs of the day refer to it as Blue Agate Pearl. They also had a White Tiger Pearl, a Red Tiger Pearl, and the rarest of the bunch, a Yellow Tiger Pearl. Of the American Drum companies of the day, only the Rogers Drum Company sold a similar wrap. They called it the Onyx wrap and it came in blue, red and black.

Although not exactly plentiful, these drums can still be found today at vintage shows for very reasonable prices. Perhaps the Artist Model doesn't have the mystique that the Radio King has. Nevertheless, it's a fine drum.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Hollywood Ace Swing Model Radio King Snare Drum

The Slingerland Drum Company introduced the first Radio King Snare Drum in 1936. The drum came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14, and it came in either a wood or metal shell. Shortly after it's appearance in the marketplace, Slingerland added the name Gene Krupa to the model nameplate. Sales skyrocketed. The Gene Krupa name was gold. For the next 50 years, Slingerland took every opportunity it could to associate the great Gene Krupa with its snare drums and drum kits. See previous blogs dated Apr 12th, Feb 27th 2011, and Dec. 20th 2010.

But Gene wasn't the only drummer to have a Radio King Snare Drum named after him. In 1936, Ben Pollack had a wood hoop model named after him. In 1937, Ray McKinley also had one. And for 3 years, from 1939 to 1941, Slingerland offered the Buddy Rich Radio King Swingster Model to aspiring drummers.

In 1939, Slingerland began offering the Radio King model you see pictured here. It was not associated with any particular drummer. It was simply known as the Hollywood Ace Swing Model Radio King. Two sizes were available, a 7 x 14 and a 8 x 14. Prospective buyers had a choice of chrome or nickel plated hardware. This cream puff came with 16 "beaver tail" lugs and the famous Radio King Snare Strainer. This strainer, which pulled the snare wires away from the head, rather than directly up into it, was a great success and was used by Slingerland until the mid 1970's.

The shell, of course, was constructed of solid maple. It was truly the strength of the Radio King and this drum remained in production from 1939 to 1957. In 1958, the solid shell was dropped and a 3 ply shell was substituted. Also, the 8 x 14 size became history and a 5 1/2 x 14 was added. This model was produced from 1958 to 1976.

The Hollywood Ace is now a part of history. But all in all, this Radio King Snare Drum had a long and very successful run.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Super Gene Krupa Radio King Snare Drum

As mentioned in earlier blogs (See blogs dated Dec. 20th and Mar. 21), the Slingerland Drum Company never missed a chance to match the great Gene Krupa with the Radio King nameplate. It was never in doubt who they considered their number one drum ambassador. Gene was THE best salesman Slingerland had, regardless of how many sales reps the company employed. Krupa was loyal to the company and, starting in 1936, his image graced the front of the Slingerland catalog. Indeed, as late as 1967, there was Gene, sitting behind his set of Slingerland Drums on the front cover of the catalog.

The pictured beauty was first introduced in 1955. Production on this model lasted until 1962. Interestingly enough, shortly after the drum hit the marketplace, the Radio King moniker was dropped and the drum was simply known as the " Super Gene Krupa Snare Drum."

This drum came in a variety of sizes both in a lacquer finish and a pearl wrap. In addition to the 5 1/2 x 14, the drum came in a 5 1/2 x 13, 7 x 14, and an 8 x 14 sizes. The strength of this model was in its solid maple shell. It was truly a work of art. Slingerland's main competitors, Ludwig and Leedy, had ceased to make solid wood shells by this time.

The Super Gene Krupa model also came with either stick shredder or stick saver hoops. The stick shredder hoops were engraved with the "Radio King" nameplate. These hoops carried the lifetime guarantee that Slingerland was noted for.

Lastly, the drum came outfitted with Slingerland's Super Strainer. This strainer, also known as the Clamshell strainer, was introduced in the early 1940's. It's Art Deco look was quite attractive, but problems arose with its use. The extension levers would break, sometimes at the most inopportune time. If the lever broke while the snares were disengaged, there would be no way to reengage them. Slingerland soon replaced this strainer with the Zoomatic Strainer and the Clamshell became part of history.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Ludwig & Ludwig Standard Concert Snare Drum

As mentioned in an earlier blog, the Conn Musical Instruments Company at one time owned both the Ludwig and Leedy Drum Companies. ( See Blog dated Feb 14th). William Ludwig Sr. had sold his company because of financial difficulties due to the stock market crash in the late 20's. At the time of the sale, the Ludwig badge on the drums read " Ludwig & Ludwig" referring to William Sr. and his brother, Theobald. The brothers got their start in the drum business by opening a drum store in Chicago.

In any case, both Ludwig and Leedy were manufactured on the same drum line in Indiana. The drums had different hardware, strainers, and badges. Conn Executives viewed Ludwig as the "weak sister" and focused most of their attention on the Leedy Drum Line. Ludwig & Ludwig had its own sales office in Chicago and they did their best without much support. Meanwhile, in the 30's, William had quite enough of Conn, quit the company, and started the WFL Drum Company. Thus, Bill Sr. found himself in the unenviable position of competing against his own "old" company.

In 1951, Conn merged both Ludwig & Ludwig and Leedy into one new drum company--the Leedy and Ludwig Drum Company. This venture lasted but a few years and ended up with Conn selling Ludwig back to Bill Sr.

The pictured beauty is from the late 40's/early 50's. The badge reads, "Ludwig & Ludwig, Chicago, Illinois". She has a thick 3 play wood shell and self aligning Imperial lugs which were revolutionary for the time. This lug was introduced back in the 30's and a variation is still in use today. She also has the Controlled Response Extension Snare Strainer. This ingenious 3 way strainer was only available from 1941 until 1950.

Initially, this model was offered in a mahogony or lacquer finish. But as the 40's turned to the 50's, pearl finishes became available. As the reader can see, this green pearl wrap is stunning. Her sound matches her looks.

Two of the most famous drummers in history played Ludwig & Ludwig Drums--Baby Dodds with Louis Armstrong and Big Sid Catlett with a later version of Louis Armstrong's band.