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.