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."