Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rogers Drum Company Ad--Downbeat magazine

Drum Companies, like all other businesses, have used various means to get their message out to the public. In the 40's, 50's, and 60's, the print media was particularly effective. But unlike today, there were only so many outlets that were available  that made sense.

Downbeat Magazine was the choice of many, if not all, of the music manufacturers at the time. The magazine was very influential in the jazz and dance band circles. Musicians read it constantly, for it was one of the only magazines that focused on the subject matter. It seemed that every page had an  advertisement calling attention to a specific instrument and the company that manufactured it. Which brings us to the ad you see pictured here.

Up until the late 50's,  the Rogers Drum Company was a weak sister compared to Ludwig and Slingerland.. Even the Leedy Drum Company had more presence than Rogers. Things changed dramatically when Henry Grossman bought the company in 1955. Joe Thompson, an employee with Grossman Distribution, agreed to join  the company as chief designer and engineer.  Ben Strauss, another employee, joined the Rogers team as the head of marketing and publicity.  They immediately set about changing the drumming world landscape.

The pictured ad appeared as a two page (double truck) ad in Downbeat magazine in the early 1960's. This is only one page. As the ad states, Rogers held a 5 day percussion exhibit at the Edison Hotel on Times Square. Nearly 2000 percussionists attended the event, including the Company's principal endorser, Buddy Rich.  Rogers used the occasion to feature the new Swivomatic hardware, which was revolutionary for the time. Nothing like it had ever been seen, or used for that matter. Nevertheless, the introduction of this hardware skyrocketed the Rogers brand from an also-ran to a major player in the field.

Rogers Drums quickly became the "Cadillac" of American Drums. The shells and hardware  were  the envy of the drumming world. The drums were not cheap, clearly they were the most expensive American made drums at the time. But you "got what you paid for.".

Today, Rogers Drums continue to shine like a beacon so many years after their splash in the early 60's.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sonor D 472 Pancake Snare Drum

The  1960's were a very profitable time for many drum companies. The old standbys, like Ludwig, Slingerland, Gretsch, and Rogers posted great sales figures. European companies, like Premier and Sonor, did their best to snatch a piece of  the pie. All the drum manufacturers went out of their way to offer something for everyone. Various drum kit configurations in a multitude of wraps and finishes were the order of the day. Even drums made of Fiberglass, e.g. the Fibes Drum Company, made a brief, but spectacular splash, in the marketplace.

But it wasn't just drum kits that enjoyed a renaissance. Snare drums of every size and description seemed to pop  out of the pages of drum company catalogs. Every company had its flagship snare drum. And most drum companies  offered other snare drum choices as well. Which brings me to the rail thin beauty that you see pictured here.

The Sonor Drum Company sold traditional size snare drums like their competitors, but for a short time, they also sold this 2.5 x 14 pancake snare drum.  This drum  has a small wood shell  wrapped in red marble finish and, as can be seen,  has offset lugs.  I believe the drum was sold as an add on  and was not intended to serve as the main snare drum in a drum kit configuration.  That being said,  this drum needs no apologies. I've seen and heard this drum played as the main snare voice and, although somewhat limited, does quite nicely, particularly in small jazz settings. Also, although these drums are rare, you can find one if you look  hard enough.

The drum was not a success, but interestingly enough, the Rogers Drum Company also offered a pancake snare drum for a very brief period of time. It too "failed at the box office." as was discontinued.

The idea did not die, however. In the late 1990's, Dallas Arbiter sold a complete kit that they called, "Flats."There were two series, the Lite and the Pro series. This English company advertised the stability and portability of these kits. and  the drums had an ingenious single screw tuning system. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Sonor HLD 593 Signature Snare Drum

Over the years, many drum companies have offered the 4 x 14 snare drum in their catalogs. In some cases, this size snare drum was offered, but was not pictured in the catalog and was only offered on a special order basis. In the 1920's and  early 1930's,  the 4 x 14 was considered an essential part of the modern dance band.  By the middle 1930's,  all this changed with the Swing Era and most big band drummers, following the example of Gene Krupa, switched to bigger drums to compete with the sound of the big bands.

But by the 1940's, Be bop became popular and drummers, led by the great Max Roach, began to switch back to smaller kits and the 4 x 14. The Grestch Drum Company, in particular,  pushed the whole concept of smaller kits. Grestch  used the term, "Progressive Jazz" in talking about these drums.

But truth be told, the 4 x 14 never reached the popularity of the 5 or 5 1/2  x 14 snare drum. Except for perhaps the Gretsch Drum Company, drum manufacturers did not consider the smaller snare a staple of a drum kit and, in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's, this snare drum was rarely offered as part of a standard set. You could buy a 4 x 14 snare drum, but only by special order. There were exceptions to the rule, of course. For a brief period, the Slingerland Drum Company offered the Buddy Rich  4 x 14 offset lug snare drum as a standard item in its catalog.

All of which brings me to the gorgeous little beauty you see pictured here. I'm not sure if the Sonor Drum Company was attempting to make the perfect 4 x 14 metal  snare drum when they offered this drum for sale, but if they were, they came awfully damn close. Beauty, of course, is in the eye (and the ear) of the beholder.

The shell is made of bell bronze and is cast from one piece. It is also 5 mm thick and has a 45 degree angle cut on both edges of the shell. She sports die cast hoops and all the mounted parts are copper plated. She weighs 15 pounds which, for the time, was the heaviest 4 x 14 on the market.  As you would expect, this little drum is loud, but very sensitive. The only caveat I have about her is the rim mounted muffler that sits on the batter head.  Perhaps it's not the best place for it. I suspect by experimenting with different heads and even some moon gel, you could control any unwanted sharpness in sound. But all of that is a matter of taste.

This drum was only offered for a very short time. By the late 1990's, it vanished from the catalog. Obviously, it didn't enjoy great sales success. Nevertheless, there's no denying her beauty.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Camco Brass Snare Drum

The Camco Drum Company went through various stages of development over the years. There's no need to rehash the entire story here, but the reader is encouraged to check out blogs dated Jan 12th and Feb 23rd  for the specifics. Suffice it to say, that Camco built some fine drums in the 1960's---drums that were in many cases overlooked.  Camco simply didn't have the promotional budget that Slingerland and Ludwig possessed.  Ludwig,  largely due  to Ringo Starr and his fellow British Invasion colleagues, seemed to have the Rock market sewed up.  Camco's biggest rock endorser was Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. And there were a number of jazz players, most notably Colin Bailey, who played the brand. But even here, Ludwig's endorser list simply swamped anything that Camco could claim.

The drums themselves were instruments of beauty. Camco offered some of the wildest wraps then available.The wood shells were either 3 or 4 ply maple. Like Ludwig, the inside shell was covered with a white sealer. The hoops were copies of the old Leedy hoop.And some of the metal snare drums were chrome over brass models.

Unfortunately, the company changed hands a number of times. Originally based in Oak Lawn, a SW suburb of Chicago, the company moved to Chanute Kansas and eventually to Los Angeles. In the early 70's, the company gave up the ghost and closed its doors. Drum Workshop swooped in and bought much of the hardware and pedals and began their  climb to the top of the heap of American Drum Manufacturers.

All of which leads us back to the drum you see pictured. This is a late model Camco brass snare drum. I can find no information about it in any Camco catalogs or flyers. She has the Los Angeles Camco badge and she has been used often in live shows and sessions. She was once owned by Maury Baker, drummer with Janis Joplin, Judy Collins, and Tim Buckley. If I ever sell it, it will go right back to him.

In any case, this brass snare is an excellent example of a Camco drum from  the Los Angeles era.  To my knowledge, Camco never offered a natural brass drum in the 60's. She has a solid and heavy brass shell and, of course, the famous Camco Turrret lugs. She also has the very simple and very functional turret snare strainer.  This drum can be used in multiple musical settings and can deliver the goods.

Camco might not have had the allure or popularity of other brands, but they made some fine drums. Ironically, the value of these Camco drums has skyrocketed on the vintage market bypassing many of the Ludwig and Slingerland drums from the same period.

Camco's place in the drum history books is assured.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Leedy and Strupe Snare Drum

The history of  American Drum Manufacturers is filled with stories of success and failure. Unfortunately, the history of the Leedy and Strupe Drum company is one of failure. I'll try to give a brief synopsis of the life of the company, but the reader is encouraged to pick up Harry Cangany's indispensable book, " The Great American Drums and the Companies that made them," to get a more detailed view.

In 1929, Ulysses Grant Leedy sold his company to Conn Instruments. Conn promptly moved the company to Elkhart  Indiana  from Indianapolis . But Ulysses wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. He kept the factory in  Indianapolis and in partnership with his son Edwin and Cecil Strupe, a former employee from Leedy, he formed the General Products Corporation in 1930. Thus the L and S ( Leedy and Son) Drum Company was born. But Ulysses was not a healthy man and  he passed away even   before the company had built its first drums.  His son wanted to continue the operation with the help of Cecil Strupe.  Leedy and Son  now was referred to as Leedy and Strupe.

The company lasted for about 8 years. Cecil jumped ship in the mid 30's and went to work for WFL in Chicago. By 1939, it was all over but the shouting. The company died quietly. All of which brings me to the drum you see pictured.

So little has survived over the last decades concerning the various drums that  L and S produced. The top of the line was called the Master Tension Series and the Dictator model was the flagship snare drum for the company. The pictured beauty is not a Dictator.  In fact, I've had a difficult time identifying it.  L and S made other models. They included the Rhythm King, the Service, the Transient, the Concert, the Reliant, and the Boys school model.  This drum is somewhat similar to the Leedy Reliance snare drum of the time.  She's 6 1/2  x 14 inches, has single flanged hoops, and tube lugs. The shell looks to be of brass, but I don't think so.  The tube lugs might be an indication of this drum's timeline.. Early models had tube lugs. Later models had Master Tension lugs. In any case, the drum is very decent sounding, and with a little bit of tweaking, could fill the bill nicely.

Unfortunately,  L and S is now a part of history. All that's left are the drums themselves as a reminder of a time long gone.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Gretsch Broadkaster Snare Drum

Arguably one of the finest snare drums ever made was the Gretsch Gladstone two way or three way tension snare drum. ( See blog date Oct 6th, 2010). There wasn't anything else quite like it and great big band drummers like Chick Webb and Jo Jones raved about the Gladstone. Jo even played a complete set of Gladstone drums. In the 30's, Gretsch based it's reputation on this drum and the company "rode" it for all it was worth
 But the Second World War affected drum production and it wasn't until the late 40's that drum companies returned to their normal way of doing business. The music scene was changing also. Be-bop was the trend of the day and Big Bands were starting their long slide into oblivion.

The Gretsch Drum Company recognized this and was johnny-on-the spot in grabbing the lion's share of endorsers who played this "new" music. The list of musicians was most impressive. It  included Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Shelly Manne, Art Taylor, Chico Hamilton, and Charli Persip. The company didn't ignore big band drummers either. Jo Jones continued to play the brand but he was joined by Louis Bellson, Sonny Payne, Don Lamond, Mel Lewis, Shadow Wilson and Dick Shanahan.  Thus Grestch  entered it's glory days.  The company started a run that culminated in the 60's, stumbled a bit in the 70's and 80's, righted itself in the late 90's, and is currently enjoying great success in the marketplace.

All of which brings me to the gorgeous beauty you see pictured here. This is a Gretsch Broadkaster Snare Drum from 1947. She has a 3 ply wooden shell, which was advertised as being perfectly round for life, double flange hoops, self-aligning non strip lugs and the " feather touch" snare strainer.

 This drum has no reinforcing rings. Gretsch engineers believed that such rings distorted the sound. She is wrapped in a White Pearl finish. Later Gretsch drums had a silver sealant on the inside of the shell.  This drum does not. Perhaps not the most sensitive drum around and her sound is "old fashioned". That is to say that younger players who like that real poppy snare sound would not care for her at all. But no matter. She's a real sweet heart, and for us older players, she fits the bill perfectly.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The WFL Super Classic Snare Drum

Drum Companies, depending on the size of their advertising budgets, have always tried to build up an impressive list of endorsers. The Slingerland Drum Company, particularly during the Big Band era, had the most impressive roster of players.  Gene Krupa was Slingerland's best salesman and the famous Radio King Snare Drum soon became known as the Gene Krupa Radio King.

The Ludwig Drum Company,on the other hand, made great drums but their list of drummers wasn't nearly as impressive as Slingerland's. In the late 1940's, William  F. Ludwig set about rectifying the situation by signing Buddy Rich to endorse Ludwig Drums.(See blog dated Feb.3rd 2011). In 1947, Ludwig introduced the Buddy Rich Model Super Classic Snare Drum.  This 8 lug beauty came in one size only--5 1/2 x 14.  At the same time, there  was a snare drum called the New Classic or Ray McKinley that was sized  6 1 /2 x 14 (See blog dated  May 24th, 2011). But that drum was a different animal  entirely with 16 twin lug casings. Which brings me to the 6 1/2 x 14  Black Diamond Pearl sweetheart you see pictured.

I've never been able to find a picture of this drum in any WFL or Ludwig catalog. In the1980's, Ludwig produced a drum called the Rock/Concert model that was very similar, but that's about it. In the 40's, there was nothing like this. There were no 6 1/2 x 14 models with these lugs and this strainer.  There was a model called "the Contest" but it had a very different snare strainer on it. So this beauty seems to be a real one off.  Perhaps some Ludwig employee became creative while working on the snare drum line one day. I'm not even sure if the drum has a title. I'm calling it the WFL Super Classic Snare Drum only because it shares all the same qualities as the Buddy Rich model. The shell is made of mahogany and the strainer is the Classic P87 Snare Strainer that was remodeled in 1969.  The later strainer is still in use today.

What matters, of course, is how the drum sounds and, in this context, it's a real winner. It might not have a place in the official Ludwig Drum Company history book, but no matter. As the reader can see and I can attest to, Beauty is not simply skin deep.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Super-Ludwig Mahogany Snare Drum

It can be argued that the 1930's belonged to the Slingerland Drum Company. The Company introduced the Gene Krupa Radio King Snare Drum in 1936 and the company's list of endorsers was a who's who of big band drummers. In addition to Gene Krupa, the list included Buddy Rich, Davey Tough, Ben Pollack, Ray McKinley and Jackie Cooper.  Krupa was perhaps Slingerland's best salesman. No one could touch him in terms of popularity. Even the music press referred to him as, "America's Ace Drummer Man.."

Slingerland's main competitor, the Ludwig Drum Company, simply didn't have the star power. Sure, there were many endorsers, but no Gene Krupa among them. It had to be especially galling to William Ludwig because Krupa had originally played Ludwig and, because of an administrative snafu concerning a possible endorsement deal, called Slingerland and received a kit. The rest, of course, is history.

But none of this really addresses the quality of drums that were made by Ludwig in the 30's. Ludwig made some fabulous drums during that time and the pictured beauty is certainly one of them.

The Super Ludwig Snare Drum came in a wood or metal shell. She also came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. The drum listed for $49.50  The sweetheart pictured  here is the mahogany wood shell version, sized 6 1/2 x 14.  She has eight Imperial lugs and each snare wire could be individually adjusted to suit a drummer's taste. A special drum key was included with each drum.

 This drum had one weakness.  The tension rods screwed right into the lug, which, if you weren't careful  when tuning it,  could end up stripping it. Ludwig quickly recognized the problem and within the year came up with self aligning inserts that were placed inside the casing. It worked beautifully.

  The 1937 catalog describes this drum as follows."The modern beauty of its design is matched by splendid tone, sensitive snare response, and excellent power and volume." Even though these words seem like marketing slogans, in this case, they do apply. This snare drum could stand up to any of its competitors, even the vaunted Radio King. No apologies are needed. I feel fortunate to own this beauty.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The 2012 Chicago Vintage Drum Show

This weekend brings the return of the Annual Chicago Vintage Drum Show. Over the years, the show has grown to include many custom and mainstream drum companies. Indeed, both Ludwig and Gretsch have increased their visibility over the years. At the same time, show organizers have downplayed the vintage aspect of the show, simply calling the event, "The Chicago Drum Show."

But that being said, there is perhaps no better place in the whole country to find that elusive vintage drum or vintage drum part.  After all, the Chicago metropolitan area was home to three of the major drum companies from the last century,  Ludwig, Slingerland, and Camco. And there always seems to be a local exhibitor at the show who is displaying some super rare drum or drum part.

For me, the best part is seeing old friends and acquaintances. In many cases, this is the only opportunity for me to get together with other collectors and drummers. I must admit the noise in the hall does get to be much, but hell, I'm a drummer and I love drums. It comes with the territory.

The entertainment roster for the show is as follows. There will be performances both on Saturday and Sunday . The list of performers included Jane Boxall, Fred Young, John Fred Young, Ed Shaughnessy, Mike Clark, and Les Demerle. Usually, the convention floor thins out whenever anyone is playing as fellow drummers check out the headliners. All in all, it should be loads of fun, and it's an event that I look forward to.

See you there!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Rogers Brass Lug Dynasonic

The Rogers Dynasonic Snare Drum was, depending on who you  talk  to, the epitome of American Snare drum manufacturing.  It was  the flagship snare drum for the company and it was advertised as :"the drum with the smile built in." Ads also stated that the,  " Rogers Dyna-Sonic's got  it! You get it, too ". This referred to the drum's pinpoint definition, choke free sound, and, according to Rogers, simple snare adjustment.

The drum quickly became identified with Rogers main endorsers. These included  Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Cozy Cole, and Jack Sperling. Indeed, Rob Cook, author of the Rogers Book, talks extensively about Ben  Strauss, the head of the company, consulting with Buddy Rich to build the most sensitive snare drum possible.

The whole idea was to have the snares wires float against the snare head, rather then be pressed up against it.The metal bridge allowed this to occur and added stability to the whole snare mechanism. The feeling among Rogers engineers was that the snare wires would vibrate more freely, thus be more sensitive. Or at least, that was the theory.

The pictured beauty is 50 years old. She is  one of  finest examples of an early Brass Dynasonic. She has the heavy brass shell, the drawn brass lugs and the swivo-matic perma tension strainer. Collectors refer to this strainer as the clockface strainer. She also has the original steel " Tall Hoops." that early Rogers drums were fitted with.  The lugs, though beautiful, tended to crack and they were a weakness with this drum. She still has her original snare head. This model came in 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14 sizes,  in either a wood or brass shell.  List price on this cupcake was 150.00, a princely sum in 1962. It was clearly one of most expensive snare drums of its time.

Later models substituted the steel beavertail lugs  for the brass ones. Many of these later models were made and it's not difficult to find them at  very reasonable prices.  But this only applies to the brass models.  The wood shell models are much rarer and very, very expensive.This sweetheart is not as rare, but you don't  see them everyday, particularly at this age and in this condition.

One thing is for sure about the Dyna. No other drum created as much controversy as this one did at its inception. You either loved it, or you hated it. And as for its simple snare adjustment? For many drummers, this was the joke of the century.

 And the arguments continue to the present day.  Pointless discussions about snare tension, head selection, and the like abound  wherever drummers gather.  The real story is this. The Dyna is versatile and can be used in a variety of musical settings. Finicky yes, but one great snare drum,

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Slingerland Radio King Snare Drum

The Slingerland Radio King Snare drum was the flagship snare drum of the Slingerland Drum Company. First introduced in 1936, the drum was offered in both a wood and metal shell and it came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. During the 30's, the great Gene Krupa became associated with the drum and it became known as the Gene Krupa Radio King. In the late 30's, both Buddy Rich and Ray McKinley had Radio King's named after them.

In 1957, the Radio King name was dropped and the drum was simply referred to as the Gene Krupa Snare Drum. The drum was in production until 1976. After a brief hiatus, a reissue of the Radio King appeared in 1979, but that's another story. Over the years, the Radio King has achieved legendary status. So many great drummers played the drum and many collectors have at least one in their collection. Which brings me to the beauty you see pictured here.

This is an early 60's 6 1/2 x 14 Radio King. She sports the famous Radio King Strainer and has a solid maple shell. She doesn't have the engraved Radio King hoops, but rather the Slingerland brass hoops. I've seen pictures of other Radio Kings with these hoops, particularly those from the early to middle 60's. The Slingerland badge has no serial numbers which means this was one of the earliest drums made by Slingerland when they moved to Niles Illinois in 1960.

As the reader can see, she has a red and yellow duco lacquer finish. Radio Kings were offered in both lacquer finishes and pearl wraps. You usually find them in White Marine Pearl wrap and this is the preferred color among collectors. Both Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich played kits in this wrap. Buddy preferred this wrap throughout his career regardless of what make of drums he played.

To sum up, the Radio King occupies a special place in the history of American Drum Manufacturers. Even today, this snare drum can hold its own against its modern day competitors.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Ludwig Standard Swing Snare Drum

In the mind's of many drummers and musicians, the 1930's and early 40's belonged to the Slingerland Drum Company. Their roster of endorsers was impressive. The great Gene Krupa headed the list followed by Buddy Rich, Dave Tough, Cozy Cole, Big Sid Catlett, and Ray McKinley.

The Radio King Snare drum was the cat's meow for drummers everywhere--the epitome of snare drum construction. It's thick steam bent maple shell with reinforcing rings was the Radio King's calling card.

But the Ludwig Drum Company, one of Slingerland's competitors, wasn't asleep at the wheel during this period. The Company had its own list of endorsers which included Haskell Harr, Ben Pollack, Ray Toland, and George Wettling. And both Buddy Rich and Big Sid Catlett switched to Ludwig in the 1940's.

Ludwig also had been producing some very fine snare drums beginning in the 1920's. The Ludwig Black Beauty, the Super Ludwig, and the Ludwig Super Sensitive were great snare drums and all of them have stood the test of time. Which leads me to the drum you see pictured here.

This beauty was known as the Ludwig Standard Swing Snare drum. It dates from the late 1930's, specifically 1938-39. She came in one size, 7 x 14. The shell was constructed of mahogany. Early Ludwig wood shells were solid mahogany, but by this time the company had introduced laminated shells. In any case, she does have an indented snare bed.

As the reader can see, she sports wood hoops with silver sparkle inlays. The lacquered Duco finish is a very cool dark green to white fade. This finish was cheaper than the pearl wraps that were offered. Indeed, blue and white fades and red and yellow fades were more popular than other Duco finishes.

The snare strainer was known as the 339. It was first sold in the late 30's and remained in production until 1950. This strainer was very functional and fit the bill perfectly. Finally, this cupcake has the self aligning Imperial lugs that were first offered in 1938. Before that time, the tension rods screwed directly into the lug causing numerous problems. After 38, small tubes were inserted into the lugs allowing the tension rod to float.

This particular model was offered only for a short time. Nevertheless, it's a fine drum that, with some tweaking, could handle many present day musical situations. Interestingly enough, this drum was traded in recently at my local drum store. It is currently up for sale. (But perhaps not for long.) Anyway, it just goes to show that great drum "finds" are still possible.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Ludwig Supraphonic 402

The Ludwig Drum Company holds the distinction of producing perhaps the most recorded snare drum in history--the Ludwig Supraphonic 400. The number of drummers who have used this model in recording sessions is quite staggering. The great Hal Blaine used the drum on 40 top ten hits, 350 top 40 hits, and thousands of other recordings. Charlie Watts (Stones), Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix), Dino Danelli (Young Rascals) and John Densmore (Doors), to name but a few, all played the model for extensive periods during their careers.

The pictured beauty doesn't have quite the same pedigree, but she is no slouch by any stretch of the imagination. The Ludwig 402 is really a 400 on steroids. She's bigger at 6 1/2 x 14, but no less responsive. She has the famous self aligning Imperial lugs and P-83 snare strainer. The drum originally came with Ludwig's own batter head and extra thin snare head. And the drum was initially made of brass.

This particular model is from the late 70's, perhaps early 80's. By this time, Ludwig had stopped using brass shells and used whatever metal they could get their hands on. Interestingly enough, Ludwig returned to brass shells in the mid 90s, but that's another story. The competition, in this case Rogers and Slingerland, continued to use brass shells throughout this time period.

The popularity of the 402 rests on the shoulders of one John Bonham who used the model extensively with Led Zeppelin. It was a match made in heaven. The list of recordings he made with Zeppelin are now a part of Rock history. I have no doubt that somewhere in the world, at this very moment, a classic rock radio station is spinning a Led Zeppelin tune with John powering through with his 402.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Rogers Brass Dynasonic Snare Drum

Every Drum Company in the 1960's sold a flagship snare drum. This drum was intended to be the finest snare drum the company could offer. It was usually the most expensive drum in the catalog and the company did its best to draw attention to it.

This didn't necessarily mean it was the most popular snare drum. And, despite a company's best efforts, it didn't mean that it was the best sounding snare drum, either. Ludwig, for example, offered the Ludwig Super Sensitive as its flagship, but many drummers prefer the standard Supraphonic 400 for its sound and ease of tuning. It also was virtually indestructible and many of these drums survive and are in use today.

The Rogers Drum Company offered the Dynasonic as its flagship snare drum. The drum came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14 . The Dyna was designed in the early 60's when Buddy Rich was Rogers' main endorser. Both a wood shell and a brass shell were available. It was sold as a standard snare on both the Buddy Rich Celebrity model and the Louie Bellson double bass model.

Over the years, the wood Dyna has increased in value by leaps and bounds. The more numerous brass model has not. In both wood and metal shell versions, the 6 1/2 x 14 model is more rare than the 5 x 14 model. Which brings us to the brass beauty you see pictured here.

This Dyna is from the later 60's, perhaps early 70's. Earlier models had 7 etched lines on the shell. Later models had 5, as can be seen on this cutie pie. All Dyna shells had the unique two beads around the top and bottom of the drum. This was done to increase the rigidity of the shell. Ludwig, on the contrary, had one bead around the middle of its shells. And Slingerland had no beads, claiming they were sound distorting.

Beads or not, this is a fabulous sounding snare drum. Loud, but sensitive, and very versatile, this drum can fill the bill in almost any musical setting. Although the 6 1/2 x 14 model is not something you run into everyday, the 5 x 14 model is not that rare and prices are very reasonable. This drum is one of the great examples of the golden age of American Drum Manufacturers.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The 4 x 14 Slingerland Radio King Snare Drum

In 1936, the Slingerland Drum Company introduced the Radio King Snare Drum. It was the flagship snare drum of the company and quickly became associated with Slingerland's number one endorser, Gene Krupa. For many years, the drum was simply referred to as the Gene Krupa Radio King. The drum came in various sizes--5 x 14, 6 1/2 x 14 at first, then 7 x 14 and 8 x 14 later. Many big band drummers used the larger sized Radio Kings in their bands so they could be heard over the horn sections. Or at least, that was the theory.

But, in the 40's, particularly after the war, Be-bop became the fashion and with it drum sizes began to contract. Drummers began favoring smaller sized snare drums. Indeed, the Gretsch Drum Company began marketing 4 x 14 snare drums and associating them with their endorsers, particularly the great Max Roach.

Other drum companies followed Gretsch's lead and began making 4 x 14 and 4 x 13 snare drums. Between 1948 and 1962, Slingerland produced the 4 x 13 Bop snare drum. The drum wasn't associated with any particular drummer, but it did offer the aspiring drummer yet another choice in snare drums. Which brings me to the very rare and very beautiful snare drum you see pictured here.

You will not find this drum in any Slingerland catalog. There is no factory information anywhere on a 4 x 14 Radio King. The inside of the steam bent maple shell is stamped Sept. 1941. The badge is an early 50's Slingerland badge. Otherwise, the drum is correct in every detail. It has the Radio king stick shredder hoops, the nickel plated Harold R. Dobbs twin internal muffler, and the three point strainer. There are no other modifications to it. It is not a cut down shell.

A couple of things come to mind about this beauty. The drum was, I believe, either a special order or an endorsers request. Slingerland did stockpile shells and the Second World War affected production immensely. Drums made during the war were subject to the 10% rule. Metal could not constitute more than 10 % of a drum's total make up. Wood became the major material in construction, even in the case of lugs. Drum production didn't really hit its stride until after the war. As mentioned earlier, Be-bop was the rage and the 4 x 14 snare drum was part of that excitement. I think this snare drum was but one result of the times.

But how does it sound? Simply great. The drum is extremely versatile--at home in various musical situations. With the choices one has today in drum heads, the mind boggles at what this drum is capable of.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Camco Aristocrat

The history of the Camco Drum Company is one of many twists and turns. Originally, the company was located in Indiana and was then known as the George Way Drum Company. Through various business dealings, the company was sold and the new owners moved it to Oak Lawn, Illinois. The company was sold again in the early 70's and moved to Kansas. Eventually, the company was sold once more and moved to Los Angeles. In the late 70's, Camco gave up the ghost and Drum Workshop swooped in and began to build their empire.

In any case, what concerns us here are the drums manufactured by Camco in Oak Lawn many years ago. These drums have become highly prized by collectors, particularly over the last decade. Camco was always second banana to Slingerland and Ludwig, her Chicago neighbors. The company simply didn't have the wherewithal to compete in the marketplace. But the quality of the drums was never in question.

The drum you see pictured was the workhorse of the Camco Drum Company. This was the snare drum that was offered with most of their kits. Indeed, this drum is part of a complete outfit. Camco described this beauty as a " tailor made instrument of mechanical efficiency and modern styling." The Aristocrat, as this beauty was called, has a 4 ply maple shell with reinforcing rings. It came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. The list price on the 5 x 14 was 90.00 US. Like the Ludwig drums of the time, the inner shell is coated with white sealant. Unlike the Ludwig drums, or Slingerland drums for that matter, the Aristocrat has its own pop-in drum key holder.

As the reader can see, the drum is finished in a walnut stain. Camco offered stains in red, green, ebony, and clear. They also offered various sparkles, pearls, swirls, and satin flame finishes. Some of these wraps were quite striking, to say the least.

Even though Camco couldn't compete with Ludwig, Slingerland, Gretsch, and Rogers in the advertising arena, the company did produce some very fine drums. This Aristocrat is proof of that fact.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Leedy Reliance Snare Drum

For many drummers, mention of the Leedy Drum Company will draw blank stares. But this was not always the case. Leedy's motto was the "World's finest Drummers Instruments," and, during the 1920's, 30's, and 40's, Leedy built some of the finest drums that money could buy.
Leedy was originally based in Indianapolis. In 1930, the Conn Instrument Company bought Leedy and moved it lock, stock, and barrel to Elkhart, Indiana. In the 1920's, the company offered 16 different sized snare drums. The customer had a choice of a solid maple, mahogany, or walnut shell. In addition to the wood shells, Leedy also sold a heavy double inverted brass shell. The company even sold a floating head 8 lug snare drum.

The beautiful little drum you see pictured is from the late 1920's. Known as the Reliance or Utility Snare drum, this cutie pie sports a heavy brass shell, 6 tube lugs, and steel single flanged stick shredder hoops with clips. Initially, the drum had 8 lugs, but then became a 6 lug. In the early 1930's, the drum reverted back to 8 lugs.

The snare strainer on the Reliance was called the Utility Snare Strainer. If this drum has a weakness, this is it. The strainer is balky and none too solid. It is definitely not user friendly. Thus, this drum would need more than a fair amount of tweaking to make it usable in today's musical environment. Nevertheless, the drum oozes quality, and when it was made, it was one of the finest drums then available.

Leedy went through numerous twists and turns in its lifetime. At one time, Leedy was partnered with Ludwig. In the 1950's, Slingerland bought the company. Slowly, but surely, Leedy faded into the background, yet another casualty of the "Drum Wars" between competing companies.

But all is not lost. Leedy, currently owned by Fred Gretsch of the Gretsch Drum Company, is alive and kicking, at least on the web. Leedy has also maintained a booth at the winter NAMM show the last few years. The company that was founded by Ulysses Grant Leedy in 1895 still has life in 2012.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Ludwig Clear Vistalite Snare Drum

Drum companies in the 1960's enjoyed a period of great sales success. Business was literally booming and drum executives looked for ways to entice drummers to spend more of their hard earned cash on new drums and accessories. In addition, new companies like the Fibes Drum Corporation entered the marketplace. Fibes introduced acrylic and fiberglass shells and immediately began finding willing buyers.

This sales activity wasn't lost on the "old line" drum manufacturers. Nothing succeeds like success and Ludwig and Slingerland began making drums made of acrylic. But they ignored Fiberglass shells entirely. Ludwig called their line the Vistalite line, Slingerland called theirs the Phantom line. Interestingly enough, Grestch, Rogers, and Premier decided not to enter the fray.

Ludwig Vistalites were introduced in 1973. At first, 6 colors were offered--clear, red, blue, yellow, amber, and green. Later, more colors were added along with various patterns with a mixture of colors The drum you see pictured is an early clear Vistalite. She has the Classic lugs and P-85 strainer that she shared with her wood shell sisters.

The Vistalite line enjoyed initial success. Indeed, John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) played an amber kit. But, by the early 80's, the "bloom was off the rose. " In 1983, Ludwig dropped the line. Acrylic drums became an afterthought--- a reminder of a time long gone.

But in 2000, Ludwig began making acrylic drums again. They were really the only major American drum company to produce them. And Ludwig continues to make them. Indeed, at the most recent NAMM convention, Ludwig exhibited Vistalites along with metal and wood shell drums.

Interestingly enough, the Sonor Drum Company and the Canopus Drum Company have recently marketed acrylic drum kits in their respective catalogs. Other smaller companies have followed suit. Acrylic drums, which were considered a dead issue not so long ago, are alive and well.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Camco Orchestra Tuxedo Model wood shell snare drum

Every drum company, at one time or another, has offered a flagship snare drum to perspective buyers. This snare drum is a top of the line drum. It's theoretically the best that a particular company has to offer.

In the 60's, Rogers had its Dynasonic. Slingerland had its Radio King. Fibes had the SFT 690. Ludwig sold the Supraphonic Super Sensitive. Gretsch had the Broadkaster and Camco offered the Super 99. But, except for Fibes and perhaps Gretsch, the rest of these companies sold "cheaper"models. The fact that these snare drums were less expensive was no indication of their worthiness as musical instruments. Indeed, the Ludwig Supraphonic 400 was " standard issue" on most Ludwig kits at the time. It can be argued that the 400 was the most popular snare drum of the 1960's. It has been said to be the most recorded snare drum of all time and yet it was not the flagship snare drum for Ludwig.

Which brings us, in a rather roundabout way, to the Camco Drum Company and the beautiful snare drum you see pictured here. There's no need to rehash the story of Camco. Readers are encouraged to see my blog dated March 7th 2011 for a more complete retelling. Suffice it to say, that Camco was the " little shrimp on the block." Ludwig and Slingerland simply dwarfed the company from Oak Lawn Illinois.

But Camco competed as best it could and like its competitors offered various snare drums in its catalogs. The company offered the Super 99, the Aristocrat, the Studio, and the drum you see pictured here, the Orchestra Tuxedo. This beauty listed for 79.50 US and came in two sizes, 5 x 14 and 6 1/2 x 14. Outside of the Studio model, it was the least expensive snare drum sold by Camco.

The Orchestra Tuxedo came with a trapezoidal or turret strainer and 8 Tuxedo lugs. These were the same type of lugs used on the pricey Super 99 ( 119.00 list US). The shell was made of 3 or 4 ply maple with reinforcing rings. Like the Ludwig wood shells of the time, the Camco shell was sprayed with white sealant. The hoops were triple flanged and were a copy of an earlier Leedy hoop.

No apologies are needed concerning the sound of this snare drum. This drum can more than hold its own with any comparable Ludwig or Slingerland model. Yet over the years, this drum was largely forgotten. Camco simply didn't have the promotional budget that Ludwig and Slingerland did at that time. But Camco made some great drums and this is a fine example, despite its modest cost.

The value of these drums has skyrocketed over the last 10 years. So many years after Camco closed its doors, drummers everywhere are discovering the quality of these fine drums.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Rogers Dynasonic Snare Drum-Big R badge

Perhaps no other snare drum has created as much controversy among drummers as the Rogers Dynasonic Snare Drum. This flagship snare drum of the Rogers Drum Company still is "making waves" some 28 years after the last one rolled off the assembly line. (See blog dated Nov. 17th). Nevertheless, the drum had a good strong run and its place is assured in drum history.

The Dyna was "born" in the early 60's and initially both wood and metal shells were offered. Great drummers, like Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson, played and endorsed it. But in the mid 60's, CBS bought the Rogers company and changes were afoot. By the early 70's, the wood shell model was dropped. The traditional Rogers Script badge was replaced with what is now known as the "Big R" badge. The snare mechanism, despite some minor changes, basically stayed the same.

In the early 80's, the wood shell model was reintroduced and that is the drum you see pictured here. This beauty differed significantly from the 1960's models. Earlier Dyna wood shells were made up of a 5 ply maple/poplar mix. These early models also had reinforcing rings and lacquered inner shells. The pictured drum sports a 10 ply maple shell, no reinforcing rings, and isolation gaskets around each lug. Also, the inner shell is clear. There is no lacquering whatsoever.

This Dyna marked the end of the line for the model. By the mid 80's, Rogers was a shadow of its original self. There have been attempts to revive the line, but only as a budget line, and so far, these attempts have not been very successful.

But perhaps that's as it should be. Rogers drums were never budget line drums. They were the"Cadillacs" of their time. They weren't cheap. They were of the highest quality and Rogers drums are still played and sought after by drummers everywhere.