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.