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,