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.