Monday, August 11, 2014

The Super Ludwig Black Beauty Snare Drum

Perhaps the title to this latest entry in my blog is incorrect. There is quite a bit of disagreement about what constitutes a  Black Beauty Snare Drum. Some feel that only those snare drums that were made with engraved brass shells between 1923 and 1925 can be called a Black Beauty.  Interestingly enough, the Ludwig catalog of the time refers to these drums as the Deluxe model. Others feel that any engraved brass shell snare drum that was made between 1923 and 1934 is a Black Beauty. And it wasn't until  1932 that Ludwig started referring to the engraved models as Black Beauties. To further complicate matters, Ludwig, for a short time, produced a gold plated engraved model which they called the Triumphal.

All of which brings us to the stunningly beautiful snare drum you see pictured here.  It looks like the Super Ludwig model that is offered in Ludwig catalogs from the early 30's. But this drum has an engraved shell with the correct "six leaf and four pedal" floral pattern found on the Black Beauty.  I don't believe that the Super Ludwig model had any engraving on it at all. On the other hand,  a black nickel plated shell is usually associated with the Black Beauty. This drum has a chrome over brass shell. Ludwig did offer a black chrome option, so perhaps this is it.

In any case, the condition of this drum is astounding. Everything, and I mean everything, on this Beauty is original and in working order. She has calf skin heads. There are no dents, holes, or scratches on the shell. The engraving is pristine. All the snare wires  work properly. And the original drum key came attached. I recently displayed the drum at the Chicago Drum Show and several collectors literally stopped dead in their tracks when they saw her.

And how did I acquire her? A musician friend told me about an old snare drum that had been sitting in a closet not 10 miles from my house. The drum had been sitting there untouched for 30 years----- until I showed up at the doorstep.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to own her. My poor photography doesn't do her justice. She's beautiful.
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An Avedis Zildjian Cymbal ad from the 1960's

This ad appeared in Downbeat magazine in the early 1960's, and it best signifies how much the drum business, and the cymbal business in particular, has changed over the years. Back in the day, Downbeat would publish certain issues that would feature musicians and the  instruments that they played. Thus, there would be a percussion issue, a keyboard issue etc. The percussion issue, not surprisingly, would be loaded with ads from drum companies featuring drums and hardware. Ludwig, Slingerland, Rogers, Gretsch, Camco, and Premier all participated.

But cymbal manufacturers were  different, simply because there weren't that many companies. Almost all professional drummers played either A. Zildjian or K Zildjian. Yes, there were a few others, UFIP, for example, but these companies existed on the fringes. Paiste cymbals started a distribution deal with Ludwig drums in the mid 60's. But I vividly remember my drum tutor, Max Mariash, insisting that A. Zildjian cymbals were the only choice for the serious drummer.

A close inspection of this ad indicates how many drummers  used A. Zildjian cymbals at the time. Leading the pack was, of course, Buddy Rich.  But  Louis Bellson, Gene Krupa, Max Roach, and Roy Haynes are featured in the first two lines of the ad!  The rest of the drummers featured are a "who's who" of  professional drummers.

Today, the situation has been turned upside down. First of all, drummers have numerous choices in the marketplace. Paiste, Sabian, Murat Diril, UFIP, Wuhan, and Meinl are just a few of the better known companies. In addition, there are many small custom companies that are trying to grab a piece of the pie.  And it seems like each company has various lines that are tailored to different genres of music.

All in all,  it can be quite confusing. But there's no doubt that drummers today have many more choices than the giants of yesteryear.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Shelly Manne Ad for Leedy Drums

This ad appeared in Downbeat Magazine on March 28th, 1963. I still remember the first time I saw it many years ago. It literally caused me to burst out laughing. But first before we get into that, a little drum history is in order.

The Leedy Drum Company in the 30's and 40's was one of the premier drum manufacturers of the time. Based out of Elkhart Indiana, Leedy introduced the world to the "X" lug and the Broadway series of snare drums. The legendary George Way, who later had a hand in starting Camco, was the prime mover in the manufacture and promotion of the Leedy Drum  line.

The Conn Instrument Company owned both the Ludwig and Leedy brand names and manufactured drums with the Leedy & Ludwig name plate. In the middle 50's, Conn decided to get out ot the drum business and sold both lines. William Ludwig, who at the time was selling drums under the WFL badge, bought back the Ludwig badge. Bud Slingerland, sensing an opportunity to cut into the Ludwig market share, bought all the Leedy patents and equipment.  Slingerland was manufacturing drums out of its Chicago factory .in the 50's and Bud Slingerland simply added Leedy Drums to the company's line up. Thus, Leedy Drums from Chicago  became a reality..

Even though both Slingerland and Leedy were manufactured in the same factory using the same mahogany shells, the idea was to offer two separate drum lines with  different endorsers. Which brings us to this very humorous ad.

The ad is certainly a product of its time. It's a spoof of the Tony award winning play, Lil' Abner. The play was made into a very successful film in 1959 using some of the same actors and actresses who appeared on Broadway. The play is about a fictional hillbilly town called Dogpatch. The women in the film, particularly Daisy Mae the lead female role, are portrayed as clever, buxom, and very aggressive in pursuing men. The model in the ad is clearly chasing Shelly. He, of course, loves his Leedy Drums more than "anything".

Leedy considered Shelly Manne one of their main endorsers. Interestingly enough, there was a Shelly Manne model snare drum, but it was a chrome over brass metal shell, not a wood shell as pictured in the ad.

The Slingerland Leedy marriage was not a successful one. It died after a few years.  Leedy simply faded away until Fred Gretsch bought the line in the 1990's..

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Ludwig Drum Company Ad from 1970

As I've stated in previous blogs, the Ludwig Drum Company in the 1960's and 70's always seemed to be a step ahead of their competitors in the advertising world. Thanks in no small measure to Ringo Starr and other British Invasion drummers, Ludwig executives realized the importance of aligning their company with the "Now Generation." Ludwig did everything it could to convince aspiring drummers that their drums were "hip" and that their brand was preferable to any other.  Slingerland, Rogers, Camco, and Gretsch were left at the starting gate. They all, eventually, took notice, but none of them could approach the visibility of the Ludwig name.

The pictured ad is just one of many that Ludwig placed in various periodicals. This ad appeared in Jazz and Pop magazine in 1970. Jazz and Pop was the main competitor to Downbeat at the time. Unlike Downbeat, the editors fully embraced the Rock, Pop, and Free Jazz scene that was happening across the country.

This ad is interesting in that it attempted to merge Roy Haynes and his Hip Ensemble with current rock cultural references. Although perhaps Ludwig's version of the rock scene wasn't that current. Light My Fire was already a few years old by this time. Nevertheless, the Doors and this particular song were one of the staples of the 60's music scene.  It also didn't make any difference that the music Roy's band was performing had absolutely nothing to do with the Doors, Light My Fire, or rock music in general.  It was the connection that was important, however tenuous. The implication was clear. You could light your own fire by playing Ludwig Drums....just like Roy Haynes.

Ludwig continued to pursue this advertising course throughout the 1970's. As I mentioned earlier, other drum companies soon caught on, but no other company did it quite like Ludwig.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Rogers Drum Company Ad--Downbeat Magazine Part 2

This is the 2nd page of a double truck ad that appeared in Downbeat Magazine in the early 60's. The first page appeared in a my  blog dated December 22nd. These ads called attention to a 5 day percussion symposium that occurred in New York. Close to 2000 drummers attended.  Back in the day, these conferences were unusual. In fact, I don't recall anything quite like this.

But let's be honest. This ad was part of a massive promotional campaign to put the Rogers Drum Company on the map. Their number one endorser, Buddy Rich, was featured front and center. Other Drummers too shared the spotlight. These included Cozy Cole, Roy Burns, Jim Chapin, and Zutty Singleton.  As the reader can see, this page shows a great picture of Buddy Rich and Joe Morello discussing  some particular aspect of drumming. Joe Morello was Ludwig's number one endorser.  No doubt Ben Strauss and Henry Grossman, the driving forces behind Rogers, were as pleased as punch to have a representative from a major competitor show up at their promotional event.

The Rogers Drum Company never looked back after making its big splash in the early 60's. They were consistently aggressive and innovative concerning their drums and the marketing of them. The drums were not cheap. A 4 piece Rogers drum kit listed for about 200.00 more than a similar configured Ludwig or Slingerland kit. But, in this case. you got what you paid for.

Today, some 50 years after this ad appeared, Rogers Drums still hold their value. Collectors search them out, and drummers around the world still play them and swear by them. You couldn't ask for a better legacy.


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.