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.