History is always important, even for what concerns drumkits. Some brands have made it, driven by innovative minds, visionaries, and excellent musicians. Without disrespecting anyone, I wanted to include some of the most significant.
The first drum pedal ever produced to play the bass drum. The Ludwig Speed King (1909).
The Ludwig Drum Company was founded in 1909 by William F. and Theobald Ludwig, sons of a German immigrant in the United States. William Jr. had been a professional drummer, playing with circuses and touring shows. Since this work was occasional, he and his brother, Theobald, opened a drumkit shop in Chicago; they called it Ludwig & Ludwig. The company began to develop a concept for the design and manufacture of a functional bass drum pedal. The invention of this pedal is considered by many to be the year zero of the drumkit, that is right from this moment that it was possible to play the bass drum with the foot and then to manage it together with the snare drum and the cymbals.
The company then added its catalogue products, such as snare drums and timpani in 1916. Theobald Ludwig died in 1918 and William continued alone. In 1923 the factory was the largest drumkit manufacturer in the world, employing 240 workers.
In 1937, William bought a large shed, renaming the company “The Wm. F. Ludwig Drum Company “. The company continued to produce small-scale drumkits for the duration of World War II, having also been ordered by the government to minimize the use of metals for non-war purposes. After the armistice, William returned to the idea of making the company one of the largest in drumkit production.
Ringo Starr is the first to display a logo on the case in 1964.
THE TURNING POINT
However, the turning point for Ludwig would come later, February 9, 1964, when the Beatles made their debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, with the Ludwig logo displayed on the front of the bass drum. Until then the practice of writing the logo on the bass drum did not exist and there was a great surprise on the part of William Ludwig to watch TV and read it. Ringo Starr later said he was so proud of having that import set that he wanted to let anyone know he saw them. The performance was followed by about 73 million people, and it was an enormous media resonance for the company that at that point became highly sought after. He became Ludwig.
“That Great Gretsch Sound” is the saying that began when Friedrich Gretsch, an immigrant from Mannheim, Germany, founded a small shop in Brooklyn, NY in 1883. Before he died suddenly in 1895, Friedrich Gretsch already had laid the foundations to create a dynasty that would last until today and beyond.
Friedrich died during a journey home, leaving the company in the hands of his fifteen-year-old son, Fred Gretsch, who was still inexperienced at the time. Fred was nevertheless an enterprising boy, and he immediately aimed to base the business on a reputation for precision and quality. Two decades after taking over, he has still nicknamed “the boy in his underwear”, and moved the production into a ten-story building at 60 Broadway, trying to make up for the ever-increasing demand for musical instruments from all over America.
In 1935 Duke Kramer joined the company. Kramer had the merit of providing very valuable tips for the company for 70 years, acting as a glue between the various generations, thus allowing everyone to stay together. Kramer loved to remember how “distinctive sound was our product, the sound that has energized the market for decades”
Fred Gretsch, Sr. retired from the company in 1942, was now considered a successful entrepreneur by all. His sons Fred Gretsch, Jr. and William “Bill” both of whom had been active in the industry since 1927 had been well prepared to take the lead and were ready.
FRED GRETSCH JR.
Fred Gretsch, Jr. only handled the operations for a short time before leaving the company to serve the state as commander of the Navy. Bill Gretsch instead remained to run the family business. Duke Kramer recalls that “Bill was a man with a subtle talent to inspire people to do their best and a genius when it came to constructive advice. His sense of humour was irresistible. When he died in 1948, many people in the company felt they had lost their best friend. ”
The command at this point went back to Fred Gretsch, Jr. and the Navy veteran took the company to a new era of prosperity. It was the explosion of rock ‘n’ roll inaugurated by Elvis Presley and continued by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and many other artists. The company’s popularity grew with the explosion of rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s and 60s, attracting famous musicians such as George Harrison, Bo Diddley, Chet Atkins, and Charlie Watts.
In 1967 the Society Gretsch was sold to Baldwin, a giant of the music industry. But without the dedication with which the family had led the company for so many years, it began its decline.
In 1985 Fred Gretsch Jr. kept his promise to recover, the company re-acquired the Gretsch company from Baldwin. The production was moved to Savannah, where the company has revitalized production to offer new vintage-style Gretsch guitars and classic drums. The new products were immediately a success and the Gretsch company once again became a driving force in the musical instrument industry.
Currently, Gretsch drumkits and guitars are the favourite instruments of many musicians in the recording studio who are looking for tonal quality and craftsmanship worthy of handmade instruments.
The history of Rogers began in 1849, when Joseph Rogers, an Irish immigrant, moved from Dublin to the United States and started with the production of skins, but it was only in 1930 that Joseph’s son began to assemble drumkits, using drums and hardware of other companies and mounting family furs.
In 1953 the grandson of Joseph Rogers, Cleveland, having no heirs, decides to sell the company to Henry Grossman who moved it to Covington, Ohio. Under his leadership, Rogers sees his popularity increase greatly, thanks also to designer Joe Thompson and marketing guru Ben Strauss. In this period the greatest drummers want to use the Rogers and therefore the popularity of this brand embraces various musical genres, from Dixieland to classic rock, from big bands to swing.
The “Dyna-Sonic” snare drum is very famous and has brought important innovations with it, especially in the tailpiece and in the wire-tie system. These innovations were fundamental for the evolution of the sound of the snare drum, which in this way can have a very clear and sharp sound.
These snares were produced from the early 1960s until the mid-1980s and are made with COB (chrome over brass) drums. Only some specimens (about 3,000) were made with wooden drums and are those that are still highly sought after by collectors. Other noteworthy models were the Powertone snare drums and the toms and cases of the Holiday model. These models are now considered collectors, as are the tympanums made of fibreglass from the Accu-Sonic series.
The company was purchased in 1966 by CBS who had recently acquired the Fender guitars and the Rhodes plans.
Rogers was a company that brought a lot of innovation in the field of hardware, in addition to the Dyna-Sonic snare drum, developing the Swiv-o-Matic line of pedals for the case, hi-hats, and cymbals. He also invented the “ball” system for toms support, which guaranteed to position flexibility never seen before. The system has been criticized by many and was even called “Bread and Butter”, meaning “bread and butter” because of its fragility, but the line towards new ways of producing hardware was drawn.
This hardware was so innovative that even the great drummers who used Ludwig like Ringo Starr, John Bonham and Mitch Mitchell used it. Neil Pert used the pedal for the Rogers case despite being a Slingerland and Tama user.
From 1964 until 1975 Rogers produced drums with 3 alternating layers of maple and birch, with reinforcement rings. From 1975 until 1978 the layers passed to 5 and from 1978 even to 8 layers but without reinforcement (made by Keller ) for the XP-8 series. These stems marked the beginning of the period of heavy stems that favoured attack and medium tones and are considered by many to be the best Rogers stems ever created.
In 1976 the “Memriloc” mechanics introduced by Dave Donoho and Roy Burns were introduced. They were the first super stable mechanics and were soon copied by all the major drumkit manufacturers. Due to the growth of the European market, production was also made in the UK under license from Rogers USA using drums of other companies and Rogers hardware.
In 1983 CBS sold Rogers and Fender and drumkit production stopped. In 1984, after another change of ownership, the Rogers brand was used to produce economical drumkits, which were only a reproduction of the most glorious series.
Instead, in 1998 the brand was bought by the Brook Mays Music Company (BMMC) of Dallas, Texas. BMMC starts the production of low-cost drumkits using the Taiwanese Peace Drums company. This was considered by many an affront to Rogers’ history, although the success among the very young who wanted a Rogers drumkit was discreet.
In 2006, after various vicissitudes, the brand is owned by the Yamaha Corporation of America after having purchased it at a bankruptcy auction. The debut at NAMM 2007 of the new Rogers drumkits (by Yamaha) was received very negatively by the old Rogers fans. Currently, the brand has passed into the hands of Dixon Drums, which has not yet created anything, leaving a great shadow of uncertainty.
Founded by Henry Heaton Slingerland in 1912, Slingerland began producing musical instruments producing ukuleles and banjos. In 1928 the production of percussion begins and in a short time, it becomes a high-sounding name in jazz.