Slingerland Dies. Again.

A bit over a year ago, I received a call from an executive of the Gibson guitar company, owners of the Slingerland name since 1994. The executive thanked me for helping keep the Slingerland name alive through the years with books, DVDs and CDs, and to my astonishment, said that Gibson wanted to sell the name and asked if I would help broker the deal.

While I was certainly surprised to have received the call, I was more astonished by the fact that Gibson—finally—was going to do something with the Slingerland name. Gibson, of course, has done virtually nothing with the Slingerland brand for years, and also has continually refused to respond to parties who were very much interested in resurrecting it.

Slingerland’s slow demise was a particularly sad one, especially when you bear in mind that the greatest drummers in history endorsed that brand.

I had several ideas as to how to proceed. I strongly believed that only an American drum company could do the name justice, and that whatever outfit bought the name should have at least a modicum of jazz orientation, and an interest in the Slingerland legacy.

What I did not want to see repeated was what happened when Yamaha bought the venerable name of Rogers. For some unknown reason, Yamaha slapped the Rogers name on a student line of drum sets that have nothing whatsoever to do with what Rogers was

Though Gibson expressed interest in continuing to manufacture Slingerland drums—and claimed to be able to gear up in a short time—I was of the opinion that only the name would be of interest to a potential buyer. Since being taken over by Gibson in 1994, Slingerland’s quality and distribution were variable, at best, and manufacturing techniques had changed since the last time Gibson manufactured them.

I went to work immediately, and took the proposal to two, percussion industry titans. The first was a company best known for making drum heads, and I was told they wanted to stay that way. The other company was and is one that I consider to be the finest in the industry, domestic or stateside.

It did take some convincing in terms of what a drum with the Slingerland name on it could mean in the contemporary marketplace, as, let’s face it, it’s the young rockers most companies are interested in these days.

They proceeded with caution, but at least they proceeded.

And what has happened in over a years’ time?

Nothing. Those familiar with Gibson management are not surprised.

It’s likely too late to bring back Slingerland in any form, as with each passing day, the brand name becomes less and less of a memory.

Gibson owns a host of names—including Baldwin, Hamilton, Epiphone, Wurlitzer, Tobias, Nordiska, Chickering and Kramer—some are dormant and some are not.

But for the life of me—and to drum fans of a certain age all over the world—I cannot figure out why Gibson would let the legacy, tradition and the legend of Slingerland die. Again.

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8 Responses to “Slingerland Dies. Again.”

  1. Andy Weis Says:

    What a great article Bruce, and you tell it like it is. Thanks for your all of your efforts in trying to bring back Slingerland. Players who appreciate fine old instruments for their sound and look don’t need to be convinced about their musical and dollar value. But for players like us, the musical value comes first. For a company, their priority is their bottom line and if it takes making a quality instrument to be profitable, then we musicians benefit. There are many dynamics to consider as you know. The bread and butter of instrument manufacturers is their lower priced instruments. That’s because they sell more because their are more students than professionals. Consumers have benefited from this because the competition between the major drum companies is steep to make the BEST lowest priced drums. Because of this, the quality of lower priced drums has gone up dramatically over the past 20 years. New companies that emerge need to stand out with features that are unique. As we have seen the evolution of products produced by various companies since say 1975, we have seen the “bigger and more heavy duty is better” attitude, particularly with hardware. “What’s old is new” would be a great motto for a new company, especially with hardware design. For instance, even the most “lightweight” (but good quality) cymbal stands today could be classed as heavy duty 40 to 50 years ago. There a many drummers out there (students to pros) that don’t want or need this weight. Same for snare and hi hat stands. What I mean is; think in terms of the Ludwig L-1400 cymbal stand, Rogers Jr Buck Rogers snare stand and the Slingerland Dynamo hi hat stand. THOSE are the type of stands (weight-wise) that are lacking from ALL of the drum companies. As far as drums, think in terms of 12×16, 12 (or 14) x 18″, or 14 X 20″ bass drums. 8 x 10 and 8×12″ toms and 14×14″ floor toms WITH legs. With snare drums, bring back the solid maple Radio King with chrome plated BRASS or wooden hoops (with Puresound snare wires of course). Have the snare shells made the RIGHT way. Enlist Johnny Craviotto to do this. I think Slingerland, if they concentrated on quality student model and high quality SMALL jazz kits with quality TRUE lightweight hardware, it would fill a void that is sorely missing in the drum business today. One last thing would make Slingerland a winner. DO AWAY WITH AUTHORIZED DEALERSHIPS! That way ANYBODY can easily order Slingerland from the music store of their choice. OR, how about a customer being able to order direct from the company? What a concept! Computers, credit cards, paypal all make this easy. Don’t hold the budget of a music store hostage by insisting that they MUST invest in a certain amount of product and have it displayed on their floor. Make Slingerland more retail and consumer friendly than any company in the market. By breaking the paradigm, Slingerland could be the one and only company that stands out. Last but not least, have a lifetime warranty on the product (drums, hardware and parts) with normal use of the consumer. Stand behind the product and act as if you truly care about the people that invest their hard earned money and give you their trust to buy the product. As I said, bring back the way the great American drum companies USED to do business, and then you will have a winner.

  2. admin Says:

    Thanks for your reply and great insights. I still can’t believe what happened with Gibson, though I’ve been told by more than one person in the industry, that those running Gibson are nuts!

  3. Ben Foy Says:

    I think your ideas are right on target. WHY Gibson would want to hold onto a name they are doing nothing with is beyond me unless it’s fear of competition. There are a lot of us lovers of the old Slingerland who would embrace a comeback if done right and your suggestions are (I think) a great template to start with.
    Thanks for all you’ve done for the drumming community. Your efforts are appreciated.

  4. Andy Weis Says:

    Bruce and Ben,
    Thank you for kindly taking the time to read my long reply.
    I can remember back in the early to mid 1960’s that Sears and Roebuck sold drum sets, and a childhood friend got one of these sets for Christmas. On the floor tom leg shell mounts (and nowhere else) was stamped the PEARL brand name. I think it’s safe to assume that Pearl was saving their assets to make pro quality drums which came out in the late 60’s or 1970. Very soon afterward “Authorized Dealerships” came. Small music stores all across America would have to buy into a brand name to sell that brand. Buying into a brand (like Pearl) meant that the store would have to buy into the ENTIRE line. A brand might have decent drums, but their other products might be horrible. But the store would also have to carry their terrible brass cymbals, cheap drum heads, cheap and faulty hardware and latin percussion etc.
    A small store (because of their small budget) could only invest in 1 or 2 brand names of drums at the most. Most (if not eventually all) brand names followed suit and demanded that stores be Authorized Dealers. Now let’s for a moment go back…
    Before Authorized Dealerships a customer could walk into his or her local music store and say they wanted to order ANY brand name of drums, cymbals or hardware. Back then, all across America you would see many different brands of drums played by the local drummers be it Slingerland, Rogers, Gretsch, Leedy, Camco and others. This of course was before the internet and the big box stores that have undercut the prices so much as to put many small music stores out of business. The reason I am saying all of this is because…
    Authorized Dealerships started the ruination and butchering of VERY fine (and now vintage) drums all across this country. Example; a drummer has a Rogers wooden Dynasonic snare drum (now worth around $3,000.00 if it’s in decent and original condition) The snare strainer breaks and he needs to replace it. He goes down to the music store where he bought the drum and they can’t order him a new strainer because they are not a Rogers Authorized Dealer. The drummer NEEDS to get his drum working. He has a gig, rehearsal or whatever. So, he buys another brand of snare strainer and MAKES it fit by drilling new holes because the mounting holes don’t match up. OUCH! There goes another fine instrument down the toilet.
    YES, I understand that companies want a long term commitment from a store. But shouldn’t that commitment 1st come from the consumers because they love the product based on that products quality and reputation and that the company TRULY cares about the musicians THAT GIVE THEM THE HONOR of playing their instruments? We have computers now. We have low price long distance telephone rates. Just those 2 things alone are a perfect vehicle for companies to have a good relation with the consumers that keep them in business in the 1st place.
    I will always crusade to do away with Authorized Dealerships.

  5. Tim Says:


    You wrote an interesting article. I am the original owner of a 5 piece chrome shell set of Slingerlands that I purchased in 1972. I have no intention of selling them or my set of Roland V-Drums (V Stage). However, I am considering an additional new acoustic kit. In your article I guess that you were referring to approaching Remo to buy the Slingerland name but I don’t know to whom you were referring when you wrote “The other company was and is one that I consider to be the finest in the industry, domestic or stateside.” Can you say who you consider to be that finest company in the industry? FYI, at this point I am most seriously looking at Pearl, DW, and maybe Yamaha or Tama. Thanks.


  6. admin Says:

    Good eye, good ear. Yes, the company with whom I spoke first was Remo. But, indeed, the company that was in “serious” talks with Gibson–as serious as you can get with them, anyway–was DW. To my way of thinking, DW is the only manufacturer our there who even considers jazz. That’s why folks like Jimmy Cobb, Harold Jones, Joe Morello, and many more are using them. Tell Don Lombardi that you heard it from me!


  7. Steve Cortright Says:

    I am a life long Buddyfile who just picked up a super clean late 60’s Buddy Kit in Red Stain with all the shiney hardware. I feel like I just bought a Stratavarious at a garage sale. Buddy could make any drums sound great but I think his best work was done on Slingerlands. There are some great drum manufacturers today but there is still something about Slingerlands. As with Rogers Drums and the wooden Dynasonics, in particular, there is some unfounded mystique with the older Slingerlands. They were however the choice of the best and were a great drum from a great company. Good article. Thanks

  8. Sean Page Says:

    Slingerland…Best Drums ever..The only drums that I wanna play!!!!……Gibson……. biggest idiots ever, when it comes Slingerland Drums and the name!!!! I get furious…I had a factory rep contact ….. one day he was just gone…. no email, nothing….Gibson could care less about us, or the Slingerland name!!!! I wish DW would take over Slingerland…..I may have to get a non Sling to play with live…My Slingerlands won’t leave the studio! I won’t let them…To precious now!!!!