Posts Tagged ‘Slingerland’

Slingerland Dies. Again.

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

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.


Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Those of us who are concerned about such things continue to be confused and disappointed about what the Gibson guitar company has done to the name of Slingerland and to the Slingerland line. To think that the drums– endorsed by Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and dozens of other drum stars through the years–has virtually disappeared, is simply a disgrace. The situation is beyond understanding, especially given the news that Yamaha is bringing out a Rogers drum line, even though the drums are nothing like the original or classic Rogers line. What counts in that case is the name.

A number of us– including Arthor Von Blomberg, the mastermind behind the upcoming 100th birthday celebration for Gene and the future Broadway musical play based on Gene’s life and music–have contacted Gibson about buying the Slingerland name. Our point is that Gibson is doing nothing with it and at the very least, our consortium would keep the name alive. After contacting the Gibson offices in the United States, Europe, Asia, Japan and China about this, we have not heard word one about any of this, which is hardly unexpected. There is no information on whether any Slingerland inventory exists, and Slingerland drums are not offered in any national catalog or the Modern Drummer Drum Buyer’s Guide.

Slingerland might not have been the General Motors of the drum industry, but they were among the “big four” of drum manufacturers, with the other three being Gretsch, Ludwig and Rogers. All but Slingerland are still with us, and that is a disgrace to the industry and to America.

The big question, and feel free to address this in the forum, is: “If Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich were alive today, what brand of drums would they be playing?”

From what little I know, I am pretty sure that these giants would have played drums made in America, and I’m pretty sure the brand would have been Drum Workshop, a.k.a. DW. Indeed, DW did offer a Buddy kit at one time.,

The last time I spoke to anyone within the company, I was told that they cannot manufacture their fine product quickly enough to supply retailers and players. Their story, indeed, is a singular one. Herewith is some background info, courtesy of DW founder Don Lombardi and the DW web site:

Their slogan is, “The Drummer’s Choice® ” and Lombardi maintains that it’s more than a slogan, “it’s a fact.” Shades of Buddy Rich!

“It’s remarkable that in our 31st year, the excitement level of coming to work is every bit as much now as when we started,” he says.

It all began in 1972 when Don, at age 26, opened a small teaching studio in Santa Monica, Calif. He called the studio Drum Workshop, offering both private lessons and monthly workshops.

“My fascination with drums started at 12 with a neighborhood teacher at a local music store,” Don recalls. “Over the years, I had such great experiences with renowned teachers that as my love for playing drums grew, so did my love for learning and teaching about drums. The day I got my driver’s license, I started driving to teach at a local music store where I had taken lessons.”

Seeing an ad for Drum Workshop in the Yellow Pages, John Good, now DW’s Vice President, signed up for lessons at age 17 to improve his drumming and reverse what he refers to as “bad drumming habits.”

“After three months of lessons, Don approached me and said, ‘You know, I’ve had lots of successful students. I don’t think you’re going to be one of them’,” John says laughing. “So I said, ‘Great…now what are we going to do?’”

The two ultimately hooked up to market the first DW product: Don’s new design for a height-adjustable trap-case seat. Selling about a dozen seats a month, John quit his day job and went to work full-time for Don.

When DW received a purchase order for 100 seats from Camco Drum Company, Don and John realized that they had an innovative product that would sell. Thirty years later, DW is now offering a new version of the trap-case adjustable seat, made out of a lighter weight material, called the 6100 Adjustable Trap-Case Seat.

However, when DW created the original trap case seat, they had the capacity and personnel to create only a dozen seats a month, not 100. Don was still teaching and playing a nightly gig while John built the products. Shortly thereafter, Camco Drum Company owner Tom Beckman approached Don in 1977 with an offer to sell him Camco’s machinery, dies and molds, everything it took to make Camco drums and hardware-everything except the Camco name itself. This gave Don the opportunity to expand his capacity for creating the seats and to expand his product line.

At that point, Don made the decision to accept the offer and change the direction of Drum Workshop from teaching and selling to manufacturing.

(For those who do not remember, the Camco outfit offered a fine and most individual looking line of drums–their round lugs, still a DW design feature today–really made them stand out. Camco was never as big as the “big four,” but they did have some endorsers, including the drummer of The Beach Boys.)

“The idea of failing never really occurred to me,” Don remarks. “Based on our mini-success with the seat, we had learned that if we could offer drummers products that would improve their drumming, we could be successful. Of course, having a desire to go into manufacturing and having the money to do so are two different things.”

Borrowing most of the money from his parents and some from outside investors, Don purchased Camco’s tooling and reintroduced the Camco 5000 nylon strap bass drum pedal under the DW name. The pedal was refined to improve consistency, quietness, smoothness and adjustability of its mechanical operation. As the pedal was rapidly becoming “the drummer’s choice,” Don continued to search for ways to further improve it.

The rest is history. The ever-expanding line of DW drums, kits and hardware is the drum industry standard. Specifically, with their “Classics Series,” “Jazz Series” and 6000 Series of ultra-light stands, DW has successfully brought a legacy of percussion tradition to the year 2007. Call them “traditionally innovative,” if you will, or as they deservedly say, “The Drummer’s Choice.”

Would Gene and Buddy be DW artists? You bet.

I urge each and every visitor from around the world to visit DW on the web at

We look forward, at some time in the not-too-distant future, to contact the fine DW folks about becoming involved with, as well as with the Gene Krupa upcoming 100th Birthday celebration and subsequent show based on Gene’s life and music.

It’s not only because I have a vested interest in these titles, but two, brand new DVD projects from Hudson Music constitute essential viewing and study. “The Art of Playing with Brushes,” presented by Adam Nussbaum and Steve Smith, presents the drum and brush masters–Billy Hart, Eddie Locke, Joe Morello, Charli Persip and Ben Riley–in performance and in instructional segments. This incredible, three -DVD set is, as the copy accurately says, “an educational and inspirational resource that will never go out of date and is certainly one that belongs in every drummer’s library.” visitors will also enjoy the vintage clips by the likes of Kenny Clarke, Denzil Best and many more.

And finally, “Classic Rock Drum Solos” is here. Despite the fact that helping to write and produce this incredible DVD took a year off my life–these vintage rock drummers were a handfull–the result is incredible. JazzLegends visitors and guests, though not rock-oriented, will love the clips by Louis Prima’s Jimmy Vincent, Billy Haley’s Ralph Jones, Louis Jordan’s Shadow Wilson, The Ventures’ Mel Taylor, Lionel Hampton, Gene Krupa, host Carmine Appice, and the many clips where the influence of Buddy and Gene are quite obvious. For ordering info, log on to

Finally, our Krupa drumsticks are getting great reviews and seem to be very much in demand. For ordering info, log on to

Keep swingin’

Bruce Klauber

There’s No Business Like Drum Business

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

The cases of the defunct, American drum companies–Rogers and Slingerland–represent, to me, two of the saddest and most disgraceful happenings in drum and in industrial history. For a company like Slingerland to go under, and this is an outfit that had both Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich as endorsers, is just unbelievable. They keep hanging on for some reason, though it is virtually impossible to reach anyone from Slingerland by phone, mail or e-mail, and their products are impossible to come by. Those in the know have continually pointed out that owner Gibson, the famous guitar manufacturer, could care less about drums and about Slingerland. 

The latest news in this dire arena has to do with the famed, Rogers drum company. I’ve said this before, and I’m certain many drummers out there will agree, that for many years, Rogers was the drum we all aspired to own at one time or another. They were, for a number of years, the absolute best in every sense. Careful listeners agree that Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson and many other famous Rogers players never sounded better on any instrument, and that the legendary Dynasonic snare drum was, depending on one’s taste, the best ever made. 

Rogers really began to come into there own as an industry factor when Henry Grossman purchased the company in 1953 and moved operations to Covington, OH. While the firm’s greatest years lasted until 1966, when CBS bought the company, Rogers still had a lot of life left within it in terms of the development of Memorilock hardware and other innovations that foreshadowed the era of extra-heavy-duty stands, pedals, racks and other hardware. After disastrous move to Monrovia, California in 1979, a brief move to Mexico the following year, and then a return to Fullerton, CA in 1981, things steadily went downhill. Rob Cook’s wonderful book on the Rogers drum company, published by his own Rebeats outfit, tells the painful story in grim detail. By 1987, Rogers had licensed their once-invaluable name to the Island Music Company, which solely functioned as an importer of drums with the Rogers name slapped on. What a lousy way to go. I often compare that scenario with that of the American automobile manufacturers who refused to see the handwriting on the wall, refused to acknowledge the rise and the quality of cars manufactured overseas, and in every sense, just shut their eyes in the belief that the party would never end. 

The unbelievable rise in the value and popularity of vintage drums, coupled with the success of American-made DW Drums, the resurrection of Gretsch and the popularity of various, American “boutique” operations, has forced the industry at large to take notice that, to some extent, what is old is new again. Say what you will about Yamaha drums. It’s not for nothing that their product is amongst the most widely used in the music industry. Yamaha drums and their many lines of percussion instruments are consistent in terms of quality and durability. Parts are easy to come by and customer service is great. And, they’ve marketed their name in such a way that Yamaha, in many ways, has become synonymous with the world “drums.” Yamaha’s crack marketing department has again stepped forward in a surprise and most savvy move: The drum division of the Yamaha company has acquired, as the announcement said, “the intellectual property rights” of the Rogers Drum Company. This means that Yamaha now owns the Rogers name, and their plans are to put out a line of Rogers drums. They’re smart at Yamaha. They know the value of the Rogers name. Those on e-bay know that, by and large, a vintage Rogers drum will get, at a minimum, twice as much as a Slingerland, Ludwig or Gretsch drum. Though I would have loved to see an American drum company acquire the Rogers name, and evidently, several have tried through the years, we can only hope that Yamaha will continue to emphasize quality as it applies to a line of Rogers drums. Perhaps Tama will now think about acquiring Slingerland. Someone should. 

We have written several times about the problems and complexities involved with our popular DVD title, “Tony Williams Live in New York City.” It seems that every other copy has been defective in some manner, and we’ve done everything within our power to rectify the problems. The last measure we took, believe it or not, was to acquire a copy of the original laser disc from Japan, and transfer directly to DVD from that source. Even that hasn’t worked. The good news is that we have been fortunate enough to track down, at great expense, the original VHS Video of the program, which is a very, very rare item (most of the issues were on laser disc). That will be our new source, and we believe this will call and end to all the problems. I cannot thank everyone enough for their understanding, and we have gone out of our way to make good with replacement, refunds, etc., on all defective copies. visitors are taking note of our acquisition of more and more Tony Williams titles. The good folks at Hudson Music and yours truly have recently made something of a minor breakthrough with the Williams family in terms of a cooperative effort to get some product out. We believe that it won’t be too long until we make a deal to do the DVD/Video tribute that Tony Williams sorely deserves. 

There’s other positive news on the business front: 

Our agreement with the Barcelona, Spain-based Fresh Sound records continues to move forward, and all of us look forward –if possible–to a Christmas release of the two-CD set of the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert from Hamburg, Germany, in February of 1956. Fresh Sound is a fine, fine outfit with which to do business, and I anticipate doing much, much more with them in the months to come. If it were not for Fresh Sound, hundreds of classic works of jazz, originally on LP and now on CD, would never have seen the light of day. Jordi Pujol at Fresh Sound deserves some type of award for his contributions to jazz and for making so much fine music available., detailed below, has a complete line of what Fresh Sound has to offer as does 

The Gene Krupa pictorial book continues to do very well and continues to garner very positive reviews in the percussion press. Alfred Publishing is another great company in terms of honesty, integrity, openness to new ideas and ability and desire to communicate. These are, indeed, very, rare qualities these days. I am talking to Alfred about several new book and DVD projects. One recent idea that I’ve forwarded to Alfred (and they deserve an award in “Patience Department” for listening my endless lists of “new ideas”) would be a reprinting–in one volume–of several vintage Rogers, Gretsch, Slingerland and Ludwig drum catalogs, with additional commentary and photos by yours truly. Look at the prices that these catalogs get in the marketplace. It’s unbelievable, and I believe, I fine idea for a book. 

On a local basis here in the city of Philadelphia, I would be personally and professionally remiss if I did not mention the superb job that bassist/teacher/entrepreneur Bruce Kaminsky is doing in the Music Department of Drexel University. No, Drexel is not a music school, but with their very, very popular course of study related to the music industry, a full slate of music (which includes jazz) courses is imperative. Kaminsky is the inventor of the KYDD bass (the legendary hybrid acoustic/electric/unbelievably portable instrument), a world class bassist in just about every form of music, and my dear friend of over 30 years. Bruce is doing true wonders with his Percussion Ensemble class at Drexel, and I know this first hand, as I was a guest lecturer/instructor there yesterday. Bruce’s grand finale of the semester, a show to be done on Bruce’s usual grand scale at Drexel’s Mandell Theater, will feature the ensemble doing a singular version of none other than “Sing Sing Sing.” If things work out, and it looks like they will, the guest soloist will be yours truly. Now I know why I love Drexel. 

In many cities across the world, Tower Records represented the last venue where one could browse, seemingly for hours, for jazz CDs, videos, DVDs, books and magazines. I’m told that Sam Goody’s is just about out of business as well, though Goody’s hasn’t meant much to the jazz fan for years. So the future, I’m afraid, is here, but the future for jazz merchandise looks exceedingly bright, though it comes in a rather different form for all of us. The universe’s largest jazz merchandiser on the Internet is a company we’ve highlighted before in this space, called They have, quite simply, the largest selection in the world of virtually everything that is, was or will be related to jazz. This includes CDs, DVDs, rare imported labels of both CDs and DVDs, books, big band charts, Sinatra charts, Kenton charts, Buddy Rich charts, Real Books, and much, much more. I urge each and every one of you to visit EJazzLines frequently, as they, amazingly, get in more merchandise regularly from all over the world. Those great CD reissues on the Fresh Sound and other overseas labels? EJazzLines has them all. Vintage videos from the likes of Rhapsody Films and DVD concerts from Europe? EJazzLines has them all. The Krupa and Buddy Rich stuff on CD that may be missing from your collection? Well, you get the idea. And incidentally, our sincerest congrats to Rob DuBoff of EJazzLines for the newest addition to his family. We look forward to doing some work with this superior operation somewhere down the line, but for right now, after you check your e-mail, visit They are, indeed, “Your global source for everything…that’s jazz!” 

God bless and keep swingin, 

Bruce Klauber November, 2006


Monday, May 8th, 2006

While there was nothing really great about “the good old days” in the drum world, there were at least four constants one could count on: The names of Ludwig, Gretsch, Rogers and Slingerland. To a lesser extent, there was Camco and Leedy, and in the student market, Kent and Revere. To a fault, these were all-American made drums with superb construction and longevity and each had its own remarkable sound. There was, and thankfully is today, “that great Gretsch sound,” with endorsers like Max Roach, Art Blakey, Mel Lewis and dozens of others. Rogers? Mel Torme’ once remarked that they were “made of cast iron,” and if it was the Buddy or Louis sound one was looking for, Rogers was the brand to get, no matter what the expense. Ludwig, in the jazz sense, always brought to mind the snap of Joe Morello, though that was before Ringo came along and changed Ludwig and the world. Slingerland will forever be identified with Gene Krupa, though they had a stellar roster of dozens of endorsers. With Camco, well, The Beach Boys’ drummer played them, and Leedy seemed to be synonymous with Shelly Mane. Any overseas product that existed back then, and apologies to all involved, was accurately described as “cheap Japanese,” many with a generic or retail store label on them like Stratford or Stewart. Those of us who had sets like that were often laughed at. Tell you what, though. I just got hold of a “cheap Japanese” snare made circa 1963, a Slingerland knock-off complete with a quasi-Zoomatic strainer. This drum sings. But that’s another matter. 

Watching the Independence Day parade on television a few seasons back, I was struck by the incongruity of seeing the marching bands’ bass drums emboldened with logos like Yamaha, Tama and Pearl. This is not a dig at those companies. All of them make fine, fine drums, and that goes for the newer companies like Taye and Peace as well. It is a tribute to all of those firms that they overcame the stigma of the description, “cheap Japanese.” 

It’s also a tribute to some of the newer American companies, like DW, the revitalized Gretsch company, and the many, many “botique-oriented” manufacturers that have made substantial inroads into the percussion marketplace. DW, by the way, has just released their long-awaited “Buddy Rich” kit to market. The DW management was also happy to inform me that they simply cannot keep up with product demand. That’s good news. 

But wither the famed “big four” of yesteryear? 

The stories of the downfall of Leedy and Rogers are well known to those who have read Rob Cook’s superb books on those companies, published by his “Rebeats” publishing company. The tale of Rogers, particularly, remains an absolute disgrace. For a brand name that almost every drummer wanted, at some point, to go down the tubes so quickly and spectacularly is an American business tragedy. 

Likewise with Slingerland, a brand name that had, at one time or another, both Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich as endorsers. Slingerland has tried to come back several times (Gretsch and/or the Gibson Company we believe, now owns the name), but each attempt to bring it back has been misguided and half-hearted. Their ill-conceived attempt to market Krupa and Rich “tribute” kits was a laugh riot. Slingerland counted on outside marketing people who knew absolutely nothing, and if you remember their ads for the kit, they couldn’t even come up with a decent photo of Gene. I was called in at the 11th hour to help, but it was too late. The damage was done. As an example of how disinterested they continue to be today is their refusal to even acknowledge my new book on Krupa, “Gene Krupa: The Pictorial Life of a Jazz Legend.” The Slingerland name appears on virtually every page either in text or a photo. Is this free advertising for Slingerland? You bet! The company has been approached dozens of times about getting t involved with this book in promotional terms, erhaps as a give away to boost sales of their sets and expand their educational market, but they refuse to even acknowledge e-mails. Do the folks who own and operate Slingerland today want it fail? If so, they’re succeeding. And yes, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to sell books. But to be ignored by a company who is presented with an opportunity–and needs any opportunity it can get–is ignorant and appalling. 

It appears that Ludwig continues to do steady business. They’ve added several new lines in the student and pro areas and have brought back the classic Ringo kit, the see-through Vistalites and even a John Bonham “tribute” kit. Their range of endorsers, however, is nothing what it was. The great Ed Shaughnessy and Butch Miles seem to be the only artists popping up in ads lately. Ludwig’s involvement in promotion, clinics, etc., also seems to be a bit limited, although news has come that the Ludwig Company has purchased the famed “Not So Modern Drummer” Magazine, which would put Ludwig back in the publishing business for the first time in decades. 

Still, they’ve missed the boat several times in line with possible promotional opportunities. As one example, Ludwig was approached to become involved with the recently-released DVD, “Lionel Hampton: King of the Vibes.” After all, Hampton used the Musser vibraphone, owned and sold by Ludwig, for most of his seven-decade career. A tie-in, to promote both the Musser line and the DVD, appeared to be just perfect for all involved. Ed Shaughnessy even interceded and tried to get things going. As an example, wouldn’t it have been perfect for Musser to produce a DVD “extra” about Musser’s history and their current line? Ludwig’s answer: “We have no money for such things.” Perhaps they just don’t want to sell vibes, but if that’s the case, why is Ludwig still manufacturing them? 

Drummers today, of every age and style, have more equipment choices than ever before. Once there was A. Zildjian, K. Zildjian or spun brass. Now there are dozens and dozens of cymbal makers. The same goes for sticks, hardware, drums, cases, electronics, heads, and just about everything else. And everything old is, in fact, new again. Flat base stands are back, and almost every drum manufacturer is offering a version of the classic, white marine pearl covering. But, and call us old-fashioned, I’d sure like to see the Slingerland logo on that bass drum at the Independence Day Parade. And by the way, if anyone ever runs into a set of Revere, let me know.