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Johnny Craviotto RIP

As you’ll probably have seen by now, master drum builder Johnny Craviotto passed away on 15 July. To many he was a friend, and to many more he was the man whose drums had become the pinnacle of the drum-nerd’s dream.

Johnny Craviotto was a drummer who started building drums in the 1980s after a brief stint working for a master boat builder. This went on to become the Select company (which later became ‘Solid”). Eventually, after many years perfecting what he was doing he started the Craviotto Drum Company, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2014.

What is different about a Craviotto drum? Basically, it’s the ‘solid’ or single ply shell - most Craviotto drums are made from one steam bent plank of wood. If the shell is deeper than, say, 16” it might actually be made up of two shells glued together to make one. This means that the shell as a whole resonates better than a multi-ply shell with glue in between each ply.

I first came across ‘a Craviotto’ in person probably around 2000. It was a DW badged Timeless Timber drum, the ones made from 600 year old maple that had been found at the bottom of Lake Superior. I saw it in my local drum store. It was in a clear display case and was for sale for about £2,000. Or, to put it another way, far out in fantasy land, as there was no way I could afford such a drum at that point.

I’ve seen in the last few days Johnny Craviotto being compared to Enzo Ferrari. I don’t think that’s a bad comparison. Almost everyone in the drum world has heard the name ‘Craviotto’; it runs along side the words ‘high end’ and ‘expensive’, just like a Ferrari. ’A Craviotto’ is almost a mystical beast to some, something which is to be lusted after, again, just like a Ferrari. The man will also be a legend of the drum world like Ferrari is in the car world.

As some of you may know, I have a particular fondness for Johnny’s work. 

Since first seeing the aforementioned drum many years ago, I became fascinated with Johnny’s work and have been lucky enough to get a few of his drums over the last ten years. In fact, my first Craviotto was actually one of those Lake Superior drums, albeit a Craviotto-badged version.

I personally only met the man once, at a UK drum show in 2014, and while I’m not normally one to get all goofy and star-struck, I seem to recall feeling a little muted (shall we say?) that day. 

My memory of him was a nice, kind and quite humble man. He reminded me of my grandfather because of these shared qualities. I’m not normally lost for words, but that day I didn’t really know what to say. I got him to sign a head for me, and he thanked me for supporting the company. Inside I was thrilled.

RIP Johnny, and thanks for all the drums.

David Bateman

August 2016

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