Vintage View - Accessories Part 3
Tom holders have been the bane of the drummer’s life from the days that they dumped the temple blocks and replaced them with more rhythmically exciting but more cumbersome tom toms. Of course everybody made their own with varying degrees of success.
My generation had grown up with insignificant tom holders and in an effort to create some stability and playability we’d fitted other company’s gear to what whatever drums we were playing at the time. Hence Ringo had fitted a Rogers ‘Swiv-o-Matic’ tom holder to his Ludwigs whereupon lots of endorsers of other makes followed suit. Eventually, once they had relocated to California Rogers brought out the ‘Big R’ ‘pistol’ tom holder which finally mounted the toms where you wanted them. These had tubular arms and fine-toothed and spring-loaded ratchets to arrest the playing angle. To be honest they were like Trixon’s originals but stronger and more usable and they were fitted with the first purpose-built cast MemriLoc clamps. Trixon’s looked good on paper but had an Achilles heel: their ratchets were cast from an amalgam called Mezac (aka pot metal) which was rather brittle. I have memories of my tom holder breaking at a Moss Empires theatre around 1962 whereupon my small tom rolled down the steeply raked stage to end up in the footlights.
|Asba''s Sliding Tom Mount|
Prior to this if you wanted to remember the position of anything you needed to fit a pipe clamp/Jubilee clip or wind a few turns of new-fangled Sellotape around it. This of course necessitated taking anything with long tubes apart to pack it away because to do anything else defeated the object. There was still no real back and forward movement for tom holders (nor much vertical for that matter) although ASBA in France came up with a concept which was resurrected by the big boys a generation later where a slotted plate was attached to the bass and the actual tom holder itself could slide along it from head to head. It was this concept which was copied by those others who recognised its value.
Speaking of copying there was a time when American parts/drums/accessories were being copied slavishly and often ‘warts and all’ by companies in the Orient. What I mean is that someone who knew something of the nuts and bolts of drums, but didn’t play and therefore was unaware of the nuances of the art, was responsible. It’s a safe bet he was good at ‘back engineering’ though. Eventually, as is the nature of these things, they got it right although unfortunately, by then the word FEPOS had been coined by other Occidental manufacturers.
As it happens this actually galvanised other companies into action and into looking into what the new music and its drummers needed. IMHO the unsung hero who brought about the change was Carmine Appice who was a New Yorker and a hard-hitting Ludwig endorser whom that particular drum company seems to have taken a great deal of notice of. This ultimately gave rise to a new generation of tubular-legged stands called Hercules which in the event weren’t actually man-enough for the job either, but simply better than anything which had gone before.
|Ludwig Hercules Base|
It was an American stick company owned by Joe Calato which marketed and invented the plastic-tipped stick in the late fifties, an element which made a big difference. His ''Regal Tip'' hickory-shafted sticks with nylon ''acorns'' gave drums a slightly brighter tone and contributed a great deal to the sound of the cymbal, making good ones sound better, and arguably bad ones worse! Their Niagara Falls factory also produced great twin-spring foot pedals up until about 1994, one of which propelled the beater at the head while the other returned it with an equal and opposite force (as mentioned above). During the nineties they came up with sticks made from several dowels of wood or nylon which produced a less aggressive sound somewhere between that of a stick and a brush. This was not a new idea because drummers had been making their own versions since 1931 - by splitting drumstick-sized bamboo canes.
|The Calato Regal Tip|
|The late sixties was a time of finding solutions for problems which up until then we never knew we had! We were all spending more and more time in the recording studios where close-miking our drums exposed something called ‘singing nut boxes’. The springs inside reacted in sympathy to sounds around them so manufacturers replaced theirs with polythene tubing or wrapped them with heavy felt. We were all familiar with sympathetic resonance where our drums all reacted with one another and this led us towards single-headed toms which didn’t exhibit the same acoustic tendencies which we’ll get to in minute. The companies came up with a solution, although for my money I think one of the new generation of American drumtechs (who created a new occupation, as before one ''roadie'' had done all the gear) probably thought of it first. |
SA Capelle were a family-owned French company whose mainly mahogany-shelled drums were first built on the outskirts of Paris in the thirties – they actually produced an egg-shaped bass drum like the Speedfire quite some time before Trixon. From 1972 their drums were called Orange for roughly a decade whereupon they returned to their original title. The reason we’re talking about them is that SA Capelle were the first to use quick-release fittings at the adjustment points on their stands and arguably the first with chain drive for their hi-hat pedals. Quick-Release was a seventies concept for releasing and applying tension through the clamping blocks of hi-hats, cymbal stands, tom holders and the like borrowed from the bike industry. The clamps all featured a curved locking lever which actuated a cam which squashed the tube and effectively arrested its movement. Mostly used by French and Italian companies, the system worked well initially but, was prone to wear.
|Capello Quick Release Clamp|
Their bass pedals were serious feats of engineering too some with ''push/pull'' expansion springs and others which locked to the bass drum''s hoop at top and bottom. Some of their ideas were serious, like monster ''Turbo'' bass drums measuring 22" diameter by 32" deep, while others were more whacky using twin heads set one directly on top of the other for snare and bass drums. By the early nineties they''d moved into the classic snare drum market too using traditional labour-intensive manufacturing processes and exotic woods.
|Capelle Excalibur Pedal|
Concert-Toms were single-headed drums which were in use before the fifties (but became very popular in the seventies) and as the name suggests were at first built specifically for orchestral applications. They possessed a flat, but controllable sound which in the sixties and seventies was deemed ideal for recording and featured on many hit records when played by the inimitable Hal Blaine. They were available from 6" to 18" in diameter and (it’s a fair cop) drummers of yesteryear were known to surround themselves with them, whether they played them or not. In the seventies we did a roaring trade in affordable 8 and 10” diameter add-ons! Everybody made them.
|Hal Blaine and his Concert Tom kit|
Ludwig''s concert-toms were known as ''Octaplus'' (because the set comprised nine drums), while Pearl''s were called ''Dyna-family''. Slingerland produced some slightly different concert-toms in the late sixties; in regular depths they were designed to nest snugly together with their snare inside the single-headed bass drum for ease of transport. In the seventies many players liked the portability of Remo''s single-headed ''Roto-Toms'' which changed pitch simply by turning them on their stand. Again, nothing is new and Leedy''s extra-shallow, single-headed ''Tom-A-Phones'' in four regular tom sizes were introduced in 1924. The eighties saw clusters of up to eight extra-long, small-headed toms which varied in depth – as used ever since by Simon Phillips. Tama’s were called ''Octabans'' with plexiglass shells, and Pearl’s were ''Rocket Toms'' which were eventually made from aluminium.
|Remo Roto Tom|
While we were taking the bottom heads off the toms, we were also removing the front head of the bass drum so we could put a duvet inside it (or not) so it would produce that ‘flat’ tone which producers demanded which didn’t get mixed-up with the sound of the bass. This single factor has contributed to the great many drum sets that have found their way onto the market without front heads, bass drum hoops, claws, or even tension screws for them! Rogers and several other companies came up with a fix for this with hooks made from spring steel or cast aluminium which allowed you to remove the front head and put the hoop and claws and the tension screws back therefore stopping the drum from deforming. (If this didn’t work no problem, Rogers had a strengthening support tube which ran inside from top to bottom and helped keep it round.) Of course this single-head had a profound effect on the feel of the bass drum too but we put up with that in the same way that we put up with tea towels on our snare drums!
|The Rogers Head Free Hoop Claws|
The earliest mounted cymbals were fixed to the bass drum hoop parallel with the batter head and designed to be played simultaneously by a small spring metal ''striker'' fixed to the bass pedal. That said, prior to this in the days before ''double drumming'', the bass drummer would have one cymbal fixed to the top of his drum and another in his left hand to clash in unison with the bass drum beater held in his right, or not. Once ''trap'' sets had evolved, the drummer needed somewhere handy to mount his cymbal so he could hit it every time the music called for him to make some kind of ''statement''. Ludwig & Ludwig came up with an elegant answer in 1912: a vertical rod which extended upwards from one of the tension screws adjustably clamped to a horizontal rod with a kinked ''L-shaped'' end. The drummer simply dropped his cymbal over the bent end. Cymbals weren''t so big in those days so the unit was probably adequate for its time and ideal for cymbal ''chokes''. By the early twenties three-legged floor stands were becoming prevalent, although they still used Ludwig''s same horizontal ''crane'' principle and frequently had two or three Chinese toms mounted to them at the same time. But the bass mounted holder was still hanging in there. By 1924 Leedy had a unit which held up to four cymbals, upside-down one above the other. The ''Handy'' cymbal stand, much like the one we see now, arrived in 1925. It was a two stage unit with a spring at the top on which the cymbal sat. It was a boon because it meant the drummer didn''t need to stretch over the bass drum anymore; the floor stand could put the cymbal where he wanted it. Trap consoles arrived in 1925 and cymbals were invariably mounted to them, sometimes via ''Egyptian'' curved holders which suspended them from above.
|Console with Swan Neck/Egyptian Cymbal Arms|
|1926 saw the first ''crash'' cymbal holder which didn''t allow the cymbal to swing. It was ''L-shaped'', clamped to the hoop and could be moved horizontally. Nothing revolutionary happened for years apart from the rocking cymbal seat (with a dome-shaped washer below) which appeared in 1937 and allowed the instrument to move naturally. It wasn''t until the fifties that cymbal tilters appeared and initially these were crude two-piece clamps which were eventually superseded by small, cast, two-piece ratchet units. The seventies saw more substantial bases to cymbal stands and indeed bigger cymbals which being heavier needed counterweights on the end of the booms to stop the whole bang shoot from toppling over. |
From a historical standpoint the hi-hat as we know it came along in 1928 but it began life as a ''sock'' cymbal foot-pedal which is, or rather was, an onomatopoeic word to describe the sound made by two cymbals clashing together. Originally these pedals were known as ''Low-Boys'' standing only about six inches above the ground which made them difficult to play on with sticks! By the mid-thirties they''d become considerably taller and nowadays they boast very substantial tripod bases and centre-pull mechanisms, where a nylon or metal strap, or a bicycle-chain, links a large non-slip foot plate directly to a centre rod. In the main hi-hat pedals have adjustable springs to change their feel, sharp spikes to stop forward movement and cups for the bottom cymbal to rest on whose angle can be adjusted to allow the air to escape between the cymbals and thereby brighten their sound. The top cymbal is clamped to the centre rod (which moves up every time the foot is pressed down on it), by a clutch which is invariably a barrel-shaped piece of metal with a threaded hole at the side to take a ''T-screw'' which fixes it to the centre rod. There''s a collection of threaded washers, nuts and felts to support the top cymbal and insulate it from the metal around it.
|Sock Cymbal Stand|
|Buck Rogers Snare Stand|
It wasn''t until 1898 that the first dedicated snare drum stands appeared, prior to this drummers had managed by playing standing up, or even resting the drum on a chair. When ''double drumming'' came in and guys had to play both bass and snare simultaneously it was obvious a support for the snare drum needed to be found. The first Ludwig & Ludwig catalogue from 1912 has one with a tripod base and playing angle adjustment for $4 (reduced to $3). In time all manufacturers made them to roughly the same tripod pattern invariably with some sort of ratchet angle adjustment and their own refinements. Ludwig & Ludwig made them from wood during the war and since then we''ve seen stands made from aluminium, with ball and socket angle adjustment, with quick-release arms, tubular legs and available in extra-low and extra-high versions. By 1995 there was even one from Tama which sensibly isolated the drum from its stand by shock-mounting it to the tension screws. Trixon''s ''Speed-Fire'' snare drum didn''t need a stand at all - it mounted directly to the bass drum via that problematic disappearing tom holder I mentioned earlier.
Walberg & Auge was a drum hardware company based in Auburn, Mass. which made a great deal of the stands and pedals for major American drum manufacturers from the twenties to the sixties and beyond. Frequently catalogues from rival makers would show the same snare stands with evocative names like Buck Rogers ''Super Grip'', ''Marvel'' and ''Lockie''; cymbal stands called ''Presto'' and ''Economy'' all of which emanated from Walberg & Auge''s factory in Boston, Massachusetts. W & A''s first hi-hat pedal with a rat-trap'' foot-board came out in 1922 rejoicing in the name ''Sturdy'' and was joined eventually by a centre-pull version with a cast footplate called ''Adjustable''. After World War 2 they were responsible for making the shell-mounted Consolette tom holder (invented by Scotsman Bill Mather) which proved to be such a mounting breakthrough that all the major American concerns rushed to fit them to their sets. Walberg and Auge also made drums called ''Perfection'' which used Gretsch shells.
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