Ringo's Ed Sullivan kit

8th Feb 2014 | 10:00

Ringo's Ed Sullivan kit
Ringo Ludwig Kit
Once The Beatles broke through, Ludwig's previously unfashionable Oyster Black wrap became a massive seller.

THE BEATLES IN THE USA: There are iconic drum kits, and then there's Ringo's Ludwig kit.

There's arguably no more recognisable kit in the history of rock and roll, thanks to the style and sound that Ringo wrenched from it. Ringo had four Oyster Black Ludwig kits, each with its own Jazz Festival (14"x5") wood shell snare.

The first two were 20", 12", 14", plus 14" snare and the second two 22",13",16", 14" snare. He played a 20" kit on the Ed Sullivan debut, Feb ’64. He changed to the bigger 22" kit from the end of May 1964.

Although this late ’60s example is not one of the four black Ludwigs (two 20", 12", 14"s and two 22", 13", 16"s) that Ringo Starr actually played with The Beatles (he's kept hold of them for himself), it did feature in the video for ‘Real Love’, the second single that the then-surviving three Beatles cobbled together from old Lennon demos and released in 1996.

The kit belongs to Tommy O’Donnell who bought it brand new in Glasgow. “I got the kit when I was 16,in 1969,” he says. “All the bands were using them, but it was tremendously expensive. I got Paiste 602 hi-hats anda 602 22" ride at the same time and with the HP (purchase agreement) it cost me £650.”

Ringo's Ed Sullivan kit
Tom head
The original Ludwig Weather Master batter head is still fitted to the 13" tom.

By 1969, four-piece kits were being superseded by five-piece kits with two top toms.

Ringo had just got his maple Ludwig Hollywood kit with 12"x8" and 13"x9" top toms. Tommy says: “I actually wanted two mounted toms and so I ordered another.

"The shop fitted a second consolette, but when the tom arrived it was in the later ‘bowling ball’ Oyster Black, which is a totally different colour from this.”

Ringo's Ed Sullivan kit
Bass drum
Tommy O'Donnell's Super Classic kit is in top condition, with just the bass drum hoops in needof a little TLC.

The kit is a standard 22"x14", 13"x9", 16"x16" and came with the usual Supra-Phonic 400 metal snare.

Ringo however, always used a matching wood Jazz Festival snare. Apart from the battered bass drum hoops, the kit is in great condition.

“I gigged it a few times after coming down to London around 1973,” Tommy explains, “but I didn’t want to ruin it so I bought a Silver Sparkle kit that was already a bit hacked about.”

Ringo's Ed Sullivan kit
Tom mount
Those were the days. You needed the right size spanner to tighten up your tom mount, and the tom would still bounce every time you hit it.

So what’s the story behind ‘Real Love’?

“The video was done by Kevin Godley (ex-10cc),” Tommy recalls. “They didn’t know if Ringo still had his Beatles kits so they hired mine. The deal included getting the head painted. Luckily my niece’s husband, Nick Toyas, is a graphic designer and he made an exact copy from photos of The Beatles’ logo head.

“In the video the kit wasn’t actually set up. It was kind of rolling and tumbling in mid-air, so the bass drum was spinning round. It was quite effective, but they took the spurs off and unfortunately it came back without them. I had to replace them, God knows where the originals are now.”

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