Vintage drum gear: Slingerland snares and Satin Flame Pearl kit

13th Jan 2012 | 17:02

Vintage drum gear: Slingerland snares and Satin Flame Pearl kit
Candy Striped Slingerland Student snare
Circa 1965

Each month Rhythm Magazine tracks-down and checks-out vintage gear in order to marvel at a bit of drum-making history. Here we have a selection of classic drums from US maker Slingerland…

First up, a 1965 candy-striped Slingerland student model courtesy of Winnie Mensink of Winnie’s Drumkit store in Amsterdam.

Whereas today the big manufacturers have maybe four or five levels of drums, back in the ’60s there were generally just two - professional and student.

Student model snare drums often had six lugs instead of eight or 10, simpler snare mechanisms, but the same quality shells.

That meant you had a great shell with less hardware and many drummers have a soft spot for these lightweight models. Winnie’s colourful Slingerland is a case in point.

Vintage drum gear: Slingerland snares and Satin Flame Pearl kit
Candy Striped Slingerland Student snare
Rapid Strainer, chrome-over-brass Rim Shot (aka Stick-Saver) hoops, six lugs and multi-sparkle wrap finish.

“The drum is a 14x51⁄2-inch Deluxe Student Model,” Winnie says. “It has six lugs, Rapid strainer and chrome-over-brass Stick-Saver hoops. The shell is three-ply mahogany-poplar-maple with solid maple reinforcement hoops.”

So what’s the story behind that finish? “I bought it from a drum builder who had refinished it using sparkle wraps from new bass drum hoop inlays.

“The wrap is a reconstruction of a dealer’s model drum used to help customers pick their choice of colour. Otherwise the drum is all original. I like it because it sort of fits in with all other colours and it sounds great too.”

Vintage drum gear: Slingerland snares and Satin Flame Pearl kit
Slingerland Gene Krupa Sound King snare
Circa 1970s

The second drum has history - it belonged to Britain’s great Kenny Clare and is now owned by Garry Allcock, a lifelong fan of Kenny’s.

It’s a 14x61⁄2-inch Slingerland Gene Krupa Sound King snare with chrome plated brass shell and was part of a full set of Slingerlands which bear a special Kenny Clare signature badge.

Garry explains, “I bought the drum after Kenny died via Trevor Benham in Oxford who was helping Ken’s wife to raise some money by selling off Kenny’s equipment.”

Vintage drum gear: Slingerland snares and Satin Flame Pearl kit
Slingerland Gene Krupa Sound King snare
Kenny Clare's signature badge and Zoomatic throw-off on Slingerland 10-lug Sound King snare.

Garry continues, “the story I was told was that during the three years in the 1970s when Kenny worked with Tony Bennett in the USA he became friendly with Jake Hanna. At that time Kenny was still playing his White Marine Pearl WFL Super Classic set, which I also have.

“Jake Hanna was a Slingerland endorsee and told Ken that he should be playing Slingerland and that Jake would arrange it for him. In due course Slingerland provided Kenny with a complete kit - bass drum, rack and floor toms and a wooden shell snare, all in plain black.

“Ken nearly always used metal snares and asked for one, hence this drum. All five drums had a special badge attached with Kenny’s signature. The kit turned up at the NDF four years ago, but I can’t remember who had it.

“I got the drum and case around 1990. I played it a few times, but when I found that it didn’t make me play like Kenny Clare I went back to my old Ludwig 400. I still couldn’t play like Ken - who could? I then put it away for safe keeping.”

Vintage drum gear: Slingerland snares and Satin Flame Pearl kit
Slingerland Satin Flame Pearl kit
Circa early 1970s

This kit is from a similar era to the snares on the previous slides. It was made in Slingerland’s state-of-the-art factory at Niles, Illinois, reputedly the biggest purpose-built drum factory in the world at the time.

Indeed Slingerland was still riding high in the early-’70s, with Buddy Rich their prized (if cantankerous) endorsee finally edging out Gene Krupa for pride of place in the company’s catalogues.

The kit belongs to Simon Wagstaff and is in Lavender Satin Flame Pearl, one of many mind-bending finishes Slingerland offered during those psychedelic times.

It’s a standard 20x14-inch, 12x8-inch and 16x16-inch, with quarter-inch, three-ply shells. The make-up of these shells was a sandwich of poplar in the middle with either maple or mahogany on the inner and outer veneers.

Slingerland’s cutting-edge factory managed to mould the plies and the solid maple reinforcing hoops together at the same time in a single operation.

Vintage drum gear: Slingerland snares and Satin Flame Pearl kit
Slingerland Satin Flame Pearl kit
Diamond plate on small tom is adapted from the earlier spade clip design to the modern style rod clamp. Note excellent chrome on lugs and hoops.

The other unique feature of Slingerland drums was the triple flanged Rim-Shot hoops which bend over and in towards the centre of the drums rather than out like on other American hoops.

The hoops on this set are also chrome over brass, adding to the quality and tone of the drums.

“I bought the kit from Anthony Defusco, a really helpful guy who owns The Village Drum and Music Shop, Scituate, Rhode Island,” says Simon. “Check out the site, the shop looks like a shack!

“The finish was available from 1970 to 1973. However, I think it first appeared in the 1969 catalogue. Pete Cater examined the kit at the NDF and he thought the tom holder might be a prototype as it has ‘Patent Applied For’ on it and has a matt silver finish, not the chrome plate of later models.”

The Set-O-Matic tom holder took over from the ubiquitous Walberg & Auge-made Consolette which Slingerland had first revealed as the Ray McKinley Mount from the ’40s onwards.

The Set-O-Matic appeared at the tail-end of the ’60s, and was obviously a reaction to the huge success of Rogers’ Swiv-O-Matic system.

Vintage drum gear: Slingerland snares and Satin Flame Pearl kit
Slingerland Satin Flame Pearl kit
Black on brass Niles, Illinois badge can be found on the small tom - serial number 185623.

Simon adds, “The badges on the bass drum and rack tom are black on brass while the badge on the floor tom is black on silver. However, it doesn’t look as if the floor tom has been added to the kit, as the satin flame wrap looks identical on all three drums.

“As you well know, the badges were mixed up together and simply taken out of a pot in the middle of the workbench. I haven’t gigged the kit yet, but I will do in good time. However, due to the wrap being in good condition for a satin flame I wouldn’t want to gig it too often.”

Vintage Gear continues each month in Rhythm Magazine.

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