Vintage drum gear: Zickos Transparent Drum Kit

24th Oct 2012 | 10:48

Vintage drum gear: Zickos Transparent Drum Kit
Zickos Transparent Drum Kit
Circa early-'70s

Each month Rhythm Magazine tracks-down vintage gear in order to important moments in drum-making history.

This Zickos Plexiglas (acrylic) set is a rare example of the first ever commercially-produced plastic drum kits.

Bill Zickos was a big band jazz drummer who owned a music store in Kansas City, USA, during the 1950s. Towards the end of the ’50s he started to experiment with making plastic drums, but it was 1969 before he got his first big name convert, Ron Bushy of Iron Butterfly.

He soon got further orders and, although he patented the acrylic drums concept in 1970, it was not long before Ludwig and everyone else started to market their own plastic kits.

Acrylic kits went out of fashion in the late 1970s and Zickos disappeared until Bill and his stepson John revived production from the late 1990s.

Vintage drum gear: Zickos Transparent Drum Kit
Zickos Transparent Drum Kit
The acrylic shells are made by bending round a former and bonding with a seam that is stronger than the shell itself.

This kit belongs to Amsterdam drum shop owner Winnie Mensink of Hide Hitters and reveals Zickos’ superb craftsmanship.

Winnie says, “I bought the set three years ago from Alberto de Hond, the guy who imported Zickos into Holland. This was his personal set and he told me he sold about 20 Zickos sets in Holland in the ’70s.

“Sizes are 18x14-inch, 12x8-inch, 14x14-inch and 14x5-inch snare drum. I also have a 16x16-inch floor tom.”

Vintage drum gear: Zickos Transparent Drum Kit
Zickos Transparent Drum Kit
The badge says, 'Zickos Corporation, 1184 West 85th Street, Lenexa, Kansas 68214, USA.'

As you can see, Zickos didn’t pull any punches when it came to hardware. The massive steel hoops - on all the drums, including the bass drum - are attached by claw hooks (later kits have conventional hoops). Even the 1/4-inch tension rods are thicker than usual.

“Each lug contains a rotor which swivels and is tapped to accept the tension rod, thus eliminating the need for noisy, troublesome springs,” boasts the original Zickos literature.

“The tensional hardware is quite massive,” continues Winnie. “The bass drum, the toms and snare drum tension-rods all use claws to grab the hoops, so you only have to release the tension a little to turn the claws outward and remove the rims and heads.

“This is one of the features that makes Zickos unique, although the Italian Meazzi used a similar idea. This makes the drums much heavier than other brands, not what you expect of a little jazz-sized set like this.”

Vintage drum gear: Zickos Transparent Drum Kit
Zickos Transparent Drum Kit
All the drums have heavyweight steel rims, spring-less, retractable tear-drop lugs and 1/4-inch tension bolts.

According to, the shells have always been 6mm (1/4-inch) cast Acrylic, which is thicker than some other acrylic drums. Also the joins use a bonding process that, if anything, makes the seams stronger than the shells themselves.

Bearing edges are rounded on the outside of the shell, the idea being that they follow the contour of the head better.

Winnie says, “I don’t gig with the kit, never did, but the sound is warmer than you would expect, probably because the bearing edges are quite round.”

Vintage Gear continues each month in Rhythm Magazine

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