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Old 05-09-2009, 11:13 AM
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Der Trommler Der Trommler is offline
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The history of Ludwig drums


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Ludwig-Musser is a drum and percussion instrument manufacturer owned by Conn-Selmer, Inc. The company was formed in 1909 as Ludwig & Ludwig by brothers William F. and Theo Ludwig. The brothers' first product was a bass drum pedal capable of playing faster beats than was typical of products of the time. It was produced in a rented barn on the southside of Chicago. The Ludwigs next developed a hydraulic action timpani and in 1916 invented a spring mechanism --the basis for the current Balanced Action Pedal Timpani. Production then expanded into other types of drums and banjo-type instruments. During the 1925-1930 period, Ludwig made two models of ukelele-banjo, each being prized by players of the instrument (Ludwig is known by collectors as being one of the three best historical makers of ukulele-banjos (the others being Gibson, and Jack Abbot)).
During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the company was forced to merge with the C.G. Conn Company. William F. Ludwig, who disliked his lack of involvement with the design and manufacture of the instruments after the merger, left the company in 1936. He opened his own company, the W.F.L. Drum Company, in 1937. The first product of W.F.L. was the Speed King Pedal, a product still manufactured by Ludwig. In 1955, the Ludwig division was purchased back from Conn and renamed the Ludwig Drum Company. In 1966, Ludwig purchased the Musser Marimba Company, which produced mallet percussion, including vibes, marimbas, bells, chimes and xylophones.
The Ludwig brand received its greatest boost in popularity in 1963-1966 when Ringo Starr of The Beatles prominently displayed the trade name on his bass drumhead, immediately above the Beatles' logo. The Ludwig company expressed their appreciation to Starr in 1965 by presenting him with an inscribed, gold-plated snare drum. Following Starr, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham became the next world class drummer to endorse and use Ludwig drums throughout his entire career. Many other Rock and Roll drummers have switched to or began with Ludwig drums in their careers.
In 1973, William F. Ludwig, Sr. died, to be succeeded by his son William F. Ludwig, Jr. Ludwig Industries was acquired by The Selmer Company in 1981. Today, Ludwig drums and timpani are manufactured in Monroe, North Carolina, with timpani and mallet instruments produced in LaGrange, Illinois. Certain lines of Ludwig Drums, marketed as the Accent, Accent CS, Accent CS Custom and Accent CS Custom Elite Series, are manufactured for Ludwig in Asia and imported into the North American market.
Throughout its history Ludwig has introduced innovations in drum construction, particularly in the use of materials and finishes. The Black Beauty snare drum, a black nickel-plated brass shell drum first manufactured by Ludwig during the 1920s, is highly prized by collectors and players alike. Perhaps the most interesting use of materials appeared in Ludwig's Vistalite drum kits. Vistalite was the trade name used by Ludwig for its line of acrylic (mostly see-through) drums in the 1970s. Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham was widely recognized for playing an amber-colored Vistalite drum set and singer/drummer Karen Carpenter played on Ludwig Vistalites her entire career. Carpenter owned an entry level set, which was forest green with a gold strip, two sets of clear Vistalites which she purchased, and numerous sets donated to her by Ludwig. The first set of clear Vistalites is on display in The Carpenters museum at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles. A set of jelly bean Vistalites, where every drum was a different color, was donated to Karen Carpenter by Ludwig for use in a 1976 television special.
Ludwig was also notable for the use of stainless steel in drum construction. John Bohnam's later Ludwig kits were stainless steel. Ludwig eventually stopped making the stainless steel drums due to extremely high production expenses. The drums were not great sellers due to their high cost and extreme weight. Ludwig brought the concept back in 2007, in commemoration of John Bonham, with a limited edition of 100 kits, the shells of which were produced by Dunnett Classic Drums. Ludwig currently offers stainless steel kits in a number of sizes and configurations.
Several years before the passing of William F. Ludwig II, Dunnett approached Ludwig with the idea of creating a special snare drum to honor Mr. Ludwig who was known as "The Chief" by his friends, family and among industry colleagues. Dunnett had been working on an extremely thin titanium shell design and the Ludwig Supraphonic snare drum lent itself to that design. Two models were offered, the first being a 6.5" x 14" model in polished titanium. "The Chief" was fitted with the famous imperial lug and a special badge that was designed by Dunnett that featured a 3 dimensional portrait of William F. Ludwig II and bore his signature. In 2009 a 5.5 x 14" version of "The Chief" was introduced at the 2009 Winter NAMM show in Anaheim.
The most sought after original Ludwig finish is the 1960s Oyster Black Pearl, made famous by Ringo Starr. Oyster Pink Pearl and the Black Galaxy finishes produced only between 1961 and 1962 are the rarest finishes and also highly prized. Mod Orange Pearl and Psychedelic Red Pearl are wrap finishes introduced by Ludwig Drums in 1967 and produced through the early 70's. These two finishes are exceptionally rare now. Mod Orange, Psychedelic Red Pearl and Oyster Black Pearl were reintroduced by Ludwig in the late 1990's. While the others were discontinued, Oyster Black is still in the Ludwig catalog today.
The Ludwig Supraphonic snare drum is considered to be an industry standard for professional snares. Such notable drummers as John Bonham, Ian Paice, Ginger Baker, Carl Palmer and Steve Gadd, used this drum exclusively throughout the 1970s. The Super-Sensitive was a type of strainer introduced in the '60s and was popular through the '70s for its sensitive response and precision wood finishes supplied by Steinway and Sons.
In the 1990s, Ludwig introduced a new line of heavy duty hardware, abandoning the very heavy Modular System of the late 1970's and 80's in favor of a less expensive L-arm/double braced industry standard hardware system. Also, the 4-ply Super Classic and 6-Ply Classic series drums were introduced, replacing the 3-Ply shells w/ reinforcement rings. Until the 1990s, Ludwig drums were made of maple and selected hardwoods. In the late 1990s they began manufacturing all-maple shells.
The popularity of Ludwig drums has risen steadily in recent years. Although Vistalite sales declined toward the end of the 1970s and were discontinued, Ludwig reintroduced them in 2001. Sales of clear Vistalite and Bonham-replica amber Vistalites have been strong enough that a several other drum companies have followed Ludwig's lead and now make their own acrylic drums. In 2007, Ludwig reintroduced the "classic" shell which consists of maple reinforcing rings and poplar wood plies.
Familiar names have returned to endorsing Ludwig. Bun E. Carlos of the rock group Cheap Trick just passed his 30 year mark as endorser. Like his father John, Jason Bonham is now a Ludwig endorser. Other notable contemporary endorsers include Tre Cool of Green Day, Myles Heskett of Wolfmother, J.J. Johnson with John Mayer, Jason McGerr of Death Cab for Cutie, Fab Moretti of The Strokes, Jim Riley of Rascal Flatts, Meg White of The White Stripes, Roger Taylor of Queen and John Fred Young of Black Stone Cherry.

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