What are the stories behind famous drummers kits?

williamsbclontz

Silver Member
Just wondering if any history buffs could give me insight on why some drummers chose which brands and sizes etc. Like I always hear that art blakey didn't really like an 18" bass drum but he chose it for portablitity, and how much truth is behind that? And why did bonham go for such a big kit? I don't know for sure but I bet in the late 60s and early 70s a 26" bass was hard to come by

I love to know about drummers gear and the story behind their drums, especially the pioneers
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Just wondering if any history buffs could give me insight on why some drummers chose which brands and sizes etc. Like I always hear that art blakey didn't really like an 18" bass drum but he chose it for portablitity, and how much truth is behind that? And why did bonham go for such a big kit? I don't know for sure but I bet in the late 60s and early 70s a 26" bass was hard to come by

I love to know about drummers gear and the story behind their drums, especially the pioneers
Regarding the 18" bass drum, both Roy Haynes and Max Roach said in interviews that the size was chosen because of the traveling arrangements. Roy Haynes said he had a small sports car and his tiny kit fit in the trunk. Max did say that in his day, the entire band would be traveling in a station wagon with instruments and luggage and carrying a normal-sized bass drum would just be prohibitive. I think it's funny that the 18" bass drum and "bop kit" today have some kind of magical connotation to younger players, but it was really just an issue of practicality. Heck, Jack DeJohnette was using a 16" bass drum when he played with Miles Davis! Even easier to carry around - although both he and Elvin Jones refer to the smaller size bass drum as a different kind of voice.

And I think it's been widely documented that Bonham played what he did because of Carmine Appice. Carmine actually saw Led Zeppelin, thought they'd be big, and called Ludwig to tell them about Bonham. They immediately took Bonham on as an endorser, and he requested the exact duplicate of Carmine's kit, with double bass drums. Of course, the other members of Led Zeppelin have joked that in the early days, they would take and hide one of the bass drums.

If you look at the Ludwig catalogs from the 60s through the 70s, all these sizes were available. Some Ludwig kits were automatically offered with 24" or 26" bass drums too. Of course, you wouldn't think those sizes were available when all anybody was buying back then were black oyster Beatle kits in the 13/16/22 configuration. There are ALOT of those black oyster kits floating around this planet somewhere ;)
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Bonham actually started with a Slingerland (13-16-24), because thats what his heroes Buddy and Krupa had. Switched to Ludwig the big thermogloss ala Carmine's influence. If you look closely modded to some Rogers hardware.
Joe Morello (jazz) never went the 18 BD route. Thought it too small and preferred the bigger size bass drums.
Tony Williams famous black Gretsch kit on the famous Four and More (Lincoln Center concert) paid for by Miles Davis.... as Tony was only 17.
Not sure if the 18BD size was chosen because it was more portable. The 'story' I read was it was the kit that could fit in trunk of a NYC taxi cab. On the other hand it has the distinct sound that bebop drummers were maybe looking for? Somebody else here will weigh in on that.

I'd like to know who started using big chinas or swishes first?
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Not sure if the 18BD size was chosen because it was more portable. The 'story' I read was it was the kit that could fit in trunk of a NYC taxi cab. On the other hand it has the distinct sound that bebop drummers were maybe looking for? Somebody else here will weigh in on that.
It was probably a combination of both. Jazz doesn't need a kick sound like a rock band kick sound. The bass drum is played more like a tom IMO. It's not the main driver. Plus the ease of transport had to be a factor. NYC is overly tight on space.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Bonham actually started with a Slingerland (13-16-24), because thats what his heroes Buddy and Krupa had. Switched to Ludwig the big thermogloss ala Carmine's influence. If you look closely modded to some Rogers hardware.
Joe Morello (jazz) never went the 18 BD route. Thought it too small and preferred the bigger size bass drums.
Tony Williams famous black Gretsch kit on the famous Four and More (Lincoln Center concert) paid for by Miles Davis.... as Tony was only 17.
Not sure if the 18BD size was chosen because it was more portable. The 'story' I read was it was the kit that could fit in trunk of a NYC taxi cab. On the other hand it has the distinct sound that bebop drummers were maybe looking for? Somebody else here will weigh in on that.

I'd like to know who started using big chinas or swishes first?
I recall seeing pictures of some big band era drummer who used quite a large swish cymbal as his main ride. This would’ve been late 40s-early 50s as the be bop era started. I forget who it was - I wanna say Zutty Singleton. I do know Stan Kenton required big cymbals - there are pictures of Peter Erskine using 26” and 24” cymbals. And in the 70s Billy Cobham used a 26” swish as well.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
According to wiki, the swish cymbal was a collaboration between Zildjian and Gene Krupa in the 1930's.

Later on Mel Lewis made the Swish Knocker "famous", even coining the term Knocker.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Bill Bruford and Simon Kirke with Hayman drums. One doesn't hear of these made in England drums much, but chosen for a little while in early 70's by these guys to be loud and compete with amplification of the day. The drums were louder by being lined with a hard coating at the time. Out of business a little while after.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
Here's Elvin Jones talking about it in his '82 MD interview:
RM: I've heard various explanations of why jazz drummers started using 18" bass drums. Some people go into detail about the function of the bass drum in modern jazz, and give reasons why the 18" drum was more suited to the music. Others contend that the only reason the smaller drum was used was because it was easier to carry around.

EJ: Well, that's the reason why I used it. Twenty years ago, we traveled a great deal by car. We would throw all of our stuff in a station wagon or a car, then we'd all pile in and off on the road we would go. That's the way bands traveled then. So it made a difference if you had a compact unit of equipment. I only used two tom-toms in those days: the floor tom-tom was 14 x 14, and the small tom-tom was 8 x 1 2 . But when I used a 20" bass drum, it just would not fit in the trunk of the car. If I put it in the back seat, that took up the space where two people could sit. So that made it necessary to tie the damn thing down on top of the car on a rack. I ruined a lot of drums that way. Whenever it would rain, with the car going sixty miles an hour, the rain would be forced right through the case, onto the drum itself. So the drum was a soggy mess when we arrived at where we were supposed to go. And then there were times that the ropes would slip and the drum would fall off on the highway. So when I got an 18" bass drum, there was no problem at all. My drums would all fit comfortably into the trunk of a car, along with a suitcase, and perhaps even some golf clubs. So the drums had to be as practical as they were functional.

Another good reason for having the smaller set was that it fit in with the overall image of the group. If there were only four or five people on the bandstand, the drumset was not obtrusive; it blended with that whole image.
Whatever the reason people started using the 18", it has not stuck around for ~55 years as the standard jazz drum only for convenience. And note that the large drum he's talking about is still only a 20".
 

TK-421

Senior Member
Not sure if the 18BD size was chosen because it was more portable. The 'story' I read was it was the kit that could fit in trunk of a NYC taxi cab. On the other hand it has the distinct sound that bebop drummers were maybe looking for? Somebody else here will weigh in on that.
It was probably a combination of both. Jazz doesn't need a kick sound like a rock band kick sound. The bass drum is played more like a tom IMO. It's not the main driver. Plus the ease of transport had to be a factor. NYC is overly tight on space.
Yes, smaller bass drums surely came in handy when getting to the gig required hailing a cab and only taking what would fit. But that unique 18" BD sound does blend in well with a standup bass, which is why boppers love that size today.

In fact, an 18" bass can be tuned low to sound more like a rock bass drum (not that you'd ever confuse it with a 22 or 24). But if you listen to the recordings made back then, they were cranking those suckers up. So clearly they must have liked that higher pitched sound. Which makes me highly suspicious of the claim that they "only" used them for the portability factor.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
Portability is still relevant. Taking cabs in cities etc..

Music also changed at a certain point. Big 4 on the floor not the main priority and BD more of a comping voice, then it's just a matter of taste and what fits now a greater variety of situations and with PAs being way more common.

Just as with size of the other drums you use what fits both the music and your style.

I'm picking up a 12/14/18 soon and honestly, it's about both sound and portablility. I just want the option.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
OK - I'm sure there are as many reasons to use small bass drums as there are drummers out there. Erskine said when Wayne Shorter asked him to use a smaller bass drum with Weather Report, the first thing Wayne yelled when Erskine used the smaller bass drum was "Definition!" - he loved it for that aspect.

But as far as the transportation issue, maybe it was different back in the days before the 60s, but does no one believe they should buy a truck or some kind of SUV nowadays? Even when I owned a 1972 VW Beetle, I'd take out the passenger front seat and drop the rear seat flat, and I could carry a seven piece Tama Superstar with a 16x22 bass drum in it.

If I was starting out again and had my heart dead-set on playing drums, I'd make the transportation issue part of the equation.
 

williamsbclontz

Silver Member
OK - I'm sure there are as many reasons to use small bass drums as there are drummers out there. Erskine said when Wayne Shorter asked him to use a smaller bass drum with Weather Report, the first thing Wayne yelled when Erskine used the smaller bass drum was "Definition!" - he loved it for that aspect.

But as far as the transportation issue, maybe it was different back in the days before the 60s, but does no one believe they should buy a truck or some kind of SUV nowadays? Even when I owned a 1972 VW Beetle, I'd take out the passenger front seat and drop the rear seat flat, and I could carry a seven piece Tama Superstar with a 16x22 bass drum in it.

If I was starting out again and had my heart dead-set on playing drums, I'd make the transportation issue part of the equation.
I have a longbed truck with a camper shell over it. But I do live in the south so that's not very uncommon. But it is nice to be able to fit everyone's gear in it. I got 4 seats for a full band and enough room to fit amps speakers drums guitars and a organ

If I had to play in NYC or Chicago and travel by taxi, I'd definitely be playing a compact kit. For many that's probably the only option
 

Tamaefx

Silver Member
The first to incorporate splash cymbal ? I think it was Stewart Copeland.
The suspended floor ? I think it was Gadd, followed by Weckl.
The first to you use two toms mounted on the bass drum, not sure, I think it was The Beach boys drummer?
 

williamsbclontz

Silver Member
The first to incorporate splash cymbal ? I think it was Stewart Copeland.
The suspended floor ? I think it was Gadd, followed by Weckl.
The first to you use two toms mounted on the bass drum, not sure, I think it was The Beach boys drummer?
That's good info. I wonder who used the first concert tom, maybe Hal Blaine? And I wonder who first thought up the power tom
 

TK-421

Senior Member
The first to incorporate splash cymbal ? I think it was Stewart Copeland.
The suspended floor ? I think it was Gadd, followed by Weckl.
The first to you use two toms mounted on the bass drum, not sure, I think it was The Beach boys drummer?
The correct answer is Gene Krupa.
True, legend goes that Krupa worked with Zildjian to invent the splash cymbal during the big band era, though I swear I've heard choked splashes from the vaudeville era, which would likely predate even Krupa. Either way, the splash cymbal predates Stewart Copeland by at least 50 years or so.

The Gadd/Weckl/mounted floor tom thing may be true, as I don't know of any earlier examples of that. But to be honest, I really don't know.

But as for the two toms mounted on the bass drum claim, while I'm not a drum historian, I'm pretty certain it predates the Beach Boys. I submit Exhibit A at the bottom of this post as evidence.


That's good info.
No, it wasn't.

I implore everyone to do at least some rudimentary research before posting "facts". There's tons of false info floating around the web already, no need to add to it.
 

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pgm554

Platinum Member
Billy Cobham was probably the first to use the inverted china cymbal on a drum set.

He said he saw an orchestra in Europe and the percussionist had the china inverted and it just cut through like a knife.

He went ahead and started using one to cut through the high decibel levels of Mahavishnu.
 
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