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Old 06-19-2013, 03:22 PM
PW Carbert PW Carbert is offline
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Default Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

Hello all,

Bit of a strange topic for you all..Over the last few weeks I've been researching 50's Rock n Roll to take in as much influence as I can, one thing I've noticed is a fair percentage of the drummers don't have a floor tom in the promotional images/or when they played on TV/movies.

A few examples...

-JM Van Eaton playing Whole Lotta Shakin with Jerry Lee Lewis. Just kick, snare, rack tom and one cymbal.

-Jerry Allison - again, there are a few videos of him playing on Peggy Sue with Buddy Holly, using just kick, snare, rack tom and one cymbal. Ok, he's only miming but again no floor tom?

-Many of Bill Haley's drummers in the countless films they played in don't have a floor tom either.

-I also think I've seen Earl Palmer with this setup but I'm not 100% positive.

Why am I bothered? I love reading about the evolution of the drumkit, and none of the documentaries or books make any note of this. Even Daniel Glass' recent documentary, which I think is just excellent, doesn't mention this. It seems accepted that during the big band era, drummers slowly did away with the cowbells, woodblocks etc and went to a very simple setup which we still use today (with a few adjustments). It just seems unusual, surely it was more logical to have a floor tom but not a rack tom (as many use that setup today)?

I know throughout history drummers will always setup their drums slightly different and sometimes it catches on and sometimes it doesn't, but we aren't talking the odd pub drummer here, it seemed the big players of that period dispensed with the floor tom. Was it purely an image thing? Are any of you in 50's cover bands who use this setup?

Last edited by PW Carbert; 06-19-2013 at 03:34 PM.
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Old 06-19-2013, 03:40 PM
tamadrm tamadrm is offline
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

Drum fashon.It ebbs and tides with the times.Some feel they have to be drum fashionistas,some do not.

Early rock didn't involve a lot of fills as the beat and supporting the lead singer was the important thing.There were also lots of touring and playing shows on multiple knights of the week and not just weekends.Some guys played everynight,even in different towns.

But even at that time,there was Bellson,Sperling to name a few with double bass,multiple tom kits.

As rock evolved,so did the basic drum set and more toms were added which allowed for interesting fills with tonal variation.

Double bass,multiple toms up to 4 or 5(Keith Moon) were becoming common place by the late 60's.Monster kits followed after that as in Peart and Bozzio set ups.

Now there's scaling back with some guys wanting to play 16" bass drums and coctail kits.

What was old is now new,and vice versa.

To me,it's whatever floats your boat.Play what you want,not what somebody else thinks is cool.

Steve B
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Old 06-19-2013, 03:44 PM
Anthony Amodeo
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

it was very common in the 40s and 50's all the way into the early 70s to find kits in catalogs without a floor tom

check out these Gretsch catalogs to see what I mean

the One Nighter, One Nighter Plus, and even the Renown were among kits that came floor tom- less

http://www.gretschdrums.com/?fa=catarchives2

the floor tom became popular in the middle of the swing era when used by guys like Gene Krupa, Chick Webb and Sonny Greer but still were not considered a necessary part of the kit until probably the bebop era

for whatever reason until probably the late 60s most student model kits did not have a floor tom

but the reason for them not having a floor tom in the promo shots and TV spots could simply be them carrying less gear to the shoot

Last edited by Anthony Amodeo; 06-19-2013 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 06-19-2013, 03:47 PM
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Three Three is offline
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

My guess is that a rack mounted tom takes up less floor space and (on a right handed kit) is easier to get the left hand to than a floor tom.
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Old 06-19-2013, 04:24 PM
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

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Originally Posted by Anthony Amodeo View Post

but the reason for them not having a floor tom in the promo shots and TV spots could simply be them carrying less gear to the shoot
This would be my guess.

So many of those TV appearances and such were mimed to the recording. And as such, many of those performances were quick, run out on stage, set up, play, then get off stage.

Also, early rock n roll just didn't evolve from jazz, it also evolved from Country and Western music, as well as folk and bluegrass.. Much of early C&W music didn't have drums, or very minimal drums. Not every early rock band was coming directly from a big band/jazz influenced drum kit. Thus why rockabilly drum kits were very minimal.

Then in 1959, The Gene Krupa Story movie came out, and seeing Sing Sing Sing on the floor toms probably made everyone who didn't already have a floor tom run out and get one.
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Old 06-19-2013, 05:13 PM
PW Carbert PW Carbert is offline
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

Some really good answers coming in, thanks everyone

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrumEatDrum View Post

So many of those TV appearances and such were mimed to the recording. And as such, many of those performances were quick, run out on stage, set up, play, then get off stage.
Which explains why the setups often look awkward - snare drums at impossible angles etc!


I've just joined a 50s Rock n Roll/Rockabilly covers band, we are aiming to play as close to the record as possible and of course the image is important too, of the 40 songs I've been asked to learn for my first gig this weekend, I think there is just one which sounds like a floor tom is being used. For the first gig, to be on the safe side I'll use my full kit but I might look at downsizing when I'm more comfortable, we'll see.
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Old 06-19-2013, 07:43 PM
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alparrott alparrott is offline
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

I've seen several more casual drummers over the years playing without a floor tom, but these are modern sets which almost assuredly came with the floor tom originally. My take on these players (all of whom were "self-taught") is that they can't figure out how to tune a floor tom, it's very resonant, and it sounds ringy from the drum throne, so they leave it out.

Also, seeing how the drum set was a fairly new instrument at the time, and rental/backline kits were probably just as prevalent for performances then as now -- you showed up and there was no floor tom, so you did what you had to?

Dunno, I have seen it before, and based on the drummers I see doing it, I chalk up to a combination of personal preference and inexperienced/unknowledgeable drummers. I think the floor tom is one of the best parts of the kit, and taking it away robs the kit of a very important voice.
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Last edited by alparrott; 06-19-2013 at 10:34 PM.
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Old 06-19-2013, 09:54 PM
jack zerkie jack zerkie is offline
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

My first new kit was in 1960 a new Rogers kit I lived in Cleve. at that time was a great blue sparkle with two toms up and a floor tom. I never used the floor tom. I had that set until 1996 and traded it in south florida. I had 10 other sets after the Rogers. I play for the fun and enjoy whatever I have. I,m now on my second crush kit and really like the sound. jz.
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Old 06-19-2013, 11:33 PM
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opentune opentune is offline
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

I played in a 50's Rock n roll cover band and rarely used my floor tom. Most of our numbers could have gotten away with no tom (except Peggy Sue, lol).
BUT I would agree the floor tom is a very important voice of the kit. Its deep, with balls and authority.... everybody hears or turns to look when you use it. In fact, if I had to give up a tom on my kit, I'd give up the hanging toms instead.
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Old 06-20-2013, 12:06 AM
audiotech
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

My dad rarely used his 16" floor tom when playing in the fifties. In fact he stored it in our attic until I got it down in the late fifties. I guess he thought that he did enough hauling with his 28" Ludwig bass drum, lol.

Dennis
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Old 06-20-2013, 12:18 AM
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

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Originally Posted by audiotech View Post
My dad rarely used his 16" floor tom when playing in the fifties. In fact he stored it in our attic until I got it down in the late fifties. I guess he thought that he did enough hauling with his 28" Ludwig bass drum, lol.

Dennis
Makes me wonder if, rather my prior theory, it was just a matter of transportation.

It's been said the be-bop guys largely went to 18" bass drums because it was easier to throw the drums in a cab. Perhaps the early rock guys just opted to leave the FT at home for similar reasons, and it just stuck as something to not be used for that period of time. (?)
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Old 06-21-2013, 07:19 AM
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Aeolian Aeolian is offline
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

I know a few local journeymen who leave the floor tom at home. They tell you that they are trying to be more creative and say more with less, but I think they are really just avoiding carrying one more piece back and forth to the car on midweek gigs.
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Old 06-21-2013, 11:00 AM
Boomka Boomka is offline
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

Quote:
Originally Posted by PW Carbert View Post
Some really good answers coming in, thanks everyone



Which explains why the setups often look awkward - snare drums at impossible angles etc!


I've just joined a 50s Rock n Roll/Rockabilly covers band, we are aiming to play as close to the record as possible and of course the image is important too, of the 40 songs I've been asked to learn for my first gig this weekend, I think there is just one which sounds like a floor tom is being used. For the first gig, to be on the safe side I'll use my full kit but I might look at downsizing when I'm more comfortable, we'll see.
I do some rockabilly and RnR work and I often show up to gigs with a bass drum, snare, hats and one cymbal and can do everything I need to do.
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Old 06-21-2013, 11:14 AM
mandrew mandrew is offline
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

Perhaps, as we now look back, we can see why 4 piece kits are still popular with frequent change of venue players. It is a good compromise in equipment hauling. Many jazz players played 4 piece kits, often because a small trio or quartet was relegated to a small corner near a dance floor, and space was at a premium.
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Old 06-23-2013, 01:28 AM
conchrandy conchrandy is offline
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Default Re: Early 50's Rock n Roll - No Floor Tom?

First drum set (no "kits" back then) in the 50's was a wmp Slingerland with no FT. Thought I had it all. Haha, maybe with a double pedal that's all we really need.
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