New Black Beauty - Reminiscing 50's and 60's


Silver Member
Yesterday I bought a 5x14 tube lug Black Beauty snare. WOW! After changing heads, snare,
and tuning I got very excited about what I was hearing. It got me to thinking back to the
Supraphonic w/super sensitive strainer I bought new in 1966 and all gigs I played with that
before "quitting drumming". A word to the wise, just put your set (kit) in the closet so it will
be there when you start playing again, and you will. In my case it was 30 years later. My
1966 snare was ludalloy and not the nickel over brass like my new one. (oh yeah, just
remembered...I like adjustable mufflers in drums and installed one almost immediately in
the black beauty). With the exception of 1962 - 1967 I have mostly played jazz.

The excitement of this new drum got me going down memory lane a bit and I thought I'd
share a few of the thoughts here: For me it started with a single tension "field drum". This
was in 1954 or 1955. Some had quick snare throw offs but many you had to just adjust the
snare tension bolt tighter or looser. On mine you had to do this. Calf skin heads ruled the
day. When I left mine tightened and came home from school to find the top head ripped in
pieces because humidity/temp etc had changed my folks went easy on me that first time.
Calf skin heads were less expensive than the newer plastic that was just coming out give or take a few years. You bought calf heads tucked or untucked onto the hoops. I think
that untucked was about .25 or .50 less expensive. Calf heads were about 3 or 4 bucks.
(a full days work at minimum wage). It was around 1958 when the cost of buying calf or
plastic became about the same. Calf was going up and plastic was coming down. We all
learned how to tune drums very well in those days because we did it daily.

Marching band was hard on the legs too because the leg rests weren't around. I don't know
if they were even invented yet or just cost too much. At any rate, we tied shoelaces around the bottom lugs and around our left leg. Tie it too loose and the drum would bang
into your leg until you were black and blue, too tight and you'd cut off circulation. By the
time a parade event would come around we were all in serious pain!

I got my first real snare drum, a Ludwig Pioneer 5x14 ducco in 1962. Nickel plate in all
its glory! Working part time after school and weekends plus gigging I soon had a full 4
piece matching set. I came up at a time when the word "trapset" was dying off and "drumset" was coming into popular usage. I still think of a drumset and not drum kit. Guess I'm getting long in the tooth as Wikipedia says trapset is an archaic term!

One of the most memorable and wonderful days of my youth was the first time I went to
Frank's Drum Shop in Chicago, IL. It was 1958 and you entered the building and walked down a long hallway that ended in an elevator. There was an "elevator operator" who sat
on a flip down seat attached to the wall. This was standard fare back then. He would ask what floor you wanted, work the floor buttons and lever for the door. He'd remind you to
"watch your step" as you entered and exited the elevator. In all fairness, some of the older
elevators had large gaps between the floor and elevator room that a small child could fall
through, but not this one. You'd ride up to the 4th floor and when the door opened.....
(drum roll please!), you were looking inside the drum shop, not the hallway. The store was
full of drums and all things percussion and had lots of drummers there. Downtown Chicago had all kinds of musical venues in the loop area and there was always a constant
movement of rental equipment of all kinds in and out Franks. Someone would shout that
hold the elevator we need to get this equipment over such and such a place right away.
There were 2 drum sets by the windows overlooking Wabash Ave. These sets faced each
other and anyone was free to sit down and play with the person facing them. It got very loud. When the phone rang a whistle was blown and the rule was simply that it had to get very quiet NOW! In a very quiet room, full of guys and gals that had just been playing everything in the place, someone would answer the phone in a quiet voice and simply say
"Franks". Another toot of the whistle and the playing would all start again in earnest.
In the late 1960's the late great Roy C Knapp Sr gave private drum lessons by audition. I
studied with him for one year but have covered that elsewhere in another post.

So this brings me back to my 1966 Supraphonic with super-sensitive strainer and how
I kinda missed it until yesterday. My new Ludwig 5x14 Black Beauty w/tube lugs (continually adjustable Ludwig muffler, different heads, different snares) is the best snare
I have ever had. It is a source of real joy. I get to use it this weekend on its first small group jazz gig.....terribly excited I am!!!!!!!!!!!


Platinum Member
Great story! What a sight that must have been, walking into that shop. Very cool.

I love my Black Beauties.

A BB has always just worked perfectly for any type of music I wanted to play, and in every venue.
My Bronze BB is an '89, and the two Brass are '02, and '05 (if I remember correctly on the Brass).

Enjoy your snare and your gig!


Silver Member
Walking into Franks was indeed amazing! What I left out of the story was the pros that
you sometimes ran into in the store. One time I went to Frank's and when the elevator door
opened there was Buddy Rich showing some guys some stuff on a snare drum. I also ran
into Shelly Manne, Gene Krupa, Louis Bellson and others during visits. Frank's offered a lot
of clinics to boot and those were jam packed with no room to spare. The pros were always
very kind to us younger drummers and showed us things and offered encouragement, always.


Platinum Member
Wow, thanks for the great stories. I'm wondering about your comment "....with the exception of 1962 - 1967 I have mostly played jazz..." . I'm guessing perhaps you were whisked up into the British Invasion Beatlemania thing and had to wear a mop top and make like Ringo... :)


Silver Member
ref 1962-1967, at that time I wanted to play jazz but there were many opportunities to play in
"surf" bands at first then rock. Rock was where the party was at and I am glad that I think
I remember being there. Our rock band toured in the US during the 1967 "summer of love"
and I even had hair. That was the end of innocence for me as the draft caught up with me
in 1968 at age 20. Vietnam Vet here.

Pete Stoltman

Silver Member
I'll never forget the first time those elevator doors opened on the 4th floor for me. Kind of like Dorothy opening the door to Munchkinland. What a magical place Frank's was. I took lessons there for a few years and spent countless hours hanging out as a student at DePaul University right down the street. Loved seeing all the pros coming and going. You'd see the tympanist from Chicago Symphony chatting with a touring rock guy, jazz cats discussing rudiments with drum corps instructors, and everything in between. The staff at Frank's was a unique group unto themselves too. Maury and Jan Lishon acting like chaperones for a virtual "Animal House" cast of characters. Thanks for triggering some very happy memories.