THE KENT DRUM MUSEUM
Featuring the drums of the E.W. Kent Manufacturing Company
By Mark Cooper
A brief history of the Kent Manufacturing Company. There are lots of photos, so please be patient as they load. This page is a work in progress, so check backfrom time to time for new additions and information as it becomes available.
Made in the U.S.A.
The Kent Drum Company was started in 1947 by two brothers, Ed and Bill Kent. Located in Kenmore, New York, The Kent Manufacturing Company produced snare drums, drum sets and accessories. Little is known about the company, however. Before starting the Kent Manufacturing Company, Bill Kent was employed by the Gretsch Drum Company for a time, probably in the 1940’s. The company closed in 1977. William Kent passed away in 2014 at the age of 99.
Photo by “Mouse”
Original Kent Factory Building at 1189 Military Road
The E.W. Kent Manufacturing Company offered quality drums at an affordable price. While they may not have measured up to the "big four" (Slingerland, Ludwig, Rogers and Gretsch), in terms of construction quality, E.W. Kent made some great looking and great sounding drums.
During the 1950’s and 60’s, Kent snare drums and tom toms were constructed of two-plys of maple, providing a very thin and resonant shell, similar to Gretsch drums of the same period. Often, actual production dates were stamped inside the drum shells. Bass drums were of six- ply maple construction. These maple shell drums varied in construction quality. Some were beautifully finished inside, with true bearing edges (see photo below), while other drum shells were crudely assembled, with dark brown glue smeared on the inside and virtually no bearing edges. It is common to see lugs and strainers attached crookedly as well. No two Kent drums were ever alike!
1950’s maple shell tom tom
Below is a quote from the cover of a 1962 Kent catalog. Note that the date mentioned (1937) is misleading. The date actually refers to a Kent distributor and not the Kent Manufacturing Company. The Kent brothers started their drum company after World War two, most likely in the late 1940’s.
Here is the text from a Kent catalog:
THE KENT FORMULA
The year 1937 saw a new drum factory rise in Kenmore, New York. Two brothers, Ed and Bill Kent had opened their doors.
These two men decided that if the new factory was to be a success they would need a formula which would have all the necessary ingredients for making drums. After much thought the simple formula was born.
1- PART STYLE 1- PART BEAUTY 1- PART PERFORMANCE
1- PART QUALITY 1- PART VALUE
Through this formula the name of Kent on drums has meant one of the finest drums made in the U.S.A.
The added ingredient of twenty-five years of experience has made the KENT DRUMS one of America’s leaders in the drum field.
1960’s KENT CATALOG
The company definitely cut some corners to keep production costs down, such as using the familiar tin foil Kent logo badge, as opposed to the standard brass badges used by most drum companies. These tin foil badges were white with gold lettering during the 50’s and early 60’s but were changed to blue and gold by the mid 1960’s. Another cost cutting feature was the use of single tension drums with “eyelets” instead of lugs and single flange rims with clips on less expensive models.
1960’s Kent Champagne Sparkle Snare Drum with Blue Badge
One area in which Kent did not cut costs was their lug design. Made from heavy solid metal, these snare drum and tom tom lugs were quite well made. They looked great and simply never broke! Some have suggested a mild similarity in looks to that of Leedy lugs of the 1930’s - 1950’s. Not only do they bear a similarity but the Kent snare drum lugs will even fit on a Leedy snare drum of the 1930’s! Same hole spacing.
Leedy Tom Tom lugs
Leedy snare lug
Around 1970. A new lug design was used on some drums. Little is known of the origin of these odd looking lugs.
Image courtesy of Andy Weis
The original Kent snare strainer mechanism was probably the weakest feature. These strainers were poorly designed and were prone to breakage.
Kent offered a few different tom tom holders. The standard rail mount and diamond plate holder that was used by some of the major companies (made by Walberg and Auge) was sometimes installed on Kent sets. A hoop mounted version was also offered. However Kent is known for their ratchet type mount which was installed in the bass shell and was tightened with set screws similar to Rogers. These tom mounts were well made but often spun around in the shell. This ratchet design was similar to Sonor mounts of the same era.
Hoop mounted tom holder
Ratchet tom mount
Sonor ratchet tom mount
Sometime around 1965, an attempt was made to offer higher quality drums by adding the patented "Adjust-O-Matic" tom tom and cymbal holders, employing hex-type rods similar to what Rogers was selling. A new ,"Ultra Deluxe" snare strainer was introduced, along with eight-lug snare drums, bass drums and floor toms. A complete E.W. Kent "Deluxe Professional" drum set , complete with cymbals, stands and pedals sold for $450 during the mid 1960’s. In an attempt to compete with the other American companies, Kent also offered a 15X25 cocktail "Combo" drum, which was double headed with internal snare wires and reversible foot pedal. They even made timbales and had a line of marching drums, including a 10X26 Scotch bass drum and a 16-lug 12X15 parade drum. I believe that E.W. Kent made the only 15X15 floor tom available at that time.
Adjust-O-Matic Cymbal Mount
E.W. Kent finished their drums in basically the same finishes as the other American companies. Sparkle finishes: Red, Gold, Silver, Green, Blue, and Capri. Pearl finishes: White Marine Pearl, Black Diamond Pearl, Capri Black Pearl. Other finishes were used but not catalogued such as Rose Marine Pearl and various Oyster Pearl finishes.
Black Diamond Pearl set with double tension bass drum and floor tom and center mounted tom lugs.
Tangerine Sparkle set with all double lugs.
E.W. Kent Mfg. Company also produced drums for other companies during the 1950’s. These drums were very similar to E.W. Kent products, utilizing the same maple shells, metal hoops, tin foil badges and snare strainers. Paramount, Revere and Musketeer were some of these companies. The Paramount snare drums incorporated unique snare mechanisms as seen in the photo below. It would appear that standard E.W. Kent lugs were altered for these two companies. They have the same hole spacing and basic shape but the ends were rounded off.
Six Lug Revere Snare Drum
Revere foil badge
Around 1967, Kent offered a metal bass drum hoops. Notice the rectangular pieces on top and bottom which facilitated the use of a bass pedal and accessories.
At some point, towards the end of the 1960’s, Kent drum shells were being imported from Japan and were no longer made of maple. However, the badges, hoops, and lugs were still American made (see photo below). By the early seventies, the E.W. Kent Manufacturing Company was selling only Japanese drums that were probably made by the Pearl Company of Japan.
Japanese strainer, luan plywood shell, Kent Badge, hoops and lugs
Note the Japanese-made Kent snare drums.
Courtesy of Andy Weiss
1960’s Red Sparkle 22,13,16 w/matching Snare and Kent cymbal
Eight Lug mid 1960’s Red Sparkle Snare Drum
1967 Champagne Sparkle Set (note the metal bass drum hoops)
1950’s Six Lug Green Sparkle Snare Drum
1960’s metal shell snare drum
1967 Black Diamond Pearl
Late 1950’s snare with Ludwig style finish
1960’s Gold Sparkle Snare Drum
Late 1950’s-early 60’s Silver Sparkle snare drum
Green Sparkle 1960’s snare drum
Inside look at a maple shell
RED OYSTER PEARL…One of the most beautiful and rare Kent finishes. This was an exclusive Kent finish!
Here are some catalog images, all from the Andy Weis collection