Cooper’s Vintage Drums
The History of the Slingerland Drum Company
1923: The Slingerland Banjo and Drum Company is formed by members of the Slingerland family in Chicago. Initially, only ukuleles, banjos and guitars were made. Drum production began in 1926.
Slingerland May-Bell Banjo
1928-1933: Slingerland’s first catalog was published in 1928, featuring tube lug snare drums such as the Fancher and Tone Flange models, along with bass drums in various and pearl and sparkle finishes. The tone flange assembly consisted of a thin metal ring that was placed on flat wood screws in the top bearing edge. A fat “hubcap” shaped flange rested on the ring under the head and top hoop. Its purpose was to eliminate unwanted overtones. According to the 1928 catalog, “It rejuvenates and clarifies the tone and staccato notes “pop” out like the crack of a machine gun.” The tone flange was actually still available in the late 1930’s and could conceivably be ordered on a Radio King drum. I have never seen a Radio King thus equipped but it was possible. Tone flanges were made from solid brass with holes, solid aluminum with holes and solid aluminum without holes. I believe the version without holes was the earlier type.
1929 Rose Pearl Tone Flange model
Below is an example of a Sea Green Pearl Tone Flange model made by the Liberty Musical Instrument Company of Chicago around 1928. Slingerland purchased the Liberty company around that time.
Metal shell drums were also featured, including the “Black Beauty Artist Model” engraved snare drum. Simulated gold plating or Artgold was applied to the hardware, creating a stunning contrast to the black plated shell. The Speedy Sure Hold snare strainer (known to collectors as the three point strainer) was used on all snare drums except for the lower line models. The Black Beauty Artist models were introduced in 1928 and were discontinued around 1935. Slingerland was the first to use the “Black Beauty” name. Today, they are extremely scarce and only about a dozen are known to exist.
Slingerland Black Beauty
Dave Brown Collection
From the collection of Ken Giunta - Photo by Tony Bradshaw, courtesy of Jim Messina (www.vintagedrumstalk.com)
Late 1920’s Artists’ Models
Photo by Zach Stewart
Late 1920’s Sea Green Pearl Tone Flange
Late 1920’s Slingerland Opal Pearl snare drum
Photo courtesy of John D. Zima
Sparkling Green Pearl Artists’ model
From the Dave Brown collection – Photo by Dave Brown
1920’s “Fancher” model
Named after rudimental champion, Frank Fancher. This solid walnut Artists’ model is equipped with a tone flange.
Early 1930’s Artists’ Models
BRASS SHELL VERSION
Wooden Hoop Artists’ Model
THE DUALL RADIO MODEL
Slingerland’s version of the parallel snare strainer, the Duall debuted around 1933-1934. Solid mahogany, walnut, and maple wood shells were used for snare drums and three-ply and five-ply mahogany shells for bass drums. Bass drums could be ordered with solid wood shells, as well. This model had an extremely complicated snare mechanism and was similar in concept to Ludwig & Ludwig’s Super snare mechanism. However, the Duall was soon discontinued after about a year due to a lawsuit over patent infringement with the Ludwig & Ludwig Drum Company.
1934 Du-All Models
Photos courtesy of Dave Brown
Photos courtesy of Mike Curotto
In 1934, Slingerland introduced their first tunable tom toms. The top head could be tuned but the botton head was attached to the shell with carpet tacks. These bottom heads were very thick and made from goat or pig skins.
1935: In this year, Slingerland introduced the Broadcaster model. While not actually catalogued, the Broadcaster was the forerunner to the Radio King models. This new drum featured a solid maple shell, double flanged engraved hoops and Slingerland’s new Streamline lug casings. These lugs had tapped threaded holes for the tension rods. By 1937, most lugs were equipped with spring-loaded, threaded inserts, which eliminated cross threading problems. The new extended patent pending adjustable snares gates were first used on this model, as well. While they are quite rare, a metal shell Broadcaster was also available in 1935. Few examples exist today.
1935 Sparkling Green Pearl Slingerland Broadcaster
1935 White Marine Pearl Slingerland Broadcaster
Note the use of the older Todd internal tone control on the Broadcasters.
Engraved “Broadcaster” hoop
1935 Slingerland Sparkling Gold Pearl Broadcaster
1935 Metal Shell (brass) Slingerland Broadcaster
The Gretsch Drum Company had been using the name “Broadkaster” since 1928, so in late 1935 or early 1936 Slingerland was “encouraged” to abandon the Broadcaster name. The name was then changed to “Radio King”.
1936-39: The Radio King line of drums first appeared in the 1936 catalog. These drums had the distinctive “Slingerland Radio King” stamped in the metal hoops (see photo at left). On very early Radio King drums, the words were actually engraved into the top rims (see photo at right).
1936 Catalog illustrating the Radio King line (Note the ten lug configuration pictured. I’m not certain that a ten lug Radio King was ever produced but it is possible. Eight lugs became the standard by 1938).
1936 Catalog illustrating the various finishes available.
1937 5x14 Radio King
1936 Patrician drum outfit
Early trap console
In 1936, the “King of Swing”, Gene Krupa became Slingerland’s first and most famous endorser. His photo would be featured on every Slingerland catalog until 1968. Krupa is credited with bringing the drummer to the forefront. He is also responsible for the introduction of the fully tunable tom tom. Prior to 1936, tom toms could only be tuned from the top, thus limiting the tuning range. He encouraged Slingerland to add a tunable bottom head and the rumbling “jungle beat” of the tom toms became a new voice in Swing music.
The 1936 catalog featured these new tunable tom toms…
Constructed of three-ply mahogany and poplar shells with maple reinforcing rings, the Radio King tom toms were available in various sizes: 6x10, 7x11, 8x12, 9x13, 12x14, 16x14 and 16x16. Although larger sizes were available, they were not offered in catalogs until the late 40’s. Most bass drums and tom toms had three reinforcing rings (see below) until the 1940’s.
*Drums that had pearl finishes had an outer ply of mahogany. Those with painted finishes received an outer ply of maple.
Interestingly, the very first of these drums were fitted with “streamline” snare drum lugs with the double ended inserts! Soon, special single sided lugs were produced. Below is a photo of Gene Krupa’s tom tom with early double ended lugs and a Sea Green Pearl floor tom with the same lugs
The best selling snare drum at this time was the Gene Krupa Model Radio King. It was an eight lug, solid maple snare drum and was offered in the 6.5x14 size only.
1937-38 Gene Krupa Models
Note the four screw extension brackets with adjustable end pieces.These were changed to the six screw type around 1938-39. The adjustable brackets had small brass thumb wheels that raised or lowered the height of the snares. These adjustable end pieces were discontinued after World War Two. For more information on strainers, visit the “Guide to Vintage Drums” at… http://www.coopersvintagedrums.com/ABCGUIDE2010.htm
Late 1930’s Black Diamond Pearl Gene Krupa Model
6.5x14 Radio King circa 1939-40
1940-1942: Slingerland drums did not change much in design from 1936 through 1939. However, in 1940, Slingerland introduced the Super Radio King snare drum. This drum featured the new Super lugs and the innovative Super snare strainer. The Super lugs (also known as the small beaver tail lugs) were available on snare drums as well as tom toms and even bass drums. The Super Strainer (also known as the clamshell) was an attractive design but proved to be rather fragile and difficult to adjust. Despite its shortcomings, the Super strainer was offered up until the early 1960’s.
1940 Slingerland Catalog
1940 Super Radio Kings
Hollywood Ace with Super lugs
7x11 Tom Tom featuring the Super lugs
Extremely rare 14x24 bass drum with Super lugs. This drum was actually played by Gene Krupa in 1941.
In the 1940’s, exotic finishes of the 1920’s and 30’s were gradually phased out, with white marine pearl and black diamond pearl being the most popular. A few sparkle finishes were offered as well.
1940 Hollywood Ace Model in Sparkling Green
1940’s Krupa Model in Sparkling Silver
1940’s 5.5x14 Radio Kings
For the drummers who did not like the extended snare systems of Radio King snare drums, a simpler version was available. Called the “Buddy Rich” model, the drum featured a three point strainer and simple butt assembly and bottom hoop.
1940’s “Buddy Rich” model
1940 Super Swing Krupa Full Dress Ensemble
1942: During World War Two, the U.S. government placed limits on the manufacturing use of essential materials such as brass and steel for non-essential items. As a result, American drum companies were forced to manufacture drums that were comprised of only 10% metal parts. Slingerland’s answer to this metal restriction was the Rolling Bomber line of drums. Replacing the metal lugs were beautiful hand-carved rosewood and walnut lugs. These distinctive lugs along with pearl-inlaid solid maple hoops, and rosewood Super strainers combine to create a true work of art. The Rolling Bombers line continued for the duration of the war (war years: 1942-45).
During the war (1941-45) and until about 1947, the aluminum cloud badge was often used in addition to the brass version.
For more information on drums of the war years, click here: http://www.coopersvintagedrums.com/war effort.htm
1946-47: Slingerland president H.H. Slingerland passed away on March 13, 1946. His brother Walter Robert Slingerland became new president.
This 1940’s Radio King has the rare aluminum bottom hoop.
After the end of Word War II, Slingerland resumed normal drum production but the drums were basically the same as the pre-war drums. Floor tom legs were first offered in 1947, replacing the older cradle stands.
Cradle stand (left) and late 40’s leg brackets (right).
1948: In 1948, Slingerland presented their new line of hardware. Replacing the Streamline lugs were the new Beaver Tail lugs. They were identical in design to the 1940 Super lugs but larger. These larger beaver tail lugs were installed on tom toms and bass drums.
The small Super lugs were still offered as an option on snare drums, toms and bass drums. New double flanged hoops were also introduced in 1948, replacing the single flange clip-on style hoops. Smaller bass drums became available in answer to the new Be-Bop craze.
1949 Radio King set with 20” bass drum
Below is a catalog page from 1948, illustrating the “NEW” Slingerland Super Gene Krupa Radio King snare drum. However, it is identical to the 1940 catalog illustration (see above). The text mentions the “new 1948 hardware” and the “new snare strainer”, which had been introduced over eight years earlier!
1948-53: Slingerland drums remained pretty much the same during this period. Around 1948-49, a new large oval brass badge was designed that replaced the cloud-shaped badges of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. This badge was used until 1951-52.
Oddly, some Radio King sets had both the older streamlined hardware as well as the new large oval badge. These were most likely older pre-war drums and/or parts fitted with new badges.
The large oval badge was replaced by a slightly smaller version in 1952.
Early 50’s 20x20 Combo- Be Bop set with reversible pedal and 4x13 solid maple snare
4x13 Bop snare
Combo outfit in action
1954: In this year, Slingerland president Walter Robert Slingerland retired with H.H. “Bud” Slingerland Jr. replacing him as new president of the company.
H.H. “Bud” Slingerland
A third, simpler version of the brass oval badge came out around 1954 and was used for about three years. Note the aluminum grommet on this mid fifties bass drum badge below.
1955: Slingerland completely changed the look of their drums in 1955 with the introduction of the new Sound King hardware. Futuristic styling gave the Sound King drums a unique and more modern appearance. The new hardware featured Stick Saver brass hoops and newly designed lugs. Around 1958, telescopic bass drum spurs, push button floor tom leg brackets, and newly designed bass drum T-rods and claws were introduced. Early versions of Sound King hoops had the distinctive Radio King name stamped into them. This feature was discontinued around 1956. The old Radio King “stick chopper” straight hoops, beaver tail lugs and streamlined lugs were no longer offered on any of Slingerland’s drums.
The drums of this period were pretty much the same as those of the 1940’s. Three ply shells (mahogany and poplar) with maple reinforcing rings for bass drums and tom toms remained standard. The Radio King snare drums were still being offered with either the three point strainer or the Super (clam shell) strainers. Bass drums were gradually becoming smaller (14x24, 14x22, 14x20) at this time due to the new trends in jazz music and the wane in popularity of big band music of the 1930’s and 40’s.
1955 Slingerland Krupa Deluxe Outfit
1960 advertisement, featuring Leedy endorsee Shelly Mann
1957-58: A new oval shaped brass badge with black lettering is introduced for Slingerland bass drums and snare drums.
Drum shells were still pretty much the same as they had been since the 1940’s, however the maple reinforcing rings were eventually cut down to a thinner size maple ring by 1958.
Also in 1958, a new snare strainer called the Rapid Strainer was offered on the Hollywood Ace model as well as both student models. This strainer was used well into the 1970’s.
1958 Solid Maple Super Gene Krupa Sparkling Pink Pearl snare
New features for 1958
1958 introduction of the new Flush Base stands
1959-60: Around this time, the Slingerland factory moved from its Chicago, Illinois location to Niles, Illinois. The Radio King name was no longer being used except for the Student Model Radio King. Oddly, this drum had a three ply shell and none of the characteristics of the famous Radio King line of snare drums. The solid maple, “true” radio Kings were now called either The Super Gene Krupa models (equipped with the Super strainers) or The Krupa Models, which had the three point strainers.
Smaller bass drums became the standard on all drum outfits by this time. A double bass drum outfit (the “Duet”) was offered for the first time in 1960. It featured two 14x20 bass drums and twin 8x12 tom toms on a floor stand. The Gene Krupa deluxe Ensemble featured a 14x22 bass drum with 9x13 and 16x16 tom toms. (Note that the only difference between the 1960 Krupa Deluxe set and the 1955 version is the new floor tom leg brackets.)
1960 Slingerland Krupa Deluxe Outfit
1962: After 22 years the venerable Super (“clam shell”) strainer was replaced with the new Zoomatic strainer. Drums equipped with this new strainer were called Artist models. The shells were of solid maple but by 1970, the Artist models were made exclusively with three ply shells. Serial numbers were now stamped into every badge.
1963-66: The Radio King name returns once again with the New Radio King Chrome Snare Drum. This drum featured a solid brass shell, a three point strainer and could be ordered with eight or ten lugs. A solid maple shell Radio King snare drum was also once again available with the classic three point strainer and extended snare brackets.
Radio King Chrome Snare Drum
1965 was the first year for the new Gene Krupa Sound King Chrome Snare Drum, which was similar to the Radio King Chrome Snare Drum but was equipped with the Zoo-Matic strainer.
1967: The 1967 catalog would be the last to feature Gene Krupa on its cover. He remained a Slingerland endorsee until his death in 1973
1967 Slingerland catalog (Krupa’s last cover photo)
In an effort to compete with the Ludwig Drum Company’s hugely popular metal Supraphonic and Super-Sensitive snare drums, Slingerland added a new metal shell drum to their arsenal in 1967. This Super Sound King had a dual strainer assembly, with snare strainer mechanisms on both sides of the drum, reminiscent of the parallel drums of the 1930’s and 40’s.
1968: A new Slingerland tom tom mounting system was introduced in 1968. Called the “Set-O-Matic, it incorporated a ball and socket principal and was a vast improvement over the old rail mount type holders that had been in use since the 1940’s.
Also in 1968, drumming sensation Buddy Rich once again joined the Slingerland endorsee roster. Rich had previously been with the company from 1937 until 1940. He would remain until 1977.
Early promotional photo of Buddy Rich
1970 Red Tiger Pearl set
(this finish was available until 1973)
1970: H.H. Jr. (“Bud”) Slingerland retired as president in 1970 and the company was sold to a publishing firm, thus ending 42 years of family ownership of the Slingerland Drum Company. The company would continue to change corporate ownership (Gretsch and Gibson to name a few) throughout the next three decades, producing drums and percussion equipment with varying degrees of quality.