Cooper’s Vintage Drums

http://www.coopersvintagedrums.com

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The History of the Slingerland Drum Company

Here is a brief history of the Slingerland Drum Company from 1923-1970. I have included many photos, which may take a while to load. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are from my personal collection. For more detailed information on Slingerland, please visit the “Guide to Vintage Drums” section of this web site. Some of the same information and photos are featured in both articles.

 

Very early Slingerland badge

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Photo courtesy of Dave Brown

 

It is important to note that while all dates mentioned here are fairly accurate, some cannot be verified. This is due to Slingerland’s occasional use of older badges and hardware on newer drums, contradictory catalog listings, special custom orders, and loose quality control at the factories. In addition, nothing was ever wasted at the Slingerland  factories, so it was not uncommon for production workers to use up older parts, badges, and drum shells or to mix and match parts, resulting in some confusion for vintage drum enthusiasts many years later.

 

~SLINGERLAND~

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1923: The Slingerland Banjo 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 advertisement in a May 1925 music trade magazine

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Slingerland May-Bell Banjo

 

                                     Unknown Source

 

 

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Slingerland Factory

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1920’s-1930’s

 

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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.

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Early 1930’s Artist Model with Tone Flange and Artgold Hardware

 

1929 Rose Pearl Tone Flange model

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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.

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Below is an exceptionally rare Artist Model drum known as the Lipskin Special Model. Lipskin was a musical instrument distributor in the Midwest

(Courtesy of Les Rutledge)

 

 

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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.

 

1930 Catalog

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Slingerland Black Beauty

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                                                                          Dave Brown Collection

 

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                                                             Photo by Tony Bradshaw, courtesy of Jim Messina

 

 

Totally reconditioned* Slingerland Black Beauty

 

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                                                                                                             *Restored by Adrian Kirchler

 

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1934 Catalog

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Late 1920’s Artists’ Models

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Late 1920’s Sea Green Pearl Artist Model

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Daughter and Grandaughter of H.H. Slingerland, Sally and Laura Slingerland, seen

holding a late 1920’s Slingerland Artist Model at the 2012 Chicago Drum Show

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Late 1920’s Slingerland Opal Pearl snare drum 

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Photo courtesy of John D. Zima

 

 

Early 1930’s Slingerland Sparkling Gold Pearl snare drum with Full Dress Diamonds

(Notice that Full Dress snare drums did not always have badges. However, bass drums did have them.)

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Sparkling Green Pearl Artists’ model

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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 and a special cloud badge bearing Fancher’s name.

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Sea Green Pearl Fancher Model

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Black Diamond Pearl Fancher Model

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Early 1930’s Artists’ Models

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BRASS SHELL VERSION

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Wooden Hoop Artists’ Model

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THE DUALL RADIO MODEL

Slingerland’s version of the parallel snare strainer, the Duall debuted around 1933-1934. This model had an extremely complicated snare mechanism and was similar in concept to Ludwig & Ludwig’s Super snare mechanism as well as Leedy’s Parallel system. However, the Duall was soon discontinued after about a year due to a lawsuit over patent infringement with the Ludwig & Ludwig Drum Company. There were a few different strainer designs, including one type that utilizes a wire cable instead of a metal rod.

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1934 Du-All Models

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Photos courtesy of Dave Brown

 

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Possibly the most rare Slingerland drums are the Black Engraved DuAll models. The photo below shows the only engraved model known to exist.

 

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.

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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.

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1935 Sparkling Green Pearl Slingerland Broadcaster

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1935 White Marine Pearl Slingerland Broadcaster

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Note the use of the older Todd internal tone control on the Broadcasters.

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Engraved “Broadcaster” hoop

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1935 Slingerland Sparkling Gold Pearl Broadcaster

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1935 Metal Shell (brass) Slingerland Broadcaster

 

 

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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”.

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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).

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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).

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1936 Catalog illustrating the various finishes available.

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Very rare 1936 metal (solid brass) shell Radio King (note the tapped lugs)

 

1937 5x14 Radio King

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1936 Patrician drum outfit

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Early trap console

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Rare 1936 Abalone Pearl Radio King

                                         Courtesy of Mike Curotto

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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.

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The 1936 catalog featured these new tunable tom toms…slingtomscat2

 

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 are photos of Gene Krupa using an early Radio King tom with snare lugs and an example of a green pearl tom with them.

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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.

 

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.

Gene Krupa Model

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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

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Late 1930’s Black Diamond Pearl Gene Krupa Model

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6.5x14 Radio Kings circa 1939-40

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1940’s

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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.

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1942 Slingerland patent for the Super

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1940 Slingerland Catalog

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1940 Super Radio Kings

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Hollywood Ace with Super lugs

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7x11 Tom Tom featuring the Super lugs

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Extremely rare 14x24 bass drum with Super lugs.

 

By 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

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For the drummers who did not like the extended snare systems of Radio King snare drums, a simpler version was available. Sometimes referred to as the “Buddy Rich” model (the true Buddy Rich model had 16 Super lugs, three point strainer, and no extension brackets), the drum featured a three point strainer and simple butt assembly and bottom hoop.

1940’s Radio King without brackets

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1940 Super Swing Krupa Full Dress Ensemble

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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).

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During the war (1942-45) and until about 1947, the aluminum cloud badge was often used in addition to the brass version. It is interesting to note that WWII Rolling Bombers did not have aluminum badges. Most likely, most of the aluminum badges were only used near the end of the war or right after the war.

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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.

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This 1940’s Radio King has the rare aluminum bottom hoop. Brass was difficult to obtain during  and right after WWII.

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After the end of World War II, Slingerland slowly resumed normal drum production but their drums were basically the same as their pre-war drums. Understandably, it would be several years before any significant design advancements were made. One example of Slingerland’s rather slow move toward the future was their lack of floor tom legs. Leedy had been offering floor tom legs since 1938! Slingerland finally joined the competition in 1947, replacing the older cradle stands with nearly exact copies of Leedy and Ludwig & Ludwig’s leg brackets.

 

Cradle stand (left) and late 40’s leg brackets (right).

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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.

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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. Large bass drums like 14x26 and 14x28 bass drum shells were often cut down to smaller sizes.

1940’s Radio King set with 14x24 bass drum.

 

1930’s Radio King set with bass drum that was cut down from 28” to 24”.

Interior photo of “cut down” bass drum. Note the beautiful craftsmanship.

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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!

 

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1950’s-1960’s

1949-53: Slingerland drums remained pretty much the same during this period. Around 1949, 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.

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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.

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The large oval badge was replaced by a slightly smaller version in 1952.

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Early 50’s 20x20 Combo- Be Bop set with reversible pedal and 4x13 solid maple snare

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5.5 x13 Bop snare

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Combo outfit in action

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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1955 Slingerland Krupa Deluxe Outfit

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One very unusual and somewhat questionable drum was being made in the mid 1950’s, using Masonite as the shell composition. This was most likely an attempt to cut costs. Slingerland was also experimenting with aluminum hoops and lugs to save money and lessen the weight of a drum.

1955 Slingerland snare drum with Masonite shell

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It was also in 1955, that the Slingerland Drum Company purchased the Leedy Drum Company from the Conn musical instrument company. Conn had been the owner of both Leedy and Ludwig drum companies since 1929. 

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Slingerland’s new 1956 Leedy drums were basically Slingerland drums fitted with Leedy lugs, strainers, and badges. This Leedy drum line was discontinued around 1966.

 

Catalog page from a 1960’s Leedy catalog

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1960 advertisement, featuring Leedy endorsee Shelly Mann

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1957-58:  A new oval shaped brass badge with black lettering is introduced for Slingerland bass drums and snare drums.

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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.

 

Pearl finishes for 1958

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1958 Solid Maple Super Gene Krupa Sparkling Pink Pearl snare

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New features for 1958

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1958 Small scale “Little Pro” drum set for children

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1958 introduction of the new Flush Base stands

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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.

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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

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Pearl finishes for 1960

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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.

 

Artist model

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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

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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.

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1966 Duet Outfit

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Early promotional photo of Buddy Rich

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                                                                    (unknown source)

 

1968 Yellow Tiger Pearl jazz set (this finish only available for about one year)

1970 Red Tiger Pearl set

(this finish was available until 1973)

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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.

 

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