I was on the train during my daily commute in to Boston and Spotify introduced me to a great artist by the name of Gretchen Parlato, specifically a song called All That I Can Say. The song begins with a very cool funky little beat involving snare, kick and hi-hat. The song is beautiful and that groove and kick drum sound got me. The kick itself has a warmth and presence that I fell in love with immediately. There’s an actual note coming from the drum that almost negates the need for bass guitar completely. My guess is the drum is smaller in diameter than your typical 22″, say 18 or 20″, made from mahogany and with slightly low-to-medium tuning. This song got me thinking about finally doing what I’ve always thought about doing: finding and restoring a vintage 20″ Ludwig 3-ply mahogany kick drum for recording and playing at small gigs.
I’ve always loved the vintage sound and looks of old drums but the hardware is always worn, rusty and not designed well for gigging on a regular basis. What I want is a shell in relatively good condition that I can strip and wrap and can be used with modern hardware that is up to the task of being setup and broken down night after night.
So I began the search. Between Ebay and a few vintage drum groups on Facebook, it didn’t take long for me to find what I was looking for. A New Jersey resident had posted on Facebook a 1961 20″ Ludwig 3-ply kick drum for sale. It had no hardware, a worn out cracking silver sparkle wrap and several extra holes drilled into it. The worst hole was about 1-3/4″ in diameter for a tom mount of some kind. The hole itself wasn’t even a clean cut but rather it looked as if a previous owner used a smaller drill bit and punched several smaller holes in the shell to essentially “cut-out” a bigger hole. It was a butchered mess and needed to be addressed at some point.
I contacted the seller and secured the drum. The same seller told me about a Ludwig 16×16″ floor tom from the same era in similar condition that he was selling. It also had a cracked wrap that was lifting in a few areas, extra holes and no hardware. I secured that shell also.
A few days later, both shells arrived on my doorstep. Let the restoration begin.
As you can clearly see the drum needs a little TLC. The wrap is faded, scuffed up and torn in a few places. But the shell itself is still in round and in pretty good condition overall. The bearing edges are in great shape considering this drum is nearly 60 years old.