The little kit with a VERY BIG History. You may not know, but between Pete Best and Ringo Starr there was Andy White!
This is the 1956 mahogany shell Ludwig Super Classic finished in black diamond pearl that was used by Andy White on the very first Beatles record which was the Beatles self-penned ‘Love me Do’ and B side ‘PS I Love You’. There were three versions recorded (Best, Ringo & Andy) but the version used as the first Beatles record (No 1 in the USA) had Andy White on drums with Ringo playing tambourine. Ringo had just joined the band and deemed too inexperienced by George Martin, and Ringo’s Premier kit was not sounding great in the studio. Andy was brought in with the Ludwig kit to do the session. No doubt this little beauty so impressed Ringo he went out and bought Ludwig drums himself. His use of them in the Beatles made Ludwig the biggest drum manufacture in the world over the next few years (recognized by Ludwig themselves).
Andy was a top session man and played on many other prominent records by artists like Chuck Berry, Billy Fury, Herman's Hermits, Tom Jones and the list goes on. Allmusic magazine called Andy White “the busiest drummer in England from the mid- '50s through the mid-'70s". The kit itself is rare (Oct 1956 date stamped shells). You don’t see many around. This was a transition year for Ludwig as they had bought the name back in May 1955. Rock and roll had just hit the world big time. Amazingly enough, it’s still only two owners from new. I was lucky that my drum tutor, Reg Weller, was another top session man too. He was a buddy of Andy’s and when my father agreed to buy me a kit in the mid-60s Reg said, "leave it to me". Andy had just been given some Ajax kits as an endorsement so he let the Ludwigs go.
This is the kit I learned to play on. I did chop it about - had to change the old slider tom holder with a T bar and the tom legs gave up (still have all the original bits). It didn’t get replaced until I joined the Pat Travers Band in 77, the era of big concert toms and double bass drums, I went on to play with many rock bands like Uli Jon Roth, John Cale, Wild Horses, UFO and now HOUSE OF X. Recently I bought a new DW kit because the finish was Black Diamond Pearl like the Ludwig. Even though I have a few kits I still use these Ludwigs. I did all the writing sessions for the HOX album on it.
When I got back in touch with Andy who is now living in the USA, one of the first questions I had was how did he acquire the kit. It was impossible to buy US made products in Europe after the war, so they had to be specially imported. As you may know it was Cliff who bought the first Strat back for Hank Marvin. Andy told me, “There was an American band coming over to tour Europe, so that allowed a British band to go to the USA. The unions were very strict back then, so I took an old beat up Ajax kit with me and the first thing I did when I arrived in New York was head down to the best drum shop, bought the Ludwig and dumped the Ajax!!”. My next question was the obvious one. When I got the kit as a kid I was told verbally that this was one he used on the Beatles session but you never know, so I was really pleased when he confirmed it. I am trying to find a way of reuniting Andy with the kit for a session. It's a shame he is in the USA or I would stick it in the car and wiz round.
There are many of stories from me too - used on my early recordings (Screaming Lord Sutch etc), the kit was lost by British Airways in 78 on my first US tour. The great Keith Moon had lent me some flight cases to use and sadly died while I was away. When I arrived back, luckily they had found them, but as the cases had Keith Moon stencilled all over them they had been impounded and they were being held by the estate and it didn’t matter that what was inside was mine. After lots of wrangling I got them back by sending them the bill for a hire drum kit.
I still use the kit and that’s how it should be, not just a collectors piece. It’s perfect for small blues gigs and I have even been known to put the kit in a local venue for the blues jam. Most don’t know what they are sitting behind… a big bit of History.