“Wire brushes, the high hat, tripod drum thrones, clamping basket snare drum stands, shell mounted bass drum spurs and tom tom holders. These components are so much a part of the modern drum set that today’s drummers may be tempted to take them for granted. But, in fact, each of these pieces of drum equipment was first developed and fabricated by a remarkable manufacturing company founded in Worcester, Massachusetts at the beginning of the 20th century.”
Thus begins Jeremy Esposito’s wonderful new book, “Walberg & Auge – The History and Future of America’s Most Innovative and Unknown Drum Company”. Mr. Esposito will be very instrumental in the future of W&A because he now owns the company. A rather new vintage drum enthusiast, having started only recently in 2011, Jeremy bought his first W&A drum set and was hooked. He started researching the history, discovered that the company had dissolved in 1983, and quickly purchased and registered the company name and trademarks, the website domain and started a Facebook Page. Walberg & Auge is now registered as a non-profit for historical and educational purposes.
The subject was researched extremely well. Jeremy consulted with the best of the best of the vintage drum experts, some of who write for Not So Modern Drummer. I can’t think of any aspect of the W&A company story that has not been documented and covered here. The book is laid out in a classy manner. Lots of very big black and white, and color pictures. Esposito writes well too and makes this a fun read for us vintage drum nuts. There are full catalogs, lots of stories and anecdotes from former W&A employees, a great list of the drum companies that used W&A hardware, patent pictures of W&A inventions, pictures of present and past players of W&A drums, and much, much more. It is a sizeable book with 389 pages. The Introduction was written by famous drum educator, writer and historian Daniel Glass.
Jeremy has partnered with two well respected drum builders to restore and build W&A drums. Rob Kampa, well known drum builder who has making his own Magstar drums for decades now, and who just recently acquired the WorldMax USA drum hardware company . Rob is now making new Walberg & Auge drums with features and builds that hark back to the historic W&A drums lineage. Rob and WorldMax are just down the way from me here in Nashville so I will bug him to no end about W&A now! :-) And Anthony DeFusco of Village Drum and Music has expertly restored vintage W&A sets for the company’s archives and for W&A customers.
I could go on about the great stories and history in this book, but I want to focus on one particular story that I think will solve a debate that has been going on for ninety years: Who thought of and invented the high hat stand? With eye-witness testimony from those who worked there, Jeremy has put this matter to rest with this book. Long time W&A employee and drum builder George Bernard said, “Barney invented the hi-hat”, referring to Barney Walberg. “The high hat originally started as the low boy, that’s what they called it, which sat about eight to ten inches off the floor and you just used it with your foot. So some drummer, whoever he was, said, ‘Could you make it taller so I can hit it with my stick too?’ So we did and that started the high hat.” This was in 1926 according to Bill Ludwig. There is another version of the story with Barney Walberg accidentally dropping a stick on a low boy and discovering the sound that made right at the opening action of the cymbals. It’s not a stretch to say that many drummers had the idea to make the low boy higher and it’s not a stretch either to say that many drummers were probably already hitting the low boy with a stick. Regardless of who first thought of it or how it was brought to his attention, Barney Walberg and his company spent months experimenting and developing and inventing the high hat stand, one of the most expressive percussion instruments ever created. Every drum company in America was selling the W&A high hat soon afterward, and every great drummer was playing them. They were the only game in town for a long time. And the high hat stand has not changed much since then. We are still using the same basic design.
There are lots of great stories that tell the what, who, why, how and when of the development of so many innovations to the drum set and percussion instruments. Catalogs, news articles, patent pictures, badge time lines, and pictures of major artists of the time like Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Tony Williams using W&A kept me entertained for hours. I highly recommend this superb book. And hats off to Jeremy Esposito for thinking to do this. I wish I had thought of it.
Also available on Amazon.com with Free Kindle Download! (Free Kindle App for Most devices)
Full Color: $65 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0692577017
Black & White: $39.99 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1519311478
New W&A Drums can be found at WWW.walbergandauge.com
and look them up on FaceBook
I plan on writing another article about the new modern W&A drums once I can nail down Rob Kampa for an interview.