Hello and greetings drum enthusiasts. For this article I thought I would write about my 1968 Ludwig Miami Beach cocktail drum. I had heard about cocktail drums when I acquired my first Ludwig catalog in the early 90’s. I was still fairly new to collecting and while working in a mom and pop music store early on, I found a 1967 Ludwig catalog buried within some of the stores literature. The store owner agreed to sell me that catalog and I spent long hours looking through all the cool stuff Ludwig had to offer back before my time. It was also around this time that I was playing original music and often times my band would jam in a low key manner with acoustic guitars. I had always thought it would be cool to have something compact I could set up quick and after seeing the cocktail drums in the Ludwig catalog, I knew I wanted one.
Ludwig(WFL) started making cocktail drums in the 50’s as a means for singers and lounge acts to quickly get on and off a stage using up as little space as they could. Several different models were made including a set that included a 4x13 snare drum that attached to the side of the drum. This model was known as the Las Vegas model and was made around 1959. Other models had the main drum that relied on a set of snares that pushed up against the head to create a snare effect. A baffle was used inside to separate the bass drum sound from the snare sound. Ludwig’s stand up cocktail drums came in a 16x24 size and some of the lower end models were single headed leaving the bottom open. Any of the Ludwig finishes could be had including the lacquer finishes and most of the drums I have seen had to be wrapped using two pieces of wrap. Higher end models also had dual mounts at the front so that a cymbal or a cowbell could be added. Ludwig’s speedmaster pedal was supplied with Ludwig stand-up cocktail drums as the speedmaster pedal is reversible allowing the pedal to strike up to the bottom head. A special metal bracket was also used that attached to two of the legs on the drum allowing the pedal to be securely clamped in place.
I acquired my cocktail drum several years after discovering them in that ’67 catalog. I had been hunting eBay when this beauty showed up on my radar. After winning the auction I was informed by the seller that he was the second owner of the drum and he had owned it since the early 70’s. The drum was also retro fitted with mounts at the top that were not original Ludwig. I noticed this in the auction and wondered after I won if the wrong mounts possibly scared some bidders as the chance for extra holes in the shell was a great possibility. Fortunately when I was able to pop off the top head I realized that the wrong brackets were put on using the existing holes. At the time I only had a couple of early 60’s Ludwig mounts in my parts stash so instead of the correct post 65 mounts, this drum has early 60’s versions.
The early 60’s mounts work just fine though and at some point I may change them to the correct later 60’s mounts. I found several other interesting things of interest such as the black pearl wrap that is one big piece that covers the whole drum. As I mentioned earlier most of these drums had to be wrapped using two pieces but this drum has one big piece of wrap. It also looks like this drum may have been originally purchased by the military as it has stencil writing inside the bottom that reads U.S.N., June 1968 with a stenciled serial number that matches the serial number on the badge. This drum has round knobs instead of ball bat mufflers(indicating a 1968 build) and it came without the mounting bracket or pedal. I had a speedmaster pedal already and a friend of mine fabricated the mount that I attach the pedal to. The snares in this drum are the type that attach to the round knob at the players side and they press against the head. While this is a decent idea, they really do not sound all that great. Not long after purchasing this drum I happened upon a nice 1959 black pearl transition badge 3x13 Ludwig jazz combo snare and I use that on a snare stand with the cocktail set. It looks great, sounds much better and gives me the option to use the top head of the cocktail drum as a floor tom. I actually recorded with this set up on one of my bands CD’s several years ago and it worked really well. My band is The Shana Stack Band and the album is called Then and Now, which was released in 2014. I used this set up on the last four songs as we decided to rerecord some acoustic versions of some of our original songs from previous albums. I love cocktail drums and although the standing up and balancing to play them can be tricky, I think they have a really cool retro vibe and they really can sound quite nice. Best of all I can set up mine in under 10 minutes and I only need two trips at the most to carry it anywhere.