Greetings and salutations to all who read this, the first installment of my Not So Modern Drummer "Founder's Blog". My instructions for this experiment were to: "Write whatever you feel like writing". Harrumph, so much for the instructions.
If you're new to NSMD, you may not know that it started out as a newsletter between a group of drum collectors for the purpose of sharing info, selling and buying, and general communication about vintage drums. Prior to Not So Modern Drummer's appearance there was very little printed information available on the topic of vintage drums.
Andy Florio, a respected drummer, actor, and historian, had formed an association of "Drumologists" and sent out a newsletter or two himself, but I didn't discover this until I'd already started publishing Not So Modern Drummer. Andy was a wealth of knowledge, having been a collector of vintage gear since the 1960's or earlier. I still have my membership card to the National Association of Drumologists, along with many fond memories of talking to Andy on the phone, deciphering the history of drums!
Andy and many other collectors who'd been around when I got interested in the hobby, (Charlie Donnelly, Jim Pettit, Michael Lorenz, Greg Wilson, Manny Wise, Bill Ludwig II, etc.) provided invaluable access to information that got shared in the early issues of NSMD. Through trading between these folks and the literally hundreds of new friends and collectors that I met through NSMD, I continually gathered and collected information almost as vigorously as I pursued the ultimate snare drum. The vast majority of this information fueled the articles that appeared in NSMD magazine, whether from me or the numerous individual subscriber/collectors who contributed their findings.
The first book on the topic of drum history of the 20th Century was a book by Paul Schmidt on the history of the Ludwig drum company, however, the lion's share of it's content had been printed before in various Ludwig publications. Nevertheless, Schmidt's book put it all together and arranged it so that the Ludwig story was told with a well constructed narrative to tie it all together. . . as far as we knew at that time. TWO MORE Ludwig histories have been written in the years since (one by William F. Ludwig II, and the other by Rob Cook), and I would suggest you read them all to get a good rounded view of the company.
I contributed a page on my particular specialty, the Ludwig Black Beauty, to Schmidt's book and provided the cover photo for that book. While talking with the publisher about these contributions, he asked if I'd be interested in writing a book on the general topic of vintage drums. That led me to gather up the "meat" of the previous 10 years or so of research and, with a little new information I'd gotten after publishing the original stories, compile it into a book, the "GUIDE TO VINTAGE DRUMS". This book was printed in 1992 and is still in print today as well as being available in ebook format. Since then, drums on the subject have appeared steadily with most originating from Rob Cook, one of the most dedicated researchers and detail oriented writers I've ever met. Although I've either contributed information or helped Rob in small ways with a lot of his books, I'm always astounded by the amount of stuff he finds that I never knew about before reading it in one of his books.
Harry Cangany is another historian who, although he's only written a couple of books, is one of the most knowledgeable people in the field. His dedication to the Leedy brand has resulted in the unearthing of many rare photographs, anecdotes about the Leedy family and the first major drum company of the 20th Century.
All of this is to say that, although I get a lot of credit for being the founder of NSMD and a major influence on the vintage drum collecting hobby, everything I brought to it came from talking to other collectors, sharing our observations and documents and synthesizing a picture of the manufacturing processes and drum makers of the past. Without every person who ever called me (or answered the phone when I called) you wouldn't be reading this blog, or the Not So Modern Drummer today
What am I doing now! About the same as I've done for the past 7 years. As a result of a short and not life-threatening bout with cancer that scared the peewattle out of me, I decided that I needed to make some changes in my lifestyle. One of those changes involved putting all my previous experience in the drum industry in my suitcase and becoming a drum tech.
Since June of 2007, I've been the touring drum tech for Bryan Hitt, of the band REO Speedwagon. I go where they go, and my job includes maintaining, setting up and tuning the drums for every performance. For a drum geek like myself, this is the best job on the planet. I get to play with drums every day at work, then I get to PLAY them for the line check and occasionally get to play in the opening slot with my fellow crewmates in a band called the CrewZitions. Best of all, the constant physical activity and movement required by the job has helped to get me into the best physical shape I've been in since my college days. I'll most likely be writing a column or two on the subject of being a touring drum tech and the ups and downs of being on the road.
I also continue to engrave drums, a hobby that took a hard left turn into jobsville almost as soon as I'd completed my first drum. If you've seen a hand-engraved drum in the past 20 years, chances are pretty good (way better than 50/50) that I'm the person who engraved that drum or designed the patterns if someone else engraved it. I'll be sharing some of the story of how I started engraving and some special projects that I'm working on as they come along. Hopefully, the stories won't be as boring as the actual work of engraving, but I'll understand if I hear you snoring as you read these.
Lastly, I was recently involved in the filming of a DVD with drummer Daniel Glass. The Century Project is two DVD's. The first one documents Daniels performances of drumsets portraying the development of the drumset from 1865-1965. The accompanying DVD entitled "Traps" contains almost six hours of interviews between Daniel and I discussing the evolution of each component of the drumset as it was added, and the historical context that necessitated each change or addition to the kit. These two DVD's are available from Alfred Publishing, and can be purchased online at Amazon.com, or at your favorite local drum store. Buy early, buy often, it makes a dandy Christmas gift to the drum geek in your house.
Thanks for reading and bye for now. John M. Aldridge, Founder of Not So Modern Drummer