In 1935, Ludwig & Ludwig celebrated its 25th, or “Silver”, anniversary. As stated in the Ludwig Drummer magazine of 1936, Ludwig & Ludwig was “Climaxing twenty-five years of supremacy” and introducing a “new sturdier shell construction: Ludwig All-Metal shells are spun from the best quality heavy-gauge brass with sturdy reinforcing bead in the middle, and edges are flanged and turned in against the inside wall of the shell for further strength and rigidity. The new heavy flanged counter hoops and modern design tension cases for the key tension lugs add both beauty and strength to the ‘Silver Anniversary’ models.” Ludwig offered these in brass or mahogany Super-Sensitive, Super-Ludwig, and Standard versions (5” X 14” and 6½” X 14” sizes). To me, the All-Metal brass snare drums were quite special as they had the newly introduced Silver Anniversary L&L badge, eight Imperial lugs (directly tapped, no inserts), heavy flanged hoops, and square bead in the middle of shell (although that was not always the case – read on…).
There is an aura which surrounds 1920s-30s Ludwig brass drums that continues to fascinate and thrill me. I’ve never heard one that didn’t sound terrific, and each has its own unique character. So I set my sights on obtaining one of these Silver Anniversary drums, and by a coincidence of fate, two Silver Anniversary L&L Standard snare drums came by my way: a 6½” X 14” and a 6½” X 15”. The 6½” X 14” was exactly as described in the 1936 Ludwig catalog, with the eight direct tapped Imperial lugs, square center bead, Professional strainer and nickel over brass finish. As you can imagine, one must be quite careful in not over-tightening the tension rods as you can strip the lugs, i.e., as they have no inserts. This drum was in good condition and sounded wonderful – great depth, projection and the rimshots and cross-stick off those heavy flanged hoops were to die for.
I was very impressed by this drum. About 6 months later, I came across a 6½” X 15” Silver Anniversary Standard snare drum for sale. I was a bit confused as the L&L 1936 catalog showed only a 14” being available, and in addition, this drum seemed to have a rounded center bead. I was starting to wonder if this was an authentic Silver Anniversary model. However, other than the size and bead contour, all else seemed identical to my 14” Silver Anniversary Standard. I did a bit of research and found that in the 1937 L&L catalog on page 6, there was additional fine print which said “see page 8 for special 6½” X 15” metal shell model”. So finally, on page 8, there was the 15” Standard snare and it showed a rounded center bead, although this was not specifically noted. The 6½” X 15” Standard Anniversary was “made in a special larger size recommended for large military concert bands because of its unusual volume and carrying power….made only on special, non-cancelable, non-returnable order.” So I had another wonderful L&L Silver Anniversary drum; this one with even a little more punch and depth. But the story does not end there…
It turns out that the 6½” X 15” Silver Anniversary drum was owned by none other than Ken Coomer, Nashville drummer and producer whose credits include Wilco, Clockhammer, Uncle Tupelo, Emmylou Harris, and Will Hogue to name a few. Ken was kind enough to share a little personal background on this drum.
“Here is a little history on the L&L snare drum. I purchased the drum from a pawn shop where Wilco bought a ton of different gear for recording and live. I knew it was something different, so I did some research and "presto chango" I find out that there may not be more than a handful of these know to exist, especially this unusual size. But, I would not have bought the drum if it sounded "like the box it came in." I have to be able to use a drum in some capacity. This drum had the first issue non- slotted (tapped) lugs. So you could strip them, and imagine where, if anywhere you could find the original parts. Early on I decided this was not going to be a road drum. But, I loved the tone, especially when I put the extra wide 42 strand Gretsch wires on - a great, sweet, sensitive snare drum.
I used this drum on Wilco's ‘Summerteeth’ and ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’. I also think I used it on a Steve Earle track from a movie called ‘Side Tracks’... always loved a press roll on this drum!
Hope that helps some....I feel like this gives me some closure on parting with this drum, sounds silly, but I think you get it.”
Indeed Ken, I do very much get it. This is an amazing drum, an important part of your musical legacy, and a rare survivor of over 75 years. I will be a good caretaker and ensure that it continues to make music and endure.
So now I’m off to find another cool drum story… if you have any of the other Silver Anniversary snare drums, please let me know (email@example.com)!
Happy drumming! Never forget that we drummers are custodians of both our music and the stories behind the drums we play… If we do not share these stories, they will fade away and tragically be lost…
Special thanks to Mark Cooper for his invaluable assistance in the preparation of this article.