Greetings and salutations to all you vintage and custom drum lovers. I hope you are having a wonderful Summer. If you are tired of the heat it will soon be over and we can start complaining about the cold weather. It's just great to be alive and able to play drums. I started playing drums as a child and stopped playing in my twenties to get married, have babies and prepare to be a Christian minister. I thought my drumming was over forever, so I sold my Ludwig Standard kit. I didn't have or play a set of drums for ten years. I have a good friend who encouraged me to start back playing, and I am glad he did. It wasn't long after I started back playing that I began collecting drums. It really all began with a classified ad in my local paper which read "two drum sets for sale." I answered the ad and bought the two Ludwig drum sets. One was a Rocker set and the other was a clear Vistalite set with a matching snare. I cleaned up the Rockers and sold them, but kept the Vistalites. I saw John Bonham play his now famous Amber Vistalite set and thought,"that's the most beautiful drum set I have ever seen." I also believed they were the loudest drums I had ever heard.
There were earlier "clear" drums than Vistalites. The Zickos clear drums were earlier, and the Fibes clear drums also pre-date Ludwig's Vistalites. No other company went as far with plastic drums as Ludwig. Ludwig introduced the Vistalite line in 1973 with clear and five colors; red, blue, amber, yellow and green. Later on they introduced all sorts of patterns and solid white as well as black. A smoky color was later added. Tivoli Vistalites with internal lights were introduced in 1978. The rising plexiglass prices soon spelled the end for the whole line. Vistalites were discontinued around the mid 1980s. I was really pleasantly surprised when Vistalites were re-issued in 2000. The re-issues are the original basic solid colors. You can purchase a very nice original set or a re-issue set for about the same money.
This set I am featuring from my collection is a 1970s blue Big Beat set. The clear and blue colors have been Ludwig's best sellers through the years. I suppose Amber and yellow also sold well thanks to the Bonham influence. The clearer colors have done better than the darker colors. The green sets are probably the most rare. I have been told that not many green sets (possibly as few as 50 ) were made. My Big Beat set has a 22"X14" bass, 16"X16" floor tom, 13"X9" ride tom and a 12"X8" ride tom. I have placed a 1970s 14"X5" brass Supersensitive snare with the set for the photos. I also placed a custom built 14"X5" 12 lug clear blue snare with a Millennial throw and a 1930s badge in the photos. The blue and olive badges on these drums have sharp points. The rounded corner blue olive badges started in 1979. The lugs on all the drums, even the 12" tom are large classic lugs. Some of the earlier 12" toms had small classic lugs. The tone control knobs have three mounting screws. Earlier sets still used the one screw tone control knob. My set will date somewhere in the late 1970s. They tune up nicely and sound great. I forgot how much heavier they are than the old three ply sets.
Mike Gray is another drum collector who has been a close friend for many years. He had this set for a while and enjoyed playing them. He has a great collection of snares. He might have more snares than me, but not as many full sets. Mike called me one day and told me he was going to sell some drum sets. He was particularly interested in selling a Rogers set and two Ludwig sets. I stuffed my pocket with cash and went to visit Mike. I bought all three sets, but sold the Rogers butcher block set and the silver sparkle Ludwig set I bought from him. I kept the blue Big Beat set for myself. I had sold my clear set I told you about earlier. The blue set filled the emotional void left from selling that set. As I was leaving, Mike said he had a gift for me. He is a "cut up" at times so I was afraid to take him seriously. He went back in the house and came out with the blue custom Vistalite I pictured with the set. He had built the drum himself, and it is a fine job. It has twelve (old heavy) Imperial lugs like the ones on pre-serial number snares. It has a beautiful enamel 1930s badge and a sweet millennial throw. This is a beautiful drum. It has clear Diplomat heads on it, and it is a very sensitive drum. It was such a nice present, and it goes without saying that snare means a lot to me. If you have a Vistalite set, please leave a comment.