1934-35 Slingerland Broadcaster

By Mike Curotto

Hi all,

Here's another one cleaned up and entered into the collection. I got this snare drum at the 2011 Chicago Show from our good friend and fellow collector, Mark Cooper of Cooper's Vintage Drums.


*The Broadcaster Model was very short-lived so for those of you that may not be familiar with this model here is a short history and background data regarding the Slingerland Broadcaster Model. The following is from Rob Cook's Slingerland Book (first edition): "The Broadcaster was evidently a forerunner of the Radio King, the strainer is a very early Radio King style strainer and the lugs do not have inserts. (The tension rods thread directly into the lugs.) The muffler was the single-pad style Harold R. Dodd muffler." Thanks again to Rob Cook. I have also read that Slingerland was legally forced to discontinue using the word "Broadcaster" (with a "c") as the Fred Gretsch Co. had been using the name "Broadkaster" (with a "k") on their drums way before Slingerland and therefore the court ruled in favor of Gretsch that Slingerland's Broadcaster was too close sounding/looking to Gretsch's Broadkaster.

The Shell: The Sparkling Green wrap was in pretty good shape with very few of those black "cancer" spots that usually show up on these older Green Sparkle drums. I was able to get a few layers of age off of the wrap with my Maguire's cleaning/polishing regime and the Sparkling Green finish came back to life. The solid maple shell interior was also in good shape and only needed a very light cleaning. The cloud badge was tight and weathered the last 75+ years pretty well.

The Hardware: I'll call it Slingerland Artgold but the hardware finish on this snare drum really resembles the Ludwig & Ludwig Classic Gold (brass plating with gold lacquer) finish that L&L used on their early-mid 1930s Black Beauties. There was a lot of Artgold present but an equal amount of age and tarnish. I haven't figured out how to duplicate the Classic Gold finish yet so the decision was to leave the hardware as is and just do a simple cleaning with a light coat of gold lacquer to seal everything to prevent any further tarnishing. The 16 tension rods were not correct so I went to my stash and found the correct tension rods but these had to be brass plated, antiqued and lacquered. Thanks again to Les and Brian Hadnagy of Avenue Plating for the brass plating and antiquing. The threaded snare gates have the letter "A" stamped on the inside (not seen) part of the rim and gates. This is called a "manufacturer's cartouche", thanks to Slingerland expert Dr. Carl Wenk for that information. I'd love to know if those type of markings are under the riveted snare gates, feel free to send photos. The Slingerland Broadcaster engraving on the top rim is pretty faint but it is there. All in all, the "carpet matches the curtains" pretty well on this drum.

Of-the-era calf heads and extension wires rounded out this cleaning/restoration.



1960s Gretsch Name Band


I have some great friends who love, collect, and play vintage drums. It is indeed a pleasure to share this common interest.

My editor has put harsh and undue pressure on us to get an article out in time for the Chicago Show. I'm kidding about the harsh and undue part. The editor is really a nice guy, and we all love him and appreciate what he does to get us out a magazine about our passion every month. If you don't think he is doing a great job, you should try to do it. I am hoping I can be at the Chicago Show this year so I can see all my collector friends, and share some time together looking at and hopefully buying some new "toys." Getting to know and keeping in contact with friends who love these old drums is one way to know about good deals for buying, and also it opens up contacts for selling your items when you want to or need to move something. I would much rather sell to a collector friend than ship a great drum off to who knows where. I am not knocking those who sell their drums out of the country, but once that Black Beauty leaves this country it's definitely gone for good. I will get some negative comments about this for sure.

The set I am featuring this month is a 1960s Gretsch Name Band set in blue sparkle. Sometimes I have to tell you why a set is cool, but I don't think I have to tell anybody how cool this kit is. The set is made up of : 20"X14" bass drum, 16"X16" floor tom, 13"X9" ride tom and a very cool 14"X5" matching snare drum. The snare has eight lugs and the Micro-Sensitive strainer. An alternative 22"X14" bass drum was also available in the PX4015 Name Band set 1961-1976. These drums sound great. The shells are six ply with silver sealer inside. The blue glass glitter finish is still very strong and vibrant on these fifty plus years old drums. It is a joy to own and play an old "round badge" Gretsch drum set from around this era. The die cast hoops and distinctive hardware give them a distinct look. What I would call a timeless classic look. They are truly beautiful.

I was saying how great it is to have friends who also share an interest in vintage drums. I bought this drum set from Bill Pace many years ago when I was just starting out collecting. One of my oldest and best "drum friends" is Bill Pace from Forsyth, Georgia. I have been friends with Bill for a long time, and I can truly say with all our drum trading he has always been fair with me. I have tried to do the same with all my drum trading as well. We need to have some ethics and deal with people in accordance with the "golden rule." You know that one, right? "Tell all the issues with the drum to others as you would have them tell all the issues to you." I know you do that already because you don't want a negative feedback. In the old days the only negative feedback was you got a bad name if you didn't deal fairly. Bill is quite a character though. He will work hard to get a good price selling his drums, but he will work even harder to get your drums at a good price.

The funny thing about this set I am showing you is it was bought by Bill at a pawn shop. When he bought the set the floor tom I now have with the set was not with them, instead the set had a MIJ 16"X16"" blue sparkle floor tom. It was a Jet model drum. When Bill bargained with the poor owner of the pawn shop he really focussed on the Jet floor tom. He acted so disappointed that the set didn't match etc. etc. etc. The set was sold for a lower price because of Bill's whining. He sold me the set as a "One Nighter Plus" which was listed in the catalog without the floor tom. I later added the floor tom I now have to make the set a "Name Band" outfit.

Gretsch Centennial Series

Feature Article by Keith Fisher

There have been some musical instruments produced over the years that could lay claim to being “a work of art”, but I suspect the eye of the beholder invariably belonged to the musician – the beauty largely unrecognized by the general public… not so this Gretsch Centennial. Never had I heard comments from women in the audience about 'that beautiful drum-kit' or praise from guitarists and pianists about how incredible it sounded until I took the ridiculous decision to gig this rarest of rare and finest of fine gold and Elm-Burr masterpiece in the pubs and clubs of my home town. For the first fifteen years it never left my house – except to make its perilous journey from Los Angeles to England – and sat in glorious silence, hidden from the world, untouched by stick in anger. Now, because real glory belongs to the people who crafted this instrument to such a monumental standard and to the man who conceived of such a fitting testament to a company that led the world of drums for so many decades, I decided that by far the greatest tribute I could pay to those people was to play the kit. I am further obliged however, to explain how such a rare and valuable instrument came to exist, and furthermore, came into my possession. So, let me start at the beginning and explain briefly why these drums were made and why there is so much mystery concerning them.

In 1967 Fred Gretsch Junior was sixty years old and without an heir. The company his grandfather had started – family run for eighty-four successful years – was about to be sold! The ‘Sixties music scene was happening and the Baldwin Piano Company was knocking at his door: they needed drums and guitars to expand their market. Twelve years later they bought Kustom Amplifiers and with that company came Mr. Charlie Roy, who set about reviving a drum company that had not even produced a new catalogue in seven years. So profound was his involvement in revitalizing the company that in 1982, Baldwin, who were obviously totally out of their depth, offered to sell it to him. The story up to this point is well documented history, now we enter the twilight zone.

In 1983, on their stand at the Frankfurt Trade Fair, in stark contrast to the majority of drum manufacturers – who in Tama’s case had three floors of displays – Gretsch had one drum kit! A jazz kit, finished in Bird’s Eye Maple with gold plated fittings. A numbered, limited edition with a special new badge and every drum personally signed by Charlie Roy as part of a series of one hundred kits to celebrate the hundredth birthday of the company. According to the Gretsch staff, this was not a production run: every kit would be ‘made to order’ to the specifications of the customer. No brochure was produced, all that was shown to the dealers of the world were photographs of the three wood veneers available and after that it was up to the customer to say what sizes were required. The other two woods were Burl Walnut and Elm Burr. The drums were fitted with specially commissioned heads from Evans in a mirror gold finish. Even the snare wires and the drum key were gold plated. Any of the three finishes were available with chrome-plated hardware if desired. Each of the drums was given a special silver badge inside the shell that identified it with the set: in the case of my seven-piece kit (set #19) the bass drum was 1 of 7, while the snare drum was 7 of 7. The new outer badge featured the set number and also Charlie Roy’s signature in gold on bronze. Alongside all of this a customized satin tour-jacket was included, and it featured your name under the Gretsch logo on the front, and on the back was “THE CENTENNIAL” and an embroidered depiction of the kit. This meant you could flaunt ownership while the kit stayed safely in the house. Truly a collectors dream!

Needless to say, the quality of the finish of these drums was nothing short of exemplary. The use of Elm Burr veneer for instance, sourced in the Carpathian Mountains, made the cost fantastically high compared to a standard maple finish, so the lacquering and polishing were accordingly exceptional. The pride and attention that the staff normally took with Gretsch kits was always of the highest standard, but they still managed to ‘go the extra mile’ with this birthday series. The move to DeQueen, Arkansas had put the Gretsch factory in the heart of the American furniture belt, and consequently, the standard of wood finishing was superb. These were people who understood the treatment and development of wood and took enormous pride in the quality of production. To apply quarter-sawn veneers to the drum shell cylinders was an astounding achievement! An article in Modern Drummer magazine back in 1983, detailing a visit to the factory, left us in no doubt just how much care was taken over the finish and that these were exactly the right people to achieve such a result.

John Sheridan, in his article on the series for Classic Drummer, remarks upon the curious difference in the sound of the drums produced at the DeQueen plant and the subsequent demand amongst cognoscenti for shells from that period. I recently set about establishing the exact shell construction after a question was asked on the Gretsch Woodshed forum and discovered that my shells are actually thinner than normal Jaspers supplied to Gretsch in DeQueen at that time – even including the outer veneer – at 5 instead of 6mm, and effectively only five-ply rather than six. The ply material and grain orientation followed the standard Jasper format for DeQueen Gretsch; however, this generated a separate article to explain fully. The top and bottom of it all was that the Centennial construction was actually different again to the current production models and is one very thin, unreinforced shell.

If you think that all of this was a lot to offer the drummers of the world, and demand would obviously far outstrip availability, bear this in mind: back in 1985 the cost of a seven piece power-tom rock kit with an 8” snare and a 24” kick but without any hardware other than the tom-tom holders and their posts was $7,800. This was definitely an “exclusive” edition! Unfortunately, for reasons best left in the boardroom, Mr. Roy was forced to relinquish the presidency of the company which was returned briefly to Baldwin and the task of signing the badges was assigned to marketing manager Karl Dustman, before the company was once again returned to the Gretsch family’s hands.

My kit had been ordered by the owner of an instrument shop in the San Fernando Valley. He had intended to play the kit himself, but after waiting over two years for its delivery he adopted a DW instead. So when, in 1985, the kit finally arrived, he put it in the window and offered it for sale. As he was piling it up I arrived, saw the kit, walked into the shop and bought it there and then. As I said, the recommended retail price was $7.800.oo but I got a good deal because he had not even been invoiced for the drums and I was standing there with cash in my hand. I saw four other Centennials on sale in shops around LA during ‘85 and ‘86 – two featuring the alternate finishes – but I also sensed a certain blasé indifference to their presence: perhaps because of the price, and perhaps because this was the era of electronic drums, and wood was seen by many as ‘Jurassic’.

One hundred is actually quite a high number, considering what an exclusive project this was; plus, Gretsch was actually sitting in limbo all during this period – effectively without an owner – while the family got all their ducks in a row and were able to buy back the company at last. I don’t think the world had any idea how close we came to losing Gretsch forever; without the concerted efforts of the family that is precisely what would have happened. In the midst of all this broo-ha-ha it is not surprising that the records of sales and ownership were lost. I never got my jacket – that is for sure.

For fifteen years I kept the kit at home, playing my ’72 Rogers Butcher’s-Block Londoner instead; then on the eve of 2000 – to celebrate the millennium – I decided to bring the kit out and gig it. I have gigged it ever since, and not an event has gone by where someone didn’t come to me and praise the beauties. I’ve actually had women come up to me and ask if they can stroke it! Many drummers find it difficult to accept that I am actually gigging the kit: wearing all the gold off the snare drum rim and generally reducing the kit to decidedly second-hand. My response is that it’s mine and it’s paid-for and it’s going to get played; besides, if you look and listen, then it really demands to be seen and heard. Gold can be re-plated, varnish can be restored; other than serious damage it’s all redeemable.

Since I first began the research and initial drafts of this article back in ‘93 – for a Japanese drum magazine – I have uncovered precious little in the way of fresh information. Despite having asked Charlie Roy – via his son – I’m still confused and mystified regarding the number of Centennials that were actually finished and sold. Karl Dustman is uncertain. Even Duke Kramer couldn’t recall. Nobody seemed to know. Apart from watching Ebay religiously, I had a website up and running for a few years that linked to various suitable locations in the hope of finding all the owners of the 100 kits – if in fact they existed. I found seventeen counting the maple kit at the trade fair! Then Stan at Pro Drums told me of a jazz kit that went down to Orange County for a baseball player. Phil Collins told me he had one. I’m pretty sure Charlie Watts has one. Also, Jeff Poccaro had a set – which is now with Joe – that was used extensively on his recording sessions. Recently, this article posted on the Gretsch Woodshed site has unearthed a further two kits: one elm, one maple. Most folk have never seen anything other than Elm, but I saw both alternative offerings in the 1980s, and I know of three Bird's Eye Maple kits around today (two in Texas). Charlie Roy told me that he has the only kit made with the brass fittings (#11) that were originally intended. I have photos of kit numbers: 9, 19, 22, 25, 33, 47, 50, 53, 67, 70, 79, 89 and 93; all with Charlie Roy's signature on the badges.

Where are the remaining 70-plus kits… assuming they all exist?

There was a lot of gold-plated hardware left in the Gretsch warehouse afterwards, and at one point in the mid-nineties it was offered for sale to the general public: the intention being that you could replace your chrome fittings and customize your drums. The other remains of the project – un-drilled shells in various finishes – have also gradually appeared as occasional special-edition offerings over the years. The badge on one 14 x 8 Elm snare drum was a Centennial, but instead of a signature it was marked ‘Vineyard 83’, after a comment made by Vinnie Colaiuta (he called the warehouse a “drum-vine”) during a visit to the Gretsch premises back in the late ‘nineties. A 13” soprano snare drum in walnut veneer was on the market in 2006 and it was obviously taken from an undrilled tom-tom shell as there were no such snare-drum sizes around in the early eighties.

Given that I am now based in England, and also considering that the Gretsch company was seemingly hidden behind an iron curtain – passable only by the chosen few – for the late 'eighties and all the 'nineties, plus the air of mystery that already surrounded the series, I can only tell you what little I have learned from watching the market with regard to quantities, locations, and styles of the other kits. Even Mr. Gretsch has no additional information that might shed some light on the series; perhaps one day I will finally put an end to the mystery surrounding this magnificent tribute to a drum company that has remained at the forefront of its world for 130 years. There again, maybe it does no harm to the prestige and reputation of Gretsch to have a little mystique attached here and there.


Phil Wilson's 1950s Gretsch Set

Greetings vintage drum lovers,

Old man winter has finally made it. It's probably cold where you are and probably you are getting some of the "white" stuff around your home or business. Being from Georgia, we hardly ever get snow, but I like "white" drums falling into my lap.

I bought this wonderful white pearl 1950s Gretsch set a while back from a man who brought them right to my door from New York. I'll tell you more about how I was lucky enough to get them after I describe them.

I believe this set is from the late 1950s because I have been studying up on them in "The Gretsch Drum Book" by Rob Cook and John Sheridan. If you don't have this book you need it. It is a great source of information about everything Gretsch. The shells are heavy three ply with silver sealer inside that dates them in the late 1950s. There are no orange labels inside that started in the early 1960s. The round badges were used from the 1930s through the 1960s. These "round badge" Gretsch drums are very collectible. They are also great sounding drums. The sizes of these drums are bass 20"X14", the ride tom is 12"X8", the floor tom is "16X16". The matching snare is 14"X5". The snare has the Micro-Sensitive strainer. There is a diamond plate cymbal mount on the top center of the bass drum. The distinctively Gretsch bass drum T-rods have been used since 1958. Another cool feature is the long lip extension rod to raise the tom tom.

One good thing about having my name out there as a collector is I get calls when someone wants to sell a vintage drum set. I can't buy them all, but I try to give advice to everyone who calls or E-mails me. A man from New York E-mailed me to try to get some advice about this drum set. He had no idea they were valuable. He had listed them on Craig's list trying to trade them for a Kayak. He said he had twenty responses all wanting to buy him a Kayak and get these drums. He ask me if I wanted to buy them. He told me I was his second call.  He had already called a very well known drum seller. This drum seller is a friend of mine, and he had given him a dollar amount that he felt they were worth. I ask him if my friend had offered to give him that much. He said well,no, but he said "that's what they are worth." I said," they are only worth what someone will give you for them." He laughed and asked if I would like to see them. He said that he and his family rode right by my town going to Florida for vacation, and he would bring them if I wanted them.

I was very excited when he arrived at my door and we unloaded this set. It was very dirty and needed a lot of love and attention, but I could tell it was a very desirable set. I made him an offer of cash and he accepted it. He said,"I have another old drum I want to give you". He reached under the seat and pulled out a 1960s Keystone badge  Ludwig Supersensitive. It was in excellent condition. That was just a bonus to the deal. I was smiling when he left.

Every now and then do a roll, Phil Wilson