My Pilgrimage to Meet Bun E

by Bryan Herrman

My favorite drummer is Bun E Carlos. As a high school freshman in 1978, the album Cheap Trick Live at Budokan was the biggest thing I’d ever heard – and Bun E Carlos was the coolest drummer I’d ever seen. Bun E shaped my playing style, and as a kid from a small, rural town in western Kansas, I traveled the world through Bun E and the music of Cheap Trick.

Fast forward more than 35 years. In June, I’ll turn 50. My wife has been asking what I’d like for my birthday. It’s a special milestone. It deserves a special gift. After thinking about it for several months, it hit me square between the eyes one late Saturday evening as I was chatting on a vintage drum facebook page – “I want a Bun E Carlos drum kit from Cheap Trick. I wonder if he’d consider selling me one?” Never hurts to ask, right? So, at about 11pm, I shot Bun E a private message on facebook. I explained the situation, how much his music has meant to me over the years, and asked if he’d consider selling me one of his Ludwig kits. To my surprise (and delight), he responded almost immediately. He said he had a Mod Orange Ludwig Classic Maple that was stage played with Cheap Trick! Mod Orange – my favorite Ludwig color (I have a ’67 and ’69 Super Classic in Mod Orange).

After a few messages about the details, and hoping to not overstep my boundaries, I asked Bun E if I could pick it up in person so I could shake his hand and thank him for all the years of great music. He kindly obliged, and so began my pilgrimage to meet Da’King. A week later, my wife, son and I piled in our Jeep and headed from Kansas City to Rockford, Illinois. Seven hours-one minute, 481.2 miles on GPS. We listened to Cheap Trick ALL the way. We arrived at Bun E’s home at 10am the next morning. I pulled up to the “Bun E Hut,” and knocked on the door. I heard a friendly voice from inside, “C’mon in, Bryan.”

In a moment, I was standing with Bun E Carlos and shaking his hand. He was so friendly, that it was like we’d known each for years – just two drum guys talking drums. He couldn’t have been more accommodating, spending over an hour giving us a tour of his incredible vintage drum collection before we ever looked at the kit I was there to buy. He even let me play his practice kit, and showed me a few “tricks” in his equipment set-up.

Finally, we switched our attention to the kit I was picking up: a 2004 Ludwig Classic Maple in Mod Orange wraps.  24+12+13+16. It’s a beautiful kit with a vintage vibe. The interiors were all signed and dated by Bun E when he picked them up in 2004. He also signed my son’s guitar, and the front head of the bass drum with a note, “Bryan – enjoy playing my drums.” Being the genuinely good guy I found him to be, he even helped us pack and load the kit into the Jeep.

While the kit I purchased is not vintage, this trip was all about nostalgia – a Cheap Trick road trip, the tour of Bun E’s vintage kits, sharing pictures of all my vintage kits, lots of good talk about great old drums. Best of all, I got to experience this incredible journey with my wife and 17-year-old, classic-rockloving son. It’s an experience we will never forget. Sometimes your heroes turn out to not be what you expected, but Bun E Carlos proves that good guys can finish first. He’s a stand-up individual, and couldn’t have shown more hospitality. My pilgrimage to see Bun E certainly exceeded my expectations, and I made a vintage-drum friend along the way. What a great way to celebrate 50!


Bryan Herrman is a hobby vintage-drum collector, restorer, and re-seller. He focuses primarily on Ludwig, Gretsch, Slingerland, and Rogers kits from the 50’s & 60’s, and his favorite finishes are Ludwig’s Mod Orange and Psychedelic Red. He is the founder of the facebook page, VINTAGE DRUMMERS. You can see his collection of vintage drums & accessories on Pinterest at SUNDOG VINTAGE DRUMS. Bryan has been playing drums for nearly 40 years, starting at age 10, and his first kit was a sparkle blue 1967 Ludwig Club Date. He is the drummer for SUNDOG, Kansas City’s only masked surf/spy/sci-fy band.


1971 Ludwig Hollywood Mod Orange Set

Greetings vintage drum lovers and friends. I hope the Winter is on the way out and nicer warm weather is on the way in. I brought out a set out into the sunlight to show you that I try to keep in the dark as much as possible. It is a 1971 Ludwig Hollywood set covered with the rare Mod Orange wrap. The reason I keep them in the dark is to try to keep the color from fading even more than it already has. This color is one of the three Ludwig psychedelic wraps that caused quite a stir in the late 1960s and on into the 1970s. You have to be around 50 or older to understand why anything psychedelic was cool. The three psychedelic colors were, Psychedelic Red, Mod Orange, and Citrus Mod. These wraps are filled with color, but unfortunately they fade when exposed to sunlight. It is hard to find a set with these wraps on them that is not partially or severely faded.

My set is faded and has some cracks in the wrap and bumps and bruises. When you get a chance to own a Mod Orange set you will overlook a few flaws, because there are not that many sets out there to be had. The Reds are a little more plentiful. Ludwig did really well selling the Reds and then introduced the Oranges. The Oranges didn't sell as well as the Reds, even though John Densmore helped their sales by playing a set of Oranges with the Doors. The Doors were very cool, but you already know that. The Citrus Mods did even worse in sales than the Oranges and therefore they are even harder to find. A nice set of Citrus Mods will cost you big bucks.

The sizes of my Mod Orange kit is, bass drum 22"X14", the floor tom 16"X16", the toms are 13"X9" and 12"X8". The shells are three ply with reinforcement rings and clear coated inside. The white sealer paint inside the shells ended in the late 1960s. The toms have the rotary mute inside with the larger round handles outside the shell. The double tom mount is factory placed on the bass drum. There is a paper badge inside the shell that dates them to 1971. The Blue Olive badges are pointy on the corners which indicates early 1970s. The snare drum placed with the set is a 1970s 14"X5" chrome Supraphonic. It is very hard to find a wood shell Mod Orange snare. If you do you will pay a large ransom for it. Some Mod Orange snares have been recover jobs using a strip from a donor floor tom. Be careful when buying a Mod Orange snare drum.

Ludwig reintroduced the Mod Orange finish a few years back, but I think the results were about the same as the first time. I guess we will just have to say it's so ugly it's kinda pretty. You might still  be able to purchase a version of this wrap if you would like to have this finish on a restoration job. Some have found Mod Orange wrapped drums that have been painted over. Can you imagine buying a pawn shop white painted Ludwig set and finding Mod Orange wrap underneath the paint. It will be difficult to remove the paint and not damage the finish. Get a professional to help you with that. Until next time, use cases and stop scratching up those future vintage kits, and keep searching for that Mod Orange Jazz Festival in somebody's yard sale.