Annie Lennox Said it Best!

Yes, indeed.
For those of us who suffer from a life-long affliction of the “Collecting Jones”, there is really little that will impede that laser focus we maintain for our desired ‘treasures’. Even the risk of poverty! It is a serious ‘condition’ and warrants far more in-depth study than it has gotten, so far. But who cares about that right now?! Let’s talk about vintage drum collecting!!
If one is into the Slingerland Drum and Banjo Company and Gene Krupa history (isn’t everyone??) then here is an event you can spend weeks pondering and imagining and wishing and….etc.

GK 36 APRIL Downnbeat img 1
To set the “scene”;
In the early part of 1936, Gene had been working with H.H. Slingerland and Sam Roland to develop and introduce a brand new line of drums. They were ‘ground-breaking’ innovations, full of new engineering, design and purpose, destined to change the percussion universe forever. Gene would be their hugely famous endorser! They would be “cutting edge” technology for the time and, subsequently, would need a fancy, modern, trendy moniker. Considering the power and influence that radio had developed, something related to that would be ideal. Hence, the name “Broadcaster” was chosen. One word. Succinct and to the point. And, as Gretsch quickly reminded everyone, with the exception of one spelling difference, already TAKEN! Yikes! Back to the drawing board Slingerland went and , it seems, within minutes, came up with what is now, perhaps, the most universally famous name in drum history, “Radio King”.
Unfortunately, the short-lived but very public debut of the “Broadcaster” line squeaked out just long enough to get some coverage by one of the trade publications. In this instance, it was Downbeat magazine and cover it they did! The article contained all the important information and pictures!! There were Gene, Benny Goodman and Sam Roland standing there (in some foyer at the Congress Hotel in Chicago) marveling at the wondrous new Slingerland “Broadcaster” snare drum. Extolling all its virtues with words like “smooth” and “silk”. Gene, gazing proudly at his new drum with obvious, unabashed admiration. The copy in the article made clear that it would be HIS model snare (“The Gene Krupa model Broadcaster”), exclusively at 6 1/2 inches by 14 inches, Marine pearl and chrome plating on all metal parts. By implication, it stated that every drummer (if they want to be considered being included in the ‘big-time’ roster of ‘swing’ music) needs to own, at least one of these marvelous instruments! All well and good (ignoring all that fussy Gretsch stuff for the moment…).
OK. So, newly minted, re-named and rapidly becoming THE snare to have for thousands of pros and wanna-be’s alike, the  “Gene Krupa” model Radio King (nee “Broadcaster”) leads Slingerland’s marketing “charge” for that year and many years to follow. The catalog edition that introduces the line to the public (erroneously referred to as the “36” catalog-was actually end of ’36 through ’37) lists the drum as #115 and it sells for 50 bucks!! Now, it’s all a part of history…

GK 36 APRIL Downnbeat blurb-1
This author had figured all of this out through research ‘avenues’ not directly connected to the Downbeat piece but was gratified to have the confirmation when he finally saw it in 1936 print. The entire subject, as is (maddeningly) often the case, answered a number of questions but, of course, created a whole bunch of others! Not least (more like foremost of which) was, um,…what happened to the “Artist” model snare he was using up to that point? Anybody know?
WELL! Funny you should ask!! (and here is where the ‘Eurythmics’ reference applies). Downbeat strikes again!! Same month. Same paper. Different piece of ever-growing puzzle. Some wise guy came up with the notion that any snare drum that the (already) legendary Gene Krupa had been playing on could be a valuable “collectable” item. Why not turn a buck on used stuff by selling it at auction to the highest bidder cause, you know, it’s ‘famous’…? So, Gene hands it off to (presumably Downbeat’s own) Glenn Burrs to facilitate this new process. People merely needed to write their highest bid and contact information on a note sent to the magazine and the highest bidder would be contacted. That’s it…
As no new data has been unearthed (YET) as to; a) Which Artist model was it? 129W or 114W? b) Chrome or Nickel plated? c) was there ever a ‘highest bidder’?, d) if so, WHO WAS IT??!!, e) what was the amount of said bidder’s bid?, f) where was this lucky son-of-a… and, g) WHERE IS IT NOW!?!?!?!!
…Yeah. Sweet dreams ARE made of these….or,…are they nightmares?

The (Excellent) October Surprise !!

It is a great honor to present this.  The drumming world has, once again, been lucky to have two men dedicated to preserving this history and keeping it safe. Charlie Watts and Don McAulay have done it again!
This document is actually a 28 page excerpt from my book GK and has been edited down somewhat. It is the result of my research and was compiled to also serve as an historical adjunct to the incredible collection that they have acquired.
There is really no measure of the collection’s value but, suffice it to say, it is monumental at the very least!
My heartfelt thanks to both men for allowing me to be involved…
and many thanks to Bart of drumhistory

podcast for giving me the opportunity to spread the word about this incredible thing.
I will be loading this in stages of 7 pages each time. Here are the first 7 (of 28) pages:

“GK” Gene and Louis

As the book grows (perhaps “evolves” is a better word), it has become clear to this author that writing a ‘technical’ history like this is like trying to build a 5000 square foot house with bamboo, pipe cleaners, and aluminum foil. And all of that, set on a foundation of mostly sand with a few boulders randomly placed (but well hidden…).
If lucky enough to find one of those bits of historical ‘bedrock’, one can just pile all manner of stuff on there and hope it doesn’t just topple over. Of course, if it does, it can be rebuilt. One of the “tricky” parts is when one wants to tie in other additions to the structure in a way that they will be able to support themselves.
Perhaps the closest comparable category is “Cold Case Forensics” or, in other words, Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes”, backwards. With the exception (in jazz history anyway) of Russ Connor’s amazing work with Benny Goodman’s history (because he WAS THERE!) there has never been a comprehensive ‘study’ of any other jazz musician from the standpoint of what he used to achieve what he sounded like. Of course, Ricky Riccardi can tell you which horns Louis Armstrong used/had but who, other than he and  a few trumpet/cornet players, could tell you the complete ‘lineage’ of Armstrong’s horns from the Waif’s Home to his last days in New York? Accurately? With undisputed documentation?
This author believes that, like Louis’ legacy, Gene’s was equally as important and deserves as much dedication. Hence, it was time to break out the bamboo and foil!! Which was done nearly a decade ago.
Luckily, a fair amount of  “bedrock” was immediately available to ‘build’ on (this author’s musical idol since the beginning) and it was simply a matter of where to put stuff in the book, right? No. Not so simple…
One advantage was, like Gene’s playing, his choice of equipment was an equally important focus. They were solidly intertwined throughout his entire career. Like Armstrong’s name being immediately synonymous with jazz trumpet, Gene Krupa is not only synonymous with the word “drums” but also with the brand, “Slingerland”. No other name in jazz has had this. Even Louis would not use the same make of horn throughout his life.
One would assume that this fact would make the whole process easier. Only partially. Gene was a “known” jazz drummer from 1927 until 1973. Of that whole period, the “documented” history of an association with the Slingerland Banjo and Drum Company only begins ca. 1935. What was Gene using before joining Benny Goodman? Welcome Mr. author,  to the first (and possibly deepest) SAND pit! A few dubious anecdotes from his peers. A single photo of him standing in front of someone else’ bandstand and you have the full extent of historical “documentation” of Gene’s career/equipment beginnings. Even the anecdote about him being the first to use a bass drum in a recording studio was proven to be wrong.
So, this author continues to dig for the oldest “bedrock” to build on. Somewhere out there, in some attic, old trap case or bookshelf is that collection of snapshots of Gene’s set in 1928. Maybe that dusty photo album of old Uncle Berfward’s time playing that Wisconsin resort where Gene’s drums were set up.
Below is page 8 of “GK”. It is clearly lacking in the “image” department…
GK as of 2-25-2018-pg-8
But, the author remains, ever Hopeful…

Myth Flush 4 (Exhibit 2)

…and for the (so far) final bit of grumping, to finish out a year many will be happy to forget, herein is Exhibit 2…
60’s Bogus-Exhibit 2
It’s important to stress that there are indeed many known GENUINE and attributable Gene Krupa items out there and, hopefully, many more to be found. My book covers those things that have crossed my ‘path’ and/or have been reported and are, of course, verifiable. These things cover the entire span of Gene’s spectacular career. From a 1936 tom tom to snare drums that still stood in his Yonkers basement as late as 1972.
The main focus is on what was Gene’s especially. Yes, at times he was known to have used things once or twice but they were not HIS and the whole issue of solid provenance gets ridiculously ‘dodgy’. The ‘real’ things are treasures ALL! Mostly, because they are proven to truly be what they are said to be.
I would also add that, if you are someone who believes you possess something of Gene’s but are nervous about seeming to be foolish by making it public, I can only suggest that, if it’s ‘real’, history is best served by the minute details within the broadest picture one can paint of it. Each true article gets added to the color palette, thus adding to the whole image. All are pieces of a beautiful work of historical “art”…It should be shared.
On the other hand, if you are one of those who hopes to profit from passing off fakes,…well, might want to re-think that….
Thanks to the able assistance of friend/great drummer Timm Biery, here are pdf versions he did, added for those who may have more ‘up-to-date’ systems than the absurdly antiquated ones this author has!
60s-bogus-exhibit-2

Myth Flush 4 (Exhibit 1)

The last two in the “Myth Flush” series are further examples of how a scam artist can have just enough ‘knowledge’ to make it seem legit but not enough to completely disguise the fraud. To put out a bogus image/item as ‘real’ is bad enough but to then repeat the same sham again is just, well,….stupid. But then, PT Barnum said,…..
60’s Bogus-Exhibit 1
Thanks to the able assistance of friend/great drummer Timm Biery, here are pdf versions he did, added for those who may have more ‘up-to-date’ systems than the absurdly antiquated ones this author has!
60s-bogus-exhibit-1