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.
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…
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?