Chaotic Creativity: Ludwig Kits In The ‘60s

Ludwig Downbeat Drums

At the smaller end of the top-of-the-line sets was the Super Classic. It featured a 14" x 5" brass snare, 13" x 9" mounted tom, 16" x 16" floor tom, and a 22" x 14" bass drum. The Downbeat kit (featured in both photos in this article) was aimed at the be-bop drummer, due to its 14" x 4" snare drum of the same name, 12" x 8" tom, 14" x 14" floor tom, and a 20" x 14" bass drum. Other kits that were regulars in the lineup were The New Yorker: 22" x 12" bass drum, metal snare, and a 12" x 8" to provide ease of handling for the jobbing drummer, and the Traveler, which featured a 24" bass drum.

Tale Of Two Toms

Finally, in 1966 (catalog #67) the option of having a 12" x 8" tom and a 13" x 9" tom on the same set was integrated into not only the Ludwig line, but the set configurations offered by most other drum companies as well. The Blue Note and Hollywood sets stayed the same, except for replacing one of the 12" x 8" toms with a 13" x 9". Ludwig added a smaller double bass set — with two 20" x 14" bass drums, 12" x 8" and 13" x 9" toms, a 16" x 16" floor tom, and a 14" x 5" Supraphonic 400 snare drum — as the Rock Duo outfit. The Downbeat outfit stayed the same, with the exception of the Supraphonic 400 snare drum, as did the Traveler outfit. The New Yorker swapped its 22" x 12" bass drum for a 20" x 14". Perhaps the most collectible drum set offered in catalog #67 is the Jazzette outfit. With its 12" x 8" tom, 14" x 14" floor tom, Supraphonic 400 snare, and an 18" x 12" bass drum, the true be-bop kit finally appeared.

Long Lugs

While all the previously mentioned kits featured the Classic toms and bass drums, the second line of the Ludwig Company featured the Club Date design. Instead of single-ended classic casings for each tom and bass drumhead, the company mounted double-ended casings on the Club Date drums. The Club Date outfit featured a Jazz Festival model snare, along with a 22" x 14" bass drum, 13" x 9" tom, and a 15" x 12" floor tom. The Combo outfit was the same, minus the 15" x 12" floor tom. In the #64 catalog, Ludwig dropped the 15" x 12" floor tom from the Club Date in favor of the 14" x 14" Club Date floor tom. The bottom-of-the-line outfits are unremarkable except for the facts that on one of the kits you could get a single tension bass drum featuring Club Date lugs without swivel nuts. This option gave you the appearance of having a double tension bass drum even if you were too cheap to buy one.

Birth Of A Classic

The most collectible single drum from the early ’60s is the chrome-over-brass snare drum. Named the Super-Ludwig in its 1959 reintroduction, the model name was changed to Supraphonic around 1963. At about that same time, the shell materials changed from brass to aluminum, and serial numbers were added to the badges. Pre-serial number chrome-over-brass snares are roughly two to three times as valuable as their aluminum or Ludalloy look-alikes.

In the end, sound is more important than looks. Sixties Ludwig drums had both sound and good looks, and an entire generation grew up listening to that sound in popular music. It should come as no surprise that the Ludwig sound is so popular now that the generation that grew up on that sound makes up the core of the drum collecting population. If you want the specific sound that you can only get from a ’60s Ludwig drum, you’d better start hunting now before they’re all gone.

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