Vintage Drums and Life After Summer

Well as summer draws to a close in Victoria and September threatens to arrive with the start of drum lessons….. I thought what better time to talk about one of my favourite topics. Vintage drums!!!


I have been blessed with some great instruments over the years. I am always on the listen for a good kit and this summer I got a wonderful new addition to my drum family.

Ten years ago I saw an add in used Victoria for a set of Ludwig drums in extraordinarily rare sizes. A 12×8 Tom, 13×19 Tom, 14×14 floor tom and an 18×12 bass drum (the jazz holy grail). To top it off the finish was the coveted “Galaxy” that was only made between 1962-66. It was in very rough shape and I offered the person  $200 less than what they wanted. They declined and I felt a pang of sadness that has haunted me ever since 🙂

Years later I was at a gig and started talking with a fellow drummer. This of course led to a discussion about different sets we had and as soon as he mentioned “Black Galaxy” I knew he had the kit!  Every time we would meet I would comment on how un-healthy he looked and perhaps he could use some extra cash to cover the medical costs…. This was usually funny at least funny enough that he remembered me when it came time to sell this kit.

And here they are:

1965 Ludwig "Black Galaxy"

1965 Ludwig “Galaxy”

I just got in new hoops that were made by Ludwig as a custom order. Turns out they brought back this finish for a limited time.

Damian Graham's 1965 Ludwig "Black Galaxy"

Damian Graham’s 1965 Ludwig “Galaxy”

I tried to capture the actual colour a bit better on this last shot. Notice how the finish on the drum is very faded and almost just gold and black in some spots. Where as the new hoops I had made show the green, red and gold sparkle as it probably originally was. (underneath the lugs and tips of the shells that were covered by skins the original finish is very bright) I imagine the technique for making the plastic has changed considerably as there is a greater “depth” to the old original finish not to mention the sparkles are a bit smaller. I keep wondering if I need to “stress” the new hoops I had made to fit in with the kit but knowing me that will happen at gigs.  For full on drum nuts- (I say that with great affection and consider myself a bit left of field) you will notice a Rogers swiv-o-matic tom mount on the shell and a modern Yamaha tom mount. There are no extra holes in the tom’s so I can only assume that the person custom ordered the kit with different hardware. (A number of drummers did this as the Rogers Swivo system was considered ground breaking at the time.) The Yamaha holder fits just right and is what I consider to be the greatest hardware out there today. And again the mount for a ludwig double tom holder  is a bit different. One of the joys about these older drums are the mysteries; whether they are add on’s from different owners or the huge variance during the manufacturing process. These were made by hand not by machines so serial numbers don’t line up like they do off of a robot factory floor. If there was a box of old badges with the previous years serials so what. Chuck em on. Don’t waste them!

close up of "galaxy" finish

Now the most important thing is that they sound so so good. The shells are 3-ply mahogany, poplar, mahogany with a reinforcement ring around the top and bottom of the shell. The bearing edges are rounded and cut by hand. All add to the vibe…… And make for a very warm tone. They don’t cut like some of my more modern drums but in the early sixties you weren’t having to compete at the higher decibels that modern music was heading towards.

I have had these out on a few gigs and they are just a gas and if you have managed to read this far congrats! You are officially part of the club….