Posted in Other Drums on February 5, 2016
Slingerland drums was a large drum manufacturing company that boomed from the late 20's until the early 70's. In addition to drum sets, they also made ukeleles, guitars and marching percussion drums. Today, Slingerland drums are highly sought after for their vintage sound and rarity. What remained of Slingerland was at the Baldwin Piano Plant in Conway, Arkansas. However, any drums made there were not sold directly to consumers, nor was any warranty work done there.Currently, the drum manufacturing has ceased and it is unlikely that Slingerland will return to the market. However, you might want to check out the "used drums" page. I'm known to stumble across a vintage Slingerland set for sale from time to time. It may just be the one you've been looking for.
Slingerland drums was founded by Henry Heanon Slingerland in 1912. After opening a music school in Chicago, he started making banjo's and ukeleles and then guitars. In 1927, they started making drums to compete with Ludwig who was elbowing their way into the banjo market. When Henry died in 1946, his wife Nona and son Henry "Bud" Jr. took over the company. In the 1970's and 80's, ownership of the company started to be juggled around a bit until Gretsch, a subsidiary of the Gibson Musical Instruments company bought them in 1994. In a failed last ditch effort to force Slingerland drums back into the market in 2003, the drum manufacturing ceased altogether.
The Radio King was the most famous line from Slingerland. When they made their debut in 1935, they were later endorsed by famous drummers such as Buddy Rich (1937-1940 & 1968-1977) and Gene Krupa (1936-1973). He helped bring about the tunable bottom head in 1936. The snare drums were 15" in diameter and 8" or more deep. Some were made from a single piece of steam bent maple with re-enforcement rings and featured beaver tail lugs. These were particularly liked by many drummers and are still used today! The toms were made with 3 plies of Mahogany with internal maple re-enforecement rings.
From 1957 until 1960, there was a brief interuption in production of the Radio King drums. The unique 3 point support brackets on the strainer and butt ends were part of the patent application in 1937, granted in 1937. The wrap finish drums had an outer layer of Magohany, The painted finishes had an outer layer of maple. Of the wrap finishes available, the Marine Pearl White was the most common (pictured below with Gene Krupa). A 4 piece Radio King set in decent condition is worth about $1,500.00 today.
The Rolling Bomber series used Mahogany hoops, hand carved Rosewood lugs, calf drum heads, and even wooden floor tom legs because during the war, metal was in such high demand. A 4 piece set in decent condition could be worth around $3,000 today.The Magnum series came out in the 1970's until the early 90's. These were the last drums to be made by Slingerland before folding. Made with 5 ply maple shells, a 5 piece set could sell for about $1,500.00 today.
Slingerland was one of the biggest names in drums from the 1930's until the late 70's. Slingerland even threatened to push Ludwig out of the #1 spot who had Ringo Starr endorsing them. With the introduction of the tunable bottom head, patented snare throw offs, wood components during war time, and other hardware, Slingerland proved to be quite innovative. Even today drummers around the world are looking for Slingerland drums for that vintage swing and big band jazz sound. It's a shame they are no longer in production.However, you might find some nice used kits at various vintage drum dealers around the world.
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