Wacky Drums of the Month ~ Stewart kit courtesy of Dave Schneider of The Zambonis, world's foremost "Hockey Rock" band.
News from the Krusty Tubs workshop…
Well, it's been a busy summer here at Krusty Tubs so we've been hiding out in the workshop trying to stay cool. We’ve met some very cool drummers and made lots of new friends all over the globe since we opened the shop last November. Anyway, we’ve been working on some new old tubs and accessories that will be hitting the shelves soon including a ‘67 Ludwig gold sparkle Jazz Festival, a ‘75 Rogers Dyna sonic, a ‘65 Ludwig silver sparkle Pioneer, a ‘60’s Rogers Sling Buck snare stand, a vintage Ghost bass drum pedal, a 60’s Gretsch COB Round Badge snare, antique low boy and splash cymbals along with our Kustom Krusty Tubs 5B Rich drumsticks. As the saying goes, watch this space!
Happy Jazzfest! April 28, 2008 - Ponderosa Stomp New Orleans Drummers Summit. Smokey Johnson, Zigaboo Modeliste, and Bob French talk shop at the Cabildo, Louisiana State Museum.
My fascination with drums began when I was about ten years old. I was a third generation musician from New Britain, CT and grew up surrounded by music, as my father and grandfather were both professional musicians. My grandfather played drums and violin and led a popular dance band known as The Melody Men, while my Dad was a talented jazz pianist who played in the style of the late Canadian artist Oscar Peterson.
After suffering through five long years of piano lessons beginning when I was five, I decided that I wanted to become a drummer. I was inspired by listening to the great drummers that played with my father's favorite bands including Joe Morello, Sonny Payne, Ronnie Verrell, and Ed Thigpen, among others. I took lessons for a year at my junior high school and when my father decided I was serious, he hooked me up with one of his musician friends, John Oblon. This was a great thing
I studied privately with John for the next five years at Jimmy Azzolina's Music Box in Meriden, CT. John was a tremendous drummer and an even better instructor who quickly became my mentor. His technique was beyond my comprehension and his playing inspired me to practice religiously. On Christmas Day 1964, my father gave me my first drum, a Ludwig Black Diamond Pearl Jazz Festival snare. I was so excited I was almost in tears
In 1965 the music world was turned upside down. A new set of rock drummers suddenly appeared that I could listen to and try to mimic. I spent countless hours playing along to my new favorite drummers including Mel Taylor, John Steele, Bobby Graham, Charlie Watts and Ringo Starr.
And here we are fifty years later. Last week I had the good fortune of meeting Jim Oblon, the extremely talented musician son of John Oblon, during his gig at the Owl Shop in New Haven, CT. We had a wonderful chat about his Dad and then Jim and his trio blew the roof off the place for the next two hours.
Some things never change...
Vic Steffens has been making things happen on the New England music scene for forty years. Like so many drummers of his generation, seeing Ringo Starr was the hook. Vic was one of the founders of Fancy, later called The Scratch Band, a starting point for the careers of guitarist G.E. Smith, bassist Paul Ossola, drummer Mickey Curry, and Steffens' vocalist sister Christine Ohlman a.k.a. the "Beehive Queen" of Saturday Night Live fame.
While his bandmates pursued careers primarily as players, Vic chose a different route as an engineer and producer, accruing a milelong resume. He has recorded and played on music as disparate as gospel choirs and metal guitarist Lita Ford, from Donovan to heavy metal supergroup Adrenaline Mob. He was among a cadre of Connecticut musicians who anonymously provided backing tracks for the Rolling Stones archival "Metamorphosis" album. He currently heads the Horizon Music Group (http://horizonmusicgroup.com/ ) and is a partner in Elm City Music (http://elmcitymusic.net/). Recent projects include work with Harry Connick Jr., Matisyahu, and Frank Viele.
Luckily for us, once in awhile he's still asked to play the drums.
Tell me about your first set of drums.
"More like my first drum, a Slingerland marching drum I got in 6th grade. I played in some crazy school production. My first kit was a Japanese three-piece Crown kit. Then my grandfather blessed me with a five piece Ludwig black pearl kit. I played hundreds of gigs on the kit."
What bands were you involved in?
"My first band was - get this - The Trippers. Two guitars and myself. We sucked. Shortly after that I discovered the Anderson Brothers five houses away. They took lessons and stuff. We played at each others houses, though I don't ever recall gigging. Then I met later-to-be-famous guitarist Tom Meccariello, who could really play, and he had two cousins, The Renaudos, who really REALLY could play. Unfortunately, Alphonse Raunaudo, a monster player, played accordion - totally unacceptable. But we convinced him to get a Farfisa combo organ and we were off. We fooled around for a while, and my first real band happened, The Wrongh Black Bag. My sister Christine came in as lead vocalist with Ellsworth Apgar (great name) on bass, Meccariello on guitar, and Alphonse on organ. We played everywhere, and actually got signed to a real label, Mainstream Records.
Worst drumming experience?
"I don't know if there was worst...I always loved to play.
Best drumming experience?
"I played on some vintage Rolling Stones tracks....pretty amazing."
"Learn to play the pocket, and how to sit behind, on top, and in front of the beat. Learn to listen to the singer and feel where the song is going. Keep your fills short. Learn to play to a click."
A drummer who appreciates vintage gear might be drawn to a sound or look. Older instruments bring novel or dependable sounds into the studio, they can brighten a stage, and folks who simply collect them know that they look great in the basement. My fascination with old drums didn't begin as a choice – in our house there wasn't anything else to play.
Every morning I passed my father's drums, packed in canvas and black boxes at the foot of the stairs. A sickly boy who wasn't given much hope of surviving into adulthood, he had managed to outlast his ailments to thrive as a young drummer under the instruction of legendary rudimental champion Earl Sturtze. When his high school symphony and marching days were over, he joined the New Haven musicians union and bought a new 1940 white marine pearl Ludwig & Ludwig set he would play for the rest of his life.
My childhood desire to wallop these drums was diverted to a thin black rubber pad nailed onto a square of wood. This was a letdown, but as my dad was told by his teacher – emphatically referred to by everyone as "Mister Sturtze" – every drummer started out with a practice pad. I don't remember the moment but was told later that the day I was allowed to briefly graduate to my father's calfskin-headed snare drum was a big deal. Sadly, my father's lessons were not to last. He died in 1963, leaving behind a reputation as a good drummer and a good man.
Among other things, I was sure that my dad's absence would end my drumming activities, which were enjoyable but always a struggle. We went to see Mister Sturtze, who kindly informed my mother after two lessons that she was wasting what little money we had on lessons for a nine-year-old who wasn't motivated to practice at least one hour every day. I was packed off to Russell Spang, a New Haven drummer who taught on a heavily muffled set in a walkup studio on Chapel Street. I wince thinking of the poor guy having to listen to me hack through each week's lesson. Making things worse, I was stubbornly hung up on memories of my father's traditional approach and not tuned in to the sea change in drums and drumming taking place. My dad had been gone for six months when the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, inspiring thousands of aspiring drummers to think, "I want to do THAT" and blowing Ludwig sales into the stratosphere. I didn't need Ringo – I already had a drumming hero and his Ludwigs were now mine.
Unfortunately, my dad's drums were better suited to playing with Charlie Barnet or Tommy Dorsey. The huge 26" bass drum was almost manageable, but tacked hide heads on the toms were a nightmare, especially on humid summer nights. At their best I got a resounding BOOM from every drum; at their worst, playing them was as much fun as tap-dancing on wet towels. My friends and I listened to everything from The Who to ESP's avant garde, but despite a widening appreciation for new constellations of drumming, I never bought a more modern set, thinking that the big Ludwigs would go into a closet someday when I settled into some stable line of work. No matter how unwieldy they might be, however, I struggled through a decade of blues, rock'n'roll, and even three raucous "new wave" gigs with them before my high school chum Bob – the other half of Krusty Tubs – invited me to swing by a little shop in Newington where he was picking up a gold sparkle 1950s WFL kit from the owner, Charlie Donnelly.
For today, let's just say that things changed a lot after that.
It's been a busy week at Krusty Tubs. We officially opened our doors on Monday, November 9, 2015 and have been overwhelmed with the initial response to the shop and its contents. Our goal is to replenish the store on a regular basis and recycle the content in order to maintain a well balanced inventory. If there is something in particular that you're searching for, need a piece to complete your set or just want to send a note, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also be accepting new consignment items based on the condition and meeting our vintage criteria.
Keep an eye on this space in the future as we will be featuring shop talk with some of your favorite drummers talking about whatever tickles their fancy.
Thanks for your early support and here's to keeping the history of vintage drums in the spotlight at Krusty Tubs for years to come. Coming up next...Proprietor Tom talks tubs.
Shop Talk is our forum for guest artists, curators and craftsmen to hang around the store and share their stories about inspirations, favorite drums and playing experiences. Our goal is to provide a unique view into the world of drumming as seen through the eyes of the people with the best seat in the house ~ drummers. Krusty Tubs proprietors Bob and Tom were both fortunate to grow up in musical families that exposed them to music and drums early in their childhoods that continue to inspire them today. If you'd like to contribute to Shop Talk, send us an email at email@example.com.