Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rockin' Walls Down

In the beginning it was Axxis (Stan, Greg & Shawn). Then John Street was formed. Jac joined the group along with a change of three different singers ... the last being Dave. After an 8-year rest, the band regrouped in 2007 and brought Sean on board.

 Catch the action at!
Stan Grala
Dave Lawson
Sean Lord & Shawn Mangan
Greg Maerz
Jacek "Jac" Olejnik  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Drummed Up History

Reproduction of a
Medieval Tabor
By many accounts the history of the snare drum dates back to the Tabor, pronounced "tay-bur" found in Medieval Europe around 1300. It was a double-headed drum that had a single snare strand called a Tabor. In the Middle Ages the tabor was often played in unison with a three-holed pipe flute. Modern European folk music continues the tradition to this day.

The use of a snare drum in the military probably came directly from instruments that were used by the powerful Ottoman Empire's armies in the 1500s.The Ottomans possibly influenced Swiss drummers, which in turn influenced their local drum builders.

It became very popular in the 1400s with the fife-and-drum corps of Swiss mercenary foot soldiers for relaying signals. This version of the drum was a very big instrument that was carried over the player's right shoulder and secured by a strap.

This longer "side drum" became better known as a field drum. The drum heads were tensioned by pulling a rope, very much like lacing a shoe. The method was to lace a cord in a W or Y pattern around the shell. Around the same time frame the European version of the snare drum spread to other countries. England had similar drums by the 1500s, although the name tabor was replaced with drome or drume.

In the 1600s, new methods of tensioning the drum were developed. This allowed the snares on field drums to be tightened more securely with screws. The former loose rattle sound of the snare's gut was now more of a tight snap.

The increase in the tension on the drum heads allowed drummers to play faster and more complex rhythms. By the mid 1800s, snare drums were being built from brass and reduced in size for a higher pitched, crisper sound popular in symphony orchestras.

Classical music added the snare drum to provide color, or timbre, for march-like segments of music. In the 19th century it replaced the tenor drum of military bands. The sound of a marching snare is a classic military sound.

Modern Snare Drum Evolution

After 1900, drum and bugle corps increased the snare drum's popularity. Metal counter-hoops were added to tighten the drumheads more efficiently. The now familiar coiled wire came into use for the snares.

Bringing the history of the snare drum into the modern era was its use in a trap-set. Traps were a mixture of drums, percussive instruments and cymbals assembled into a set of drums or drum set. This innovation was used in a variety of ways, including silent movies, jazz and ragtime music.

Rock & Roll emphasized a steady backbeat while Jazz use of the snare drum is known as comping, or supporting and interacting with the other musician's in the band. In response to these popular music styles, drum companies started making many different sizes and types of snare drums. Since the 1950s, improvements such as plastic drumheads and high quality snare throw-off mechanisms have allowed better sound control and great dependability.

The range of snare drums available today is staggering with many technical advancements in materials, shell design and hardware. That being said, the modern snare drum is still very much like its centuries old ancestors. The history of the snare drum has its roots as an Ottoman and Swiss military instrument. It has become the driving force behind many music styles around the world.

This is a great example of how this simple device evolved into an icon known the world over as the good ol' Snare Drum.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Famous Names in Percussion Instruments

The Slingerland Drum Company was founded by H.H. Slingerland in 1912. The company started out importing ukeleles from Germany but set up its own production because it could not meet demand. Soon, they produced their own banjos and ukeleles and eventually, also guitars (including electric guitars from 1936 or earlier). Production of drums was started in 1927, in answer to the very successful entry of the Ludwig & Ludwig drum company (below) into the banjo market. The first Slingerland drum kits came out in 1928. For a long time, Slingerland drums were synonymous with such jazz drumming greats as Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich; Elton John's drummer, Nigel Olsson, also used Slingerland sets widely. The company remained in the Slingerland family until 1970. After that, Slingerland changed ownership multiple times until it was acquired by the Gibson in 1994. The Slingerland brand still exists in a variety of drumsets, including Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich signature sets.

[Left is a photo of Tommy Barrick, one of DC's hottest drummers using Slingerland Drums, the Ludwig Speed King Pedal and Zildjian cymbals as they were intended.]

In 1910, the Ludwig & Ludwig Company was founded by brothers William F. and Theo Ludwig, initially manufacturing a bass drum pedal capable of playing faster beats than competing products. Production facilities were in a rented barn on the southside of Chicago. The Ludwigs next developed a hydraulic action timpani and in 1916 invented a spring mechanism --the basis for the current Balanced Action Pedal Timpani. Production then expanded into other types of drums and banjo-type instruments. During the 1925-1930 period, Ludwig made two models of ukulele-banjo, each being prized by players of the instrument (Ludwig is known by collectors as being one of the three best historical makers of ukulele-banjos, the others being Gibson, and Jack Abbot.) During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the company was forced to merge with the C.G. Conn Company. William F. Ludwig, who disliked his lack of involvement with the design and manufacture of the instruments after the merger, left the company in 1936. He opened his own company, the W.F.L. Drum Company, in 1937, initially producing the Speed King Pedal. In 1955, the Ludwig division was purchased back from Conn and renamed the Ludwig Drum Company. The Speed King is still the industry standard.

The Avedis Zildjia Company is a cymbal and gong manufacturer founded in Istanbul, Turkey by an Armenian named Avedis Zildjian during the Ottoman Empire. It is the world's largest manufacturer of cymbals. At nearly 400 years old, Zildjian is the oldest family-run business in America and one of the 300 oldest companies in the world. They also sell drum-related accessories, such as drum sticks. The first Zildjian cymbals were created in 1623 in Istanbul by Avedis Zildjian, who was looking for a way to turn base metal into gold, created an alloy combining tin, copper, and silver into a sheet of metal that could make musical sounds without shattering. Avedis was given the name of Zildjian (ZilciyĆ¢n) by The Sultan, from the Turkish (zil - cymbal, dji - maker-seller, ian - a common suffix used in Armenian last names) and began an industry in 1623, the details of whose main product remained secret for generations. It became family tradition that only the company's heirs would know the manufacturing process. The Zildjian Company moved from manufacturing noisemakers to frighten the enemies of the Ottoman Empire to manufacturing its cymbals as musical instruments in the 19th century.
Gene Krupa
Ad from Popular Mechanics
November 1939

Louie Bellson Drum Solo ~ 1950

Friday, March 11, 2011

100 Greatest Drummers of All Time

Stanley Grala (John Street)
1. Neil Peart (Rush)
2. John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)
3. Ginger Baker (Cream)
4. Keith Moon (The Who)
5. Terry Bozzio (Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck)
6. Bill Bruford (Yes)
7. Danny Carey (Tool)
8. Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre)
9. Ian Paice (Deep Purple)
10. Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake, & Palmer)
11. Stewart Copeland (The Police)
12. Dave Lombardo (Slayer)
13. Steve Gadd (Steely Dan)
14. Vinnie Colaiuta (Frank Zappa, Sting)
15. Carter Beauford (Dave Matthews Band)
16. Tim Alexander (Primus)
17. Simon Phillips (Toto, Jeff Beck)
18. Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs, Winger)
19. Matt Cameron (Soundgarden)
20. Dennis Chambers (Santana)
21. Chad Wackerman (Frank Zappa)
22. Phil Collins (Genesis)
23. Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience)
24. Virgil Donati (Planet X)
25. Max Weinberg (E Street Band)
26. Vinnie Paul (Pantera)
27. Ansley Dunbar (Jeff Beck, Whitesnake)
28. Mike Shrieve (Santana)
29. David Garibaldi (Tower of Power)
30. Steve Smith (Journey)
31. Josh Freese (A Perfect Circle)
32. Alex Van Halen (Van Halen)
33. Billy Cobham (Mahavishnu Orchestra)
34. Bill Ward (Black Sabbath)
35. Alan White (Yes)
36. Carmine Appice (Beck, Bogert & Appice, Vanilla Fudge)
37. Stanton Moore (Galactic)
38. Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden)
39. Scott Rockenfield (Queensryche)
40. Hal Blaine (Elvis Presley, Beach Boys)
41. Joey Jordison (Slipknot)
42. Marco Minnemann (Weirdoz)
43. Cozy Powell (Rainbow)
44. Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake)
45. Chester Thompson (Santana)
46. Morgan Agren (Frank Zappa)
47. Jeff Porcaro (Toto)
48. Dean Castronovo (Journey)
49. Mike Giles (King Crimson)
50. Jeff Campitelli (Joe Satriani)
51. Nick Mason (Pink Floyd)
52. Greg Bissonette (Joe Satriani, David Lee Roth)
53. Ralph Humphrey (Mothers of Invention)
54. Mike Bordin (Faith No More)
55. Ringo Starr (The Beatles)
56. Zak Starkey (The Who)
57. Jon Theodore (The Mars Volta)
58. Phil Ehart (Kansas)
59. Clive Bunker (Jethro Tull)
60. Jimmy Chamberlain (Smashing Pumpkins)
61. Charlie Watts (The Rolling Stones)
62. Lars Ulrich (Metallica)
63. Brian Mantia (Primus)
64. Mike Sus (Possessed)
65. Jason Rullo (Symphony X)
66. Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Scream)
67. Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson)
68. Mick Fleetwood (Fleetwood Mac)
69. Raymond Herrera (Fear Factory)
70. Brann Dailor (Mastodon)
71. Matt McDonough (Mudvayne)
72. Scott Travis (Judas Priest)
73. Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam)
74. Roger Taylor (Queen)
75. Jose Pasillas (Incubus)
76. Earl Palmer (session man)
77. BJ Wilson (Procol Harum)
78. Joey Kramer (Aerosmith)
79. Gene Holgan (Death)
80. Danny Seraphine (Chicago)
81. Igor Cavalera (Sepultura)
82. Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy)
83. Travis Barker (Blink 182)
84. Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters)
85. Nicholas Barker (Dimmu Borgir)
86. Paul Bostaph (Slayer)
87. Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
88. Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine)
89. Alan Gratzer (REO Speedwagon)
90. Matt Sorum (Guns N' Roses, Velvet Revolver)
91. John Dolmayan (System of a Down)
92. Chad Sexton (311)
93. Mark Zonder (Fate's Warning)
94. Gary Husband (Level 42)
95. John Densmore (The Doors)
96. Jon Fishman (Phish)
97. Al Jackson (MG's)
98. Jim Gordon (Derek & the Dominos)
99. Dave Abbruzzese (Pearl Jam)
100. Sean Kinney (Alice in Chains)

JOHN STREET ~ Lime Light

The Story Behind Ringo's Drums

By Charlie West (with photos added by Judi)

They are the world’s most famous percussion instrument. The Black Oyster Pearl, Ludwig Super Classic drum set that bears the name of the most famous band in our history, The Beatles. Certainly no other drum kit is as well known. It is believed that Ringo may still have this original Ludwig kit. The Ludwig drums and the Beatles logo became the centerpiece of the Beatles stage set from mid-1963 through August of 1966. Amazingly, not much has been written about Ringo’s drums.

Ringo didn’t always play Ludwig drums. In fact, his first drum kit was a used set that was purchased for him as a Christmas gift. Up until this time, Ringo had been playing biscuit tins and pieces of firewood.
Ringo started with the Beatles on August 18, 1962
using a Premier drum kit.
In February 1957, Ringo started playing in a band. All of the guys in the group worked at the same factory and played for their fellow workmen in a cellar during lunch. They started playing all the freebies that they could get, such as weddings and clubs. Ringo was becoming a semi-professional. He was an Engineer at the factory by day, and at night he played drums. He would play dances with Eddie Miles and some other groups. Later he would play with Rory Storm, which is where Ringo’s career really got started. He played and practiced with a lot of the groups in Liverpool.

Ringo’s drum kit was old and it was time to step up to something a bit newer. In the summer of 1958 Ringo borrowed £46 from his grandfather, went to Frank Hessy’s Music store, and bought an Ajax single headed kit. The appeal may have been that it looked similar to a Ludwig kit that he had seen.

While playing with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes in Hamburg, Germany, in 1960, Ringo purchased a set of Premier drums. On the front bass drum head was the “Premier” logo and “Ringo Starr” just below it.

When Ringo was asked to join The Beatles, he still had the Premier kit. Many of the early recordings were made with this kit. Sometime between September 4, 1962, and February 17, 1963, Ringo’s name was replaced by a Beatles logo. The logo that appeared on Ringo’s Premier drum kit was based on Paul’s doodles. Terry Tex O’Hara, a Liverpool artist, designed the actual logo. It is a script type font with a “B” that has beetle-like antenna and a tiny “THE” above it. The logo was printed on a cloth banner that was stretched across the drumhead and was held in place by the drums rim. The banner also provided some muffling for the drum. This was one of many of the logo designs to come.

Sometime in early 1963, Ringo planned to replace his Premier kit, so he went to Music City, a large music store on Salisbury Street in London, to order a new Premier kit. The owner of Music City, Ivor Arbiter, had just been granted exclusive rights to distribute U.S. made Ludwig drums in Britain. Dave Martin, a salesman at Music City, talked up the Ludwig Drums to Ringo. Ringo was familiar with the drums because he had played a Ludwig kit owned by Tony Mansfield (drummer for the Dakotas). Ringo fell in love with the new Black Oyster Pearl drum finish.

When he learned that it was only available on Ludwig Drums, the deal was sealed. There was one catch. Ringo insisted that a large Ludwig logo be printed across the bass drum head. At that time Ludwig did not put logos on its drumheads. Brian Epstein, The Beatles’ manager, quickly countered that the band was called “The Beatles” and that the bands name should be displayed on the drumhead. Arbiter, who realized the marketing potential and wanted to save the sale, quickly came up with a compromise. Arbiter thought that a large Beatles logo could be printed across the drumhead, but room could also be left for Ringo’s requested Ludwig logo. He brought out a piece of paper, drew a drumhead and then sketched out the famous “The Beatles” drum logo. Ringo took possession of the new Ludwig kit and new logo on June 17, 1963.

The first time Ringo used his new kit in public, he was at the recording of “EasyBeat”, at the Playhouse, on June 23, 1963. The British community got their first viewing of the new drum kit and logo during the Saturday, June 29, television program.

Ringo used seven different front bass drum heads from 1963 to 1967. Each head sported a logo that was a little different from the others. The original head was of course a “Ludwig Weather Master” and can be identified by the logo bearing the same name, at the bottom of the head. Some of the other drumheads were “Remo Weather King” and can be identified by the logo at the top of the head. Ringo experimented with various muffling techniques. Perhaps this accounted for the different kinds of drumheads and the varied placement of muffling material.

The 4th Ludwig Black Oyster Pearl Kit purchased
just prior to August 13, 1965, right before their American tour.
Photo's show that when The Beatles continued touring in the U.K. after
leaving the U.S., he went back to using his first Super Classic kit. 
Only two of the heads have ever surfaced. Russ Lease is the proud owner of the head that was used during the first Beatles performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Russ purchased the drumhead from Sotheby’s in London. In 1997, Bonham’s Auctioneers and Valuers ran an “all Beatles” auction in Japan. The auction included a Beatles bass drumhead. In the early 70’s a Chicago radio station somehow acquired “the drums that Ringo played at the 1965 Shea Stadium Concert”. They held a contest and gave them away to some lucky listener! The head that Bonham’s auctioned off is from this drum set. There is no word on what happened to the rest of the set.

Ringo had several Black Oyster Pearl drum kits. Some of the photos taken at Abby Road Studios show two of these kits. Expense records indicate that in May 1964, Drum City supplied Ringo with a £350 drum kit at no charge.

It is generally accepted that Ringo played Zildjian Cymbals. 14” hi-hats, 18” Medium thin crash, and an 18” or 20” ride. This is further evidenced by the fact that Don Bennett’s Drum Studio in Bellevue, Washington actually has Ringo’s “original” hi hat, and crash cymbals. We also know that Ringo plays Zildjians today. There is however evidence that exists that maybe Ringo didn’t always play Zildjians.

In Ringo’s expense reports from 1961-1963 there is an entry where Ringo purchased a set of Swiss made Paiste Cymbals. This entry is made about the same time that Ringo purchased his Ludwig kit. It would have been easier to obtain the Paiste Cymbals at that time. Ludwig distributed Paiste Cymbals. Also, with Ringo spending so much time in Germany and Sweden, it would have made the Paiste Cymbals much easier to obtain than the Zildjians. Expense records indicate that he purchased Paiste Cymbal, but Don Bennett has an original Zildjian 18” Medium Crash Cymbal with Paul’s inscription to Ringo!

Since not much has been written about Ringo’s drums, one is often left to speculate….

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Pearl Musical Instrument Co.

Post-war Japan was a time for reconstruction. But it was also a time for new influence, such as Jazz and American-style music education. This created a new generation of musicians who needed affordable musical instruments which, at that time, were in scarce supply. Recognizing this need, Katsumi Yanagisawa started Pearl in a small factory with less than 300 sq. ft. and two employees in Sumida, Tokyo on April 2, 1946.

Pearl Starts Making Drums 

Katsumi's friend, Mr. Ogura, an experienced businessman himself, recognized the future need for domestic production of musical instruments and urged Katsumi to expand into the manufacturing of drums. The following year, 1950, Katsumi named his small company "Pearl Industry Ltd.", and with no experience, a severe shortage of raw materials and with salvaged secondhand machinery, began making drums by hand.

By the end of that year, the machinery necessary for making drum parts were constructed or purchased, and his first drums along with stands were delivered to his friend's store for resale. The acceptance of these Pearl products proved so successful that Katsumi knew he had a winner and a future career, and he began the planning process to expand his production facility and add additional products. At this time he renamed the company "Pearl Musical Instrument Company" to make it more representative of its new roll.

Visit the Pearl web site at
  • Artists
  • Drummer's Forum
  • Education
  • Support (Product & Spare Parts Catalogs)
  • Media (Videos, Wallpapers)
  • And More

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why "Skip"?

There is 11 years between Stanley and his big sister, Judi. When he was a little boy, Judi called him "Peanut". But there came an age when he thought he'd outgrown that nickname and she began calling him "Skippy" (as in the peanut butter). Eventually, it got shortened to "Skip".  

After Judi married, Stanley spent many overnighters with her and her husband. During one of those stays, he persuaded Judi to let him adopt a Springer Spaniel which we named "Skippy".

Needless to say, our Dad was furious with us ... mostly with Judi for her total lack of common sense. But Dad and Skippy soon became best of friends and all was forgiven!

Skip was always destined to beat his own drum. As a toddler, he couldn't sit still ... often bouncing to and fro to a rhythm only he could hear!

Still rockin' at 52!
November 19, 2011