Today I’m looking at a really rare vintage set that has come into the shop, a late 1970’s acrylic set by Hi Percussion.
This stunning white acrylic set consists of a 22” bass drum, 12”,13” & 14” toms, a ‘pedal timpani’ floor tom and matching 14 x 6.5” snare drum in original condition. This set found its way to me late last year after I received a call from a friend of its owner, who had recently passed away. I was told he’d bought this set new in the late 70’s, part exchanging his Ludwig super classic set against it. When I went to view the set I was surprised that all the drums were immaculate, with no cracks or splits in the acrylic shells (which is common). No parts or fittings from any of the drums were missing or had been replaced; and furthermore all the drums were fitted with the original heads. A real piece of European drum history, sat in cases in a garage in Birmingham, in collectors condition!
These drums were manufactured in Italy by a company called ‘Caldironi Musica’ who had previously been responsible for the Hollywood and Wooding drums. The drums’ design broke many rules and looked and functioned like no other sets on the market; some of their innovations were copied and used by some of the biggest drum manufacturers in the years that followed.
The biggest innovation that you’ll notice is the frame which holds the set together – quite possibly the first ever drum rack. The bass drum has two tubular bars that fix into support brackets on each side of the drum, not only lifting it from the floor and stabilising it, but with wheels on opposite ends allowing for the whole kit to be moved with ease. A snare cradle is then mounted from one of sides, this also being of good design with a small quick release lever to open/close the basket.
From the top of the bass drum, there is a socket that takes the two supports for the tom rack. Unfortunately on this set, the bottom section of the rack was damaged beyond repair; this meant that we were only able to mount two toms on the bass drum. Originally, the rack was two tier, allowing the player to mount three toms across the top of the bass drum as well as cymbal arms.
The really unique feature of this drum set, is the floor tom. The tom featured a timpani style foot pedal which operated a set of spokes inside the drum; by playing this pedal, the internals actually tune the drum higher and lower as you play. Like the rest of the set, this feature is totally original and fully functional, which is quite unbelievable (in that, usually when one comes across such rare drums, the main mechanisms usually need a repair, sometimes with no positive outcome). This is the only drum of the set that isn’t on wheels, but the design of the floor tom legs with their lovely feet more that makes up for that.
Another innovation that appears on this set were the quick release claws on all the drums; the lack of holes in the hoops for tension rods to pass through, made changing the drum head quicker and easier and having tried it its really great.
So with the kit set up, either on the rack or with a one up one down configuration (tom on a snare stand) we tuned it up easily with the original heads. Each drum features original dampeners / mufflers which one can clip on or off the drums (they are held in place via the tension rods). Personally the drums sound better to me without them on, but they are another unique feature that I’ve never seen on a drum set before. I’m not a massive fan of acrylic drums, to be honest, but this set sounds really good; a huge sound with no dampening in the bass drum, with loads of bottom end with the toms tuned low.
The snare is a beast; big and deep with plenty of power. A lovely, standard snare throw with a really smooth action, quick release tension claws to match the set, and a good depth to add some real body. What a sound!
The floor tom is absolutely off its head!!! Great fun to play and I’m sure it would suit anyone who enjoys soloing; trying to play the foot pedal whilst playing the bass drum would take some practice, but I’m sure it’s possible.
The set also comes with a matching bass drum pedal and Hi Hat stand.
Henrit’s Drum store distributed these sets in the UK in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s. Bob told me that only a handful of these sets made it into the UK, so it’s great that we’ve come across one in such fantastic condition.
It’s unfortunate that we were unable to set the kit up in all its glory with three toms across the top and the cymbal arms, but I hope the photos give a good representation (There is a photo of Philly Joe Jones playing a set with just two toms mounted like this in an old catalogue).
We hope you enjoyed reading about this set. It’s available to buy on our website, where there are lots more photos for you to study. Or come to the shop and have a play on it – it’s currently set up for people to play – you won’t see another in this condition in the UK.