Premier Modern Classic, Solid maple shell

Today I’m looking at a stunning solid shell snare drum that recently arrived in the shop. Its rare these days to come across solid shell snare drums, especially hand built in the UK. But here we have a snare drum from the hands of one of the best craftsmen in the world, Keith Keough.

This is one of the early drums that Keith made when he was at Premier’s UK facility in the North of England. The badge says ‘Modern Classic’ and that really is what we have here. Premier went on to develop the hand built Modern Classic range winning awards globally; this is one of the early drums, call it a prototype if you wish.

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The drum features a solid steam bent maple shell with a 10mm thickness; an interesting point to note here, that a lot of steam bent shells are quite thin requiring re-rings to keep the drum in shape. Not here. This drum is as solid as they come, a really beautiful shell left unfinished giving it a kind of aged, vintage vibe.

 

There’s good attention to detail with the hardware with 10 aged tube lugs, with small plastic plinths between the shell and the metalwork giving the shell maximum resonance. Fitted with a high end Trick GS007 snare strainer, its easy to adjust snare wire sensitivity whilst playing while the lever itself has several on/off points for quick wire adjustment.

 

Inside the shell has a Premier paper tag dating the drum 02/02/2013. Keith’s signature appears on the shell alongside #2 of 50. I’ve spoken to Keith about this drum, and its doubtful that 50 of these were made. Its more likely that this was number two of the first 50 shells he made for Premier that were fitted with different hardware configurations (but this is just mere speculation on my behalf).

 

From a players view this drum, this drum sounds as good as it looks. Plenty of volume and tone, amazing response tuned high and a great fat weighty sound tuned low. The Trick throw gives the player optimal precision over the snare wires, allowing for great sensitivity and little choking. We’ve made a short video about this drum on our You Tube channel Nick Hopkin Drums.

A stunning, solid maple shell snare drum that looks and sounds awesome. Keith has gone on to form the British Drum Company, and great drums are promised there; from a collectors viewpoint, this is a must have for anyone serious about unique hand built drums. There are more images of this drum on our website here.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog & YouTube as we start our weekly articles on snare drums accompanied by video & audio. Join our mailing list also to find out about new gear as it lands at the shop –

Slingerland ‘Clamshell’ snare strainer

The Slingerland ‘Super Strainer’ was introduced in 1940 on Radio King snare drums, but is commonly referred to as the ‘clamshell’. It replaced the three point strainer which had featured on all drums until then. It looked great, with its streamlined design and extended throw off lever, but today is disliked by many for its fragility. Its rare to find a Radio King from this era with a complete arm on! However, Slingerland continued to use this strainer on drums up until the late 1950’s, gradually phasing out the three point.

Here’s a late 1950’s Radio Kings with the Clamshell throw off:

Although the extended lever is often missing from earlier drums, most snare throws I’ve come across are still functional without it. Occasionally the bolt holding the arm itself in place has worn out from years of use; the alternative is to replace it with a modern lever, of which we have several in stock. We picked these up when we were in the USA in May and they work a treat. Although they look nothing like the original, they really do work allowing these great drums to be played again.

We have several in stock on our website with worldwide shipping,  as well as a couple of fine Radio King Snare drums. One is late 1950’s in  white pearl with Nickel hardware the other mid 1950’s with chrome hardware in Blue glitter.

Why not come and visit us to try these snares out and check out the Clamshell throw in more detail. We’re open weekdays and weekends.

 

Vintage USA snare drums

We have fresh stock of some stunning vintage American snare drums. Our latest delivery of snares were hand selected by myself at this years Chicago drum show. Alongside our usual stock of some nice Ludwig Supraphonic and Pioneer snare drums, I chose some other brands and models for the shop, simply because they sounded great.

Here’s three great vintage snares to consider, that may not have crossed your radar before.

First up we have a lovely 1960’s Rogers Powertone in stock. This snare features a  chrome over brass shell with 8 lugs and a Rogers ‘Perma tension’ snare throw. There are a few scratches and marks, but genrally in good condition and totally original. It comes fitted with new Remo Ambassador heads.

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These snares have that lovely warm brass sound but with a crispness, a nice open sound. Read more about it here

In contrast, second is this 1960’s Camco ‘Studio’ model. I fell in love this early 1960’s snare drum and had to bring it over to the UK to be enjoyed & loved by a player here.

These drums are fairly rare here, with a small devoted following, but they rank among the best drums ever made. This snare has the Oaklawn badge and Tuxedo lugs, fitted with the original ‘beer tap’ throw and original wires. In a Blue Ducco finsih, it has a few small chips and scratches to the paintwork, but what would you expect – its about 60 years old! Come to the shop and try it for yourself, it really does sound special. We also offer worldwide shipping, with free UK delivery on snares in July (2016). More info here

Finally, we have a Slingerland ‘Deluxe Student’ model. This is a little rarer than most seen in the UK, as it was made in Shelbyville (Slingerland made drums here between 1965-1966).

The drum features a 3 ply shell, but as with all drums from the Shelbyville era, the re-rings are Oak. This little stunner is wrapped in red glitter and is in great condition for its age. A little wear to the chrome, but the Red is bright and the glitter….glitters! More to the point, I just had the dial on this and it tunes up a treat. What an awesome sounding snare drum for only 6 lugs. More info here

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this interesting. I’ll list some more snares this week.

Dream Bliss cymbals

This week we’ve taken stock of a small selection of Dream cymbals at Nick Hopkin Drums. As our focus has mainly been on snare drums over the past 12 months, we have diminished stock of vintage used cymbals; its nice to have a good set of cymbals in store that work well on a vintage kit when trying out drums. Initially I was looking for a set just for this purpose, but when I started going through the cymbals more than one of each size jumped out at me as something a bit special.

So we have a few hand selected Dream Bliss cymbals in the shop for you to try out; The Bliss cymbals are made in the ancient tradition  – hand forged, hand hammered and micro lathed by hand. At low volume these cymbals have a real warmth, with darker undertones coming alive when played at volume.

We took a small selection of cymbals that spoke to us, in standard sizes. Some 22″ ride’s, some 20″ crash/ride’s, 18″ crash/ride’s and some hi hats.

We’d love you to come down to the shop and try these out; they are available to buy online, but as each cymbal is unique we’d recommend playing some first.

View our stock here – 

Rare Premier Modern Classic, 2013

Ok, so we just had this rare, collectable Modern Classic snare drum by Premier land at the shop. And its lovely!

This drum would have been in one of the first production runs for Premier by master craftsman Keith Keough. In exceptional condition, the drum is a 14 x 6″ maple shell with tube lugs and triple flange hoops. The internal paper tag dates this drum 02/02/2013 along with a signature inside the shell alongside #2 of 50.

Keith’s reputation as a fine drum builder is combined here with the classic English Premier brand. Following his departure from Premier in 2015,  this drum really is one to have in your collection.

Fitted with a Trick GS007 throw and a a set of Worldmax snare wires, this drum sounds out of this world. Unlike most other Modern Classic snare drums I’ve heard. Come to the shop to try it. More information and pictures on our website.

 

Snares of the week..

We’re currently really enjoying a couple snare drums in the shop, both in white pearl with 50 years between them in age.

The first is an early 1960’s Gretsch Dixieland snare drum in White pearl. It dates from very early 60’s, prior to Gretsch putting labels inside the drums. It features a Round badge with the ‘skinny stick’ logo. The shell is good and round, with silver sealer. The white pearl wrap is tight and in great condition with one small split under a lug.

The snare throw admittedly can be a little temperamental, though it stays in the ‘on’ position, and the snare wires tension well.

Chrome over brass single flange hoops are tensioned via snare claws into 6 original single lugs. The hoops are a little worn, with some dents from years of use but are in round and both heads tension and tune well. Fitted with new Remo heads and the wires that arrived on the drum from the USA.

A great studio drum with a lively open sound. Come and try it in the shop or order it online here – Gretsch Dixieland.

Another snare we’re currently enjoying is a Craviotto Solid Maple shell. This is one of the few drums we’ve seen in white pearl. If you’re unfamiliar with Craviotto drums, they are one of the very few companies in the world today handcrafting solid shell drums.

This solid shell maple snare is signed and dated by John Craviotto October 2009. Featuring tube lugs and trick throw, Craviotto wires. As you’d expect from a solid shell snare, this drum sings; great response from every area on the snare head, both sensitivity for jazz as well as a lovely maple crack for a solid backbeat. Rarely seen in this condition for a ‘used’ drum. Come and try it! Or buy on our website. More information here

 

Vintage Drum Show Report – May 2016

I’m sat at Amsterdam airport, as I write this, downing espresso’s to beat the jet lag before I arrive home and sleep for a day. But what an amazing 10 days of vintage drums I’ve experienced; first Chicago Custom & Vintage drum show followed by the Dutch Vintage drum meeting near Amsterdam.

I always love arriving at Chicago O’Hare; it always strikes me as being very clean and courteous, in comparison to Heathrow! It was hotter than usual upon arrival, and my good friend John collected me pretty soon after clearing customs. I’d already shipped a pallet of English vintage drum goodies ahead of me for the show, so until Friday (set up day) I could relax and find my feet. We went straight out to eat, and to be honest I can’t remember much else as I followed last year’s protocol to beat the jet lag – stay up until late night / early morning Chicago time (6 hours behind the UK). After an early start to Heathrow, by the time I collapsed at 1 AM I’d been on the go for about 27 hours. I was up at 6.30 USA time, wide awake and headed to the local diner for a breakfast to set me up for a busy day ahead (Eggs, Hash browns, English Muffin and plenty of OJ & Coffee).

This year’s show was at a new venue, the Odeum Expo centre, much larger than the previous venue and this year partnered with the vintage guitar show. The venue had many positives before I even got there; closer to the airport, closer to the city and my hotel was walking distance to the show (not that Americans walk anywhere, but the previous venue was a good 20 mins car ride away).

Friday was set up day and VIP access to collectors who want to get first refusal on drums as they’re being unloaded. This year I took three kits – an early George Hayman ‘Big Beat’ in Gold Ignot (24,13,16); A Hayman ‘Showman’ in Natural Pine  (22,13,16); A Hayman ‘Showman’ in Black (22,12,13,16). Accompanying the sets was a small selection of Hayman & Premier snare drums and a choice selection of English spares.

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I wandered around a little and got a feel for the new venue, which seemed better – The layout seemed a lot friendlier with all the exhibitors in one large hall. The master classes were to be held upstairs which made sense, as in previous years the second hall contained exhibitors and a stage for performance. The upstairs also had a room of mostly electronic exhibitors and a communal area where some workshops and interviews were planned over the course of the weekend. Vintage gear just kept coming in through the doors, it was going to be a great show!

Show kicked off for the public on Saturday, and to my eyes was much busier than last year; it’s great that this show continues to grow, now in its 26th year. Rob Cook does so much for the vintage drum scene and it’s always exciting to be involved in this show – vintage dealers and custom drum builders travelling around the globe to display their goodies, and enthusiasts, players and collectors travelling the globe to seek out their next ‘must have’!

I saw several friends and customers that I’ve met at the show over my three years there, as well as chatting to lots of new faces; I had great chats with people whose ancestors were Welsh, and answered all the usual questions of ‘do you know anyone with the surname Jones’ etc. I even met a guy who used to work with Tom Jones! As usual, I missed all the clinics and masterclasses due to being on my booth. I did however catch up with John Blackwell for a chat, I hear his clinic and masterclass was awesome. Our one and only Jeff Davenport was there representing Remo, sharing his tuning wisdom not only on the Remo booth but also in some workshops across the weekend. Between us, we answered so many enquiries over the weekend for Pre International heads that we’re going to be doing a lot more heads in non-standard sizes at Nick Hopkin Drums, with Remo, over the coming months. Watch this space…

The café served good food at reasonable prices all weekend, there was no reason to leave the venue all weekend (unless you smoked).

So what about the gear, you ask? Well, with some 300 exhibitors, as you can imagine there was just about everything you can think of. Lots of Slingerland from all eras, especially Radio king sets and snares; Loads of 60’s and 70’s Ludwig with some choice Vistalites on offer; A great selection of Camco kits this year, as well as some rarer Gretsch and Rogers sets. Snares drums? Take your pick; just about every model by the major brands from mid 1950’s through to the 1980’s in most colours. Lots of metal shells – Acrolites, Sound Kings, Supraphonic 400’s, Jazz Festivals. Stand outs for me were a ‘78 Ludwig Black Beauty in immaculate condition; some early Leedy snares; a Slingerland set in fiesta pearl (20, 12, 14), a Ludwig Jazzette in red glitter (18, 12, 14) and a stunning Slingerland set in Copper. There were some really rare snares on display, too many to list here.

I didn’t see that many vintage cymbals this year, and much less spares available than previous years, but maybe I didn’t hunt hard enough. To make up for it there were vintage pedals, hardware, sets and snares in abundance.

As soon as it had started, it seemed, the show was over and I was bidding farewell to some great friends made again. There’s never enough time to catch up with everyone, but that’s how it goes I guess. Thankfully we didn’t have much gear to load out as we sold 2 of the 3 Hayman sets we took and all our snare drums. Of course, I bought quite a lot of drums to bring back to the shop, but that’s another story. This year the Hayman sets received a lot of attention as they are seldom seen in the USA especially in good, unmolested condition. It’s great being able to introduce some of the great English brands to guys who’ve spent their lives playing Ludwig.

I spent most of Monday catching up with a few contacts before everyone dispersed back to their homes and shops. Tuesday I did a little sightseeing including the museum of Science & Technology. Wednesday I indulged a large lunch in preparation for an overnight flight back to the UK.

Friday I checked into Nick Hopkin Drums and spent all day packing website orders from when I was away. I also unloaded a pallet of a dozen snares from the USA, and even managed to photograph a couple to put online.

Saturday Morning I was off to Bristol airport, headed to the Netherlands for their annual vintage drum meeting. I almost missed my flight due to a tailback on the M5, but thankfully the pilot was 20 minutes behind me so I managed to check my bags and make the departure gate just in time. Breathless and overheating, a little worse for the run, but in time!

The Dutch Vintage Drum meeting is in its 5th year, held in the small town of Nieuwegein (near Utrecht) about 30 miles from Amsterdam. On arrival it was a simple train/bus to my hotel which took about 40 mins. I stayed in Hotel …. Which was really clean and friendly, with a great restaurant and a pool. It was also only 5 mins away from the venue.

This show is much smaller than Chicago but really well attended by both exhibitors and punters. Dealers from Germany, Switzerland and all across the Netherlands were there as well as myself with a great selection of vintage drum goodies. Full kits (Ludwig, Sonor, Gretsch, Rogers, Hayman), snares drums, loads of cymbals (including a great section of vintage K’s courtesy of Martin Grimsell of Germany) and tables full of vintage spares worthy of a really good rummage.

The venue itself is a large centre, consisting two rooms – one vintage, one everything else. There is a large foyer with a corridor, also full of traders with a variety of goods on offer – everything from discounted sticks and cases to a stunning Rogers kit with matching dynasonic in Black Onyx Pearl. The venue has a bar that serves great food and drinks at good prices. What else do you need? Overall, a great experience for me, again making new friends in the vintage drum community.

A great, affordable show to attend if you fancy a weekend in Amsterdam and maybe coming home with a new snare drum, a new ride or a case full of spares!

I’ll be doing both shows again next year, if you want more details on the shows with flight/lodging prices then drop me a line.

Replica Vintage Spare Parts

Its our passion here at Nick Hopkin Drums to source hard to find spares for your drums to get them playable again. Some parts are just impossible to find in quantity.

We have started to manufacture replica spare parts for vintage drums as well as stocking some made by some friends of ours in the USA. Here’s a guide to some New and popular items:

Rogers Swiv-O-Matic set screw:

Easy to lose, impossible to find a replacement. For tom posts, cymbal tilters etc. Handmade in the UK, available here

Premier Royal Ace snare fulcrum screw:

Easy to lose grub screw that enables operation of the snare throw lever. Handmade in the UK, available here

Premier 2000 snare height adjustment screws:

Originals snap easily, making snare wires impossible to mount. Two thread sizes available:

Late 60’s – early 80’s drums – handmade in the UK, available here

Early 80’s drums onwards – handmade in the UK, available here

Slot Head drum key:

For general, moderate tension, use on toms – made in the UK, available here

For higher tension use, snare drums in particular – made in the UK, available here

Gretsch Microsensitive snare lever:

Made in USA, available here

Slingerland Radio King Clamshell lever:

Modern alternative to the easily broken, original lever. Fully functional. Made in USA, available here

 

We have some more products in pre-production. Keep checking the site for new additions, or join our mailing list for a monthly newsletter

 

May 3rd 2016

It’s been a busy start to the month, following on from a busy end to April, hence the lack of blogging! So what’s new at Nick Hopkin Drums? Our vintage drum cargo has landed Stateside and cleared customs for the Chicago drum show, which is in just over 2 weeks. I’m really looking forward to this year’s show at it’s new venue and catching up with some great friends I’ve made in the worldwide vintage drum community. Excited is an understatement, as typing this has made me realise how close the show is!

If you’re looking for anything specific, please get in touch over the next week as I’m compiling a shopping list for my trip!

This week we’ve launched new packaging. We’re really pleased with how it’s turned out, complimenting our vintage spares range really nicely. Here’s a preview of the new packaging showing off our latest product at Nick Hopkin Drums – our vintage drum key for slotted tension rods.

These keys are a little thicker than our last batch, with a new design that is close to the classic English keys of the 1970’s. Grab one while stocks last, they’re selling fast.

Heading to us from the USA this week are a cargo of vintage American snares – Ludwig Supraphonic 400’s, Super Sensitives & Acrolites; alongside a few classic Slingerland & Gretsch. Be sure to join our mailing list to find out the exact date that these snares are available to buy.

At the end of last week, we finally found a supplier of snare wires in the UK. With a large order being manufactured for us, we’re close to starting production of replica wires for Premier Royal Ace snare drums. As each set will be hand made in the UK, realistically these will be available to the public towards the end of the summer. By the end of the year we hope to add  replica snare wires for other classic vintage snares to our product range. Watch this space….

Hi Percussion Acrylic set, 1970’s

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.

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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.

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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).

Philly Joe Jones HiPerc

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.