Vintage GEAR ludwig black beauty snare drums
Spanning 50 years of Ludwig history, these two Black Beauty snares come from the collection of Dave Seville
The evocative description Black Beauty is firmly associated with almost 100 years of Ludwig snare drum history. You can still buy a new one today. This month’s pair come courtesy of Sheffield drummer Dave Seville, who up until last year edited and compiled the Old Drummers Club (ODC) newsletter, a storehouse of information for vintage drum nuts.
Dave says: “The drums came from the USA during my heyday (mid-late 1990s). The first one is a late 1970s 14"x6½" Black Beauty with the simple P85 strainer (Supraphonic model 451). It has a one-piece brass shell, spun from a disc, with no weld. It’s a great drum with astonishing volume. The engraving looks like it was executed by a stoned apprentice from the tattoo parlour, but was actually done by some automated CAD/CAM process, I’m told. Frankly, it’s pathetic, but adds maybe 50 percent to the sale value. I have another, non-engraved one, which has been used more. This one stays at home.
“The older one is the more interesting. It’s a late 1920s Ludwig and Ludwig Super model with 10 lugs and parallel snare mechanism. Amazingly, they were still fitting a similar mechanism up until 1968. I received this one as a shell and hoops only, in poor condition, so I rigged it up with the throw-off from a 1960s 410 Super-Sensitive (as shown), which fitted the same holes. It had plenty more holes should I have needed them!
“This drum has the classic two-piece heavy brass shell – the top half and lower half are soldered together along the overlapping centre bead. The huge bearing edges have two flanges and solder back to the interior of the shell. It weighs a ton.
“Originally, it was black nickel plated with faux-gold fittings – the ‘Deluxe’ finish, which became known colloquially as ‘Black Beauty’. But a lot of the finish has worn off. It is hand-engraved in the ‘floral’ pattern, which is simply beautifully done.
“I had trouble getting usable snare wires for this drum. Apart from the complexities of the parallel throw-off, the gate on the lower hoop is only designed to take 10 strands or so. I latterly fixed it up with a simple Olympic strainer, which was mounted on a piece of wood and secured to the shell using the existing holes. It worked great.
“I sold the drum to a guy in Belgium who did what I should have done years ago and restored it to its original condition. He made a great job that put me to shame –I had it for 25 years. It is a now a real beauty, cosmetically as well as sonorously, and worth a few bob, I dare say.”
“The 1970s Black Beauty has a one-piece brass shel spun from a disc with no weld. It’s a great drum with ast onishing volume owner, Dave Sevile ” Circa 1920s1970s
The late 1920s Super model has gradually assumed a gorgeous warm golden-brown-brass patina.
The drum has ‘Super Ludwig’ engraved into its hoops which, like the shell, are made from solid brass.
Ludwig re-introduced the Black Beauty in the 1970s on drums with one-piece brass shells, 10 Imperial lugs and blue-olive parallelogram badges.