The Best and Worst of Drum Industry Vintage Advertising


Over the years, advertising in the drum and percussion industry has been hit and miss. We've picked out ten ads and loosely attempted to decipher whether they'd still be relevant today.

ZILDJIAN| 1960s: Buddy Rich helped turn Zildjian cymbals into a household name among musicians, his close friendship with Armand Zildjian playing a key role. This ad ran in publications during the late 1960s and recognizes that, by this point in his career, Rich was widely hailed as one of the greatest drummers ever. He was a frequent fixture in Zildjian's advertising throughout his life, and still appears today from time to time.

SONOR | 1986: This is quite a strange one from Sonor, and ran throughout 1986. At that time, Steve Smith had been recently fired from Journey and was setting himself up as a prominent session artist and band leader. The hint of sarcasm in the tagline's second sentence "I guess you could say I'm convinced" is somewhat undermined by the photograph, in which Smith looks more like he's been told to sit in front of his drum kit for a photo op after a long day. If the ad was remade today, the first sentence would have to be amended to "I've been playing Sonor drums for more than 38 years."

TAMA| 1987: Love or loathe him, Lars was an advertiser's dream with Metallica's audience alone a significant target market. This ad ran in 1987, with Master of Puppets having been released the year previous to widespread critical acclaim. Lars inspired swathes of teenagers to pick up the sticks, and when it came to buying a drum kit, which brand did they covet? TAMA.

ROGERS| 1974: This 1974 ad from Rogers shows that the drum industry wasn't immune to sexist advertising that was - and in some cases still is - incredibly common within musical instrument retail. Whilst not immediately overt, it likens "girls" to little more than an expensive pastime, as consumable as the product Rogers are trying to sell. Rogers had a string of weird ads with a similar premise, suggesting that "girls" are preventing the [male] consumer from being able to get what he really wants - an expensive drum kit. Unfortunately, you can pick up music magazines today which still objectify women for the sole purpose of selling instruments to men.

SONOR | 1966: One of the few early instances of women being featured in musical instrument advertising that isn't immediately demeaning. Though the tagline isn't great, the paragraph below states that Sonor produces "all kinds of drums for all kinds of drummers." The idea that drum sets aren't exclusively bought by middle-aged white men is one which will unfortunately not flourish in the minds of marketing managers for another 40 years. This is what makes this ad, for its time, pretty progressive.

LUDWIG| 1973: William F Ludwig did for the drums what Bill Gates did for home computing. Much of Ludwig's inventions helped define the modern drum set, and one item in particular, the Speed King Pedal, set the standard for all others to follow. Although this ad [taken from the Ludwig catalogue] dates from 1973, the Speed King first entered production in 1937 and remained largely unchanged until it was discontinued in 2014. A design oversight meant the bearings required regular lubrication otherwise the pedal would begin to squeak; a noise which is now immortalized on various Led Zeppelin recordings such as “Since I’ve Been Loving You” and “The Ocean”.

GRETSCH| 1958: Gretsch had a borderline monopoly on the 1950s Jazz scene, with a fierce roster of artists including the likes of Max Roach, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Louie Bellson and some kid from the UK called Charlie Watts. This ad appeared in both the Gretsch catalogue and a 1958 issue of Downbeat Magazine. You can't beat a pensive looking Max Roach.

LEEDY|1963: Certainly not one of Leedy's crowning achievements, this ad is reportedly a spoof of a Broadway musical called Lil' Abner from 1958, which was itself adapted from a comic book in which the titular protagonist is relentlessly pursued by a beautiful women. The ad itself appeared in 1963 and features Shelly Manne who was one of Leedy's main artists at the time.

VOX|1967: In the late 1950s, a German drum manufacturer called Trixon attracted the interest of some highly influential drummers, namely Buddy Rich and a young Ringo Starr thanks to some eye-catching aesthetics. By 1967, the year this ad ran, Trixon was selling drum sets in the US through a licensing agreement with amplifier manufacturer Vox, and flaunting some innovations in drum set design (canonical and elliptical shells) which ultimately wouldn't catch on. Trixon stopped manufacturing in the early 1970s. The brand was relaunched in 2007.

REMO|1971: The synthetic drumhead was developed by Remo Belli in 1957 and revolutionized both the industry and the instrument. Prior to Remo's adoption of Mylar, drumheads were largely made of calfskin and prone to contracting and expanding under different weather conditions, meaning they had to be continuously re-tuned. This ad, which ran in 1971, features Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson. It has become somewhat iconic and used in various iterations by Remo through the years.