A History of Ludwig Drums and the Ludwig Black Beauty Snare

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Ludwig & Ludwig, the home of the Ludwig Black Beauty snare, was formed in 1909 by brothers William F. and Theo Ludwig. The brothers began their innovative designing in a simple Chicago garage, with their first innovation being a bass drum pedal that was faster and far superior to anything available at the time.

In 1916 the brothers came up with the spring action that was to become the basis for the current Balanced Action Pedal Timpani.

In the mid 1920’s the brothers became famous for making some of the worlds finest ukulele-banjos, still prized amongst collectors today.

When the great depression of the 1930’s hit, the company merged with the C.G. Conn Company, but William wasn’t happy with the new structure and left in 1936, forming his own company, the W.F.L. Drum Company, with the famous Speed King Pedal being one of the first products designed, which is still manufactured by Ludwig today.

Ludwig was purchased back from Conn in 1955 and relaunched as the Ludwig Drum Company.

The new company struggled for almost 10 years, until 1963 when an emerging band from Liverpool, The Beatles, chanced upon a kit in a London store window. The band were walking through London, when Ringo spotted the kit and instantly fell in love.

After appearing on the Ed Sullivan show with his new kit and that famous Ludwig log on the bass drum, sales skyrocketed.

In 1966, The now successful Ludwig purchased the Musser Marimba Company and as a show of gratitude to Ringo for changing their fortunes, gifted Ringo with a gold plated snare drum.

Led Zeppelin’s John “Bonzo” Bonham was the next superstar drummer to use Ludwig drums. His famous amber- colour Vistalite drum set is synonyms with 1970’s rock drumming. Vistalite was the trade name used by Ludwig for its line of acrylic drums in the 1970s.

After the death of his father in 1973, William F. Ludwig, Jr took over the reins and the company eventually became a part of The Selmer Company in 1981.

From that first day in that barn in Chicago, the company has always been at the forefront of innovation, introducing many materials not thought of previously in drum manufacturing. In addition to the Vistalite drums, the company also manufactured stainless steel drum kits, but due to high manufacturing costs, ceased production in the early 1980’s.

The now famous and most sought after of snare drums, the Ludwig Black Beauty was first manufactured in the 1920’s. The Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum, a hand-engraved black nickel-plated brass shell drum is highly prized by collectors and players alike. The Black Beauty was reissued, available either unengraved or machine engraved, in the late 1970s, and reissued again in the 1990s.

When The Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum was re-introduced in the late 1970’s, they were again made in brass. As the company changes ownership in the early 1980’s the drum switches to bronze which was done for economic reasons.

It’s enjoying a current resurgence and is a coveted addition to most collections.