07/02/09 By Bruce Klauber
Slingerland Drum Company Dead. Again.
The slow and sad death of the legendary drum company.
A bit over a year ago, I received a call from an executive of the Gibson guitar company, owners of the Slingerland name since 1994. The executive thanked me for helping keep the Slingerland name alive through the years with books, DVDs and CDs, and to my astonishment, said that Gibson wanted to sell the name and asked if I would help broker the deal.
While I was certainly surprised to have received the call, I was more astonished by the fact that Gibson—finally—was going to do something with the Slingerland name. Gibson, of course, has done virtually nothing with the Slingerland brand for years, and also has continually refused to respond to parties who were very much interested in resurrecting it.
Slingerland’s slow demise was a particularly sad one, especially when you bear in mind that the greatest drummers in history endorsed that brand.
I had several ideas as to how to proceed. I strongly believed that only an American drum company could do the name justice, and that whatever outfit bought the name should have at least a modicum of jazz orientation, and an interest in the Slingerland legacy.
What I did not want to see repeated was what happened when Yamaha bought the venerable name of Rogers. For some unknown reason, Yamaha slapped the Rogers name on a student line of drum sets that have nothing whatsoever to do with what Rogers was
Though Gibson expressed interest in continuing to manufacture Slingerland drums—and claimed to be able to gear up in a short time—I was of the opinion that only the name would be of interest to a potential buyer. Since being taken over by Gibson in 1994, Slingerland’s quality and distribution were variable, at best, and manufacturing techniques had changed since the last time Gibson manufactured them.
I went to work immediately, and took the proposal to two, percussion industry titans. The first was a company best known for making drum heads, and I was told they wanted to stay that way. The other company was and is one that I consider to be the finest in the industry, domestic or stateside.
It did take some convincing in terms of what a drum with the Slingerland name on it could mean in the contemporary marketplace, as, let’s face it, it’s the young rockers most companies are interested in these days.
They proceeded with caution, but at least they proceeded.
And what has happened in over a years’ time?
Nothing. Those familiar with Gibson management are not surprised.
It’s likely too late to bring back Slingerland in any form, as with each passing day, the brand name becomes less and less of a memory.
Gibson owns a host of names—including Baldwin, Hamilton, Epiphone, Wurlitzer, Tobias, Nordiska, Chickering and Kramer—some are dormant and some are not.
But for the life of me—and to drum fans of a certain age all over the world—I cannot figure out why Gibson would let the legacy, tradition and the legend of Slingerland die. Again.
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