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Mymi Drums

Vic Berton (1896-1951) is credited by many as the innovator of the “lo-boy,” a precursor of the hi-hat, with its cymbals mounted horizontally, albeit only a foot or so above the pedal. According to Bill Crow in Jazz Anecdotes, the drummer’s brother remembered, “Someone who had the brains to hire a real patent lawyer instantly got around Vickie’s pathetic two-bit patent by ‘inventing’ [an] improvement…the only money Vic ever made out of it was the wages he earned while using it.” Berton’s brother also recalled Berton’s role in another milestone, the modern cymbal holder. Previously, cymbals were suspended from above by “a rawhide thong hanging from a hook atop the bass drum. Clean fast licks couldn’t be played on a cymbal bouncing wildly around at the end of a thong. Vic made an improvement: a vertical rod on which the cymbal would fit, snug enough for control yet loose enough to ring freely. Soon every drummer had cymbals sitting on those vertical rods. I assume somebody somewhere took out a patent and made a bundle, but it wasn’t Vickie.”

This bit of history is mentioned in order to introduce modern-day Renaissance man Michael Downing, on a mission to custom-build the best-sounding drums, ever. His Mymi (pronounced “my-my”) Drums patent was approved a few months ago (after he studied patent law for three years), not for a “mechanism” as would normally be the case, but for a “principle of physics,” to avoid the possibility of others making minor modifications and acquiring similar patents. My drum-addled brain fries at Downing’s mercifully simplified explanations of the physics and hydraulics involved, but suffice it to say that the concept came to him about six years ago, while he was playing with the Westchester County (NY) Symphony Orchestra. Experiments with junkyard tire hoops evolved into his breakthrough visionary design.

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