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  • The Ludwig Drum Company: One Small Script Logo — One Huge Result

    By Dendy Jarrett |


    Ludwig Drum Company: One Small Script Logo — One Huge Result

    They certainly never saw it coming ...         


    by Dendy Jarrett       



    (drum head image courtesy Sotheby's)     



    A small script logo on National TV for one performance — who would have thought that it could have changed the drum industry forever? One small script logo  — one huge success.

     On Feb. 9, 1964, the Ludwig Drum Company (founded in 1911) had already been in business for over 50 years. They had enjoyed some highs due to proprietary design and some lows thanks to the Great Depression, two World Wars, and the fact that they had changed ownership a few times during that history.

    They were purchased back by their founder William F Ludwig, Sr. in 1955. They started building (arguably) their best drums to date during this era, but what happened on that fateful date in February would change forever the face of the drum instrument business, both for Ludwig and many other music instrument companies.


    Why? Well…although rock 'n roll existed prior to this date, that performance changed the face of the rock 'n roll genre forever. It propelled the interest in making music to a level never before experienced in history. Everyone wanted to become a guitarist or a drummer. And everyone wanted the drums they saw on the Ed Sullivan Show performance.


    So how did this impact Ludwig? That date has often been referred to within Ludwig as “the night that launched a thousand purchase orders”…that’s how!


    Ironically, up until 1962 using a logo on a bass drum's front head was not common (although there usually was a watermark at the bottom of the head that was less than inch long). When the Fab Four were getting started, Ringo wanted a set of Ludwig drums because he wanted a kit from America. He traded a set he had for the drums, but insisted on having the Ludwig logo on the front head so that locals would know he had an American-made kit. While William F. Ludwig knew the logo would be on the head (he had struck a deal with the UK retailer who arranged the trade, and gave permission to have the logo painted on the front head), Ludwig had no idea until that night just how prevalent that logo would be — nor could he have predicted the impact.


    Think about these facts: On that night 73 million viewers (a record), roughly 30% of the U.S. population, tuned in to watch that show. It's said that the very next day an untold number of teens flocked to music instrument stores across the US to buy guitars, basses and (drum roll) Ludwig drums.


    The impact on Ludwig Drums was huge. In 1961 the cokpany had sales of roughly $3.2 million and in 1962, $3.6 million. They were growing and already expanding their factory. In 1963 Joe Morello added an unexpected boost to their company and, as sales continued, it's reported that sometime in 1964 they burned their million dollar mortgage. In 1964 sales jumped to $6.1 million, but the momentum of that one script logo propelled them to a whopping $13.1 million in sales by 1966. This was unprecedented growth in the drum business


    Overnight they began running the factory 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The only days they closed were Thanksgiving, Christmas. and New Year's. Even at this pace, they were barely able to keep up with demand.



    Growth was so swift that Ludwig now employed roughly 250 employees. Because they were running shifts around the clock, and noise was so bad, Ludwig was forced to purchase the homes to placate the residents across the street from the factory. Still, the noise from machines and trucks was so intense that he held a factory tour for the neighborhood and threw a party at a local pub where an agreement was hammered out: the factory agreed not to run certain machines (mainly the lathes) after 10PM at night. This agreement allowed them to further their expansion and growth.


    No one could ever have crafted a marketing campaign in some corporate strategy meeting with the same far-reaching impact caused by one amazing TV appearance. Could it happen again? Doubtful. Something on the scale of cosmic-meets-spiritual was at play, and most likely those paths will never cross again in a way that nets the same results.


    One small script logo would change an industry in the drum business like nothing had ever done before, or will ever again. For most of us who drum today, if we trace back our connection to our love for drumming, somewhere in the past...our paths cross with one small script logo appearing on February 9, 1964.


    Ludwig Drum Company is still in business today as part of the Conn-Selmer Corporation; they moved their manufacturing plant to Monroe, North Carolina, a few years ago. During the 1980s and 1990s fierce competition slowed Ludwig's dominance. However, in the last few years they have enjoyed quite a resurgence, and are now as dominent player in the drum marketplace as any other manufacturer.



    There is debate about the original Ludwig Black Oyster Pearl kit that Ringo owned. Many believe it to have been a 22X14 bass drum; but, from the research I have found, the bass drum was a 20X14, as Ringo wanted as much of “him” to show as possible. He understood the value of marketing and branding.


    Here is the the specs on the original kit:

    Ludwig Black Oyster Pearl Finish

    4 ply Maple shells with a painted interior shell.

    Speed King Bass drum Pedal

    20”X14” bass drum

      9”X13” mounted tom

    16”X16” floor tom

      5”X14” snare drum

    The kit (in slight variation of fittings) is still available from Ludwig today (Image shown taken at the 2014 NAMM Show at the Ludwig Booth)






    To buy a Ludwig Kit like the one detailed go to:




    Musician's Friend

    Guitar Center







    Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.


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