Formally known as Ludwig-Musser, the company began in 1909 as Ludwig & amp; Ludwig, who represented the fraternal team William F. and Theo Ludwig. Ludwigs initially made his mark by producing a bass drum pedal that made it possible to play faster strokes without losing volume or forcing – a feature that may have been due to Williams’ drumming efforts. The brothers followed their first triumph with a hydraulic action tympani and in 1916 developed a spring mechanism that became the basis for the current balanced action pedal.
During the 1920s and early 1930s, the company expanded into two types of ukulele banjo instruments that remain highly valued by collectors. However, the Great Depression initiated some difficult changes for Ludwig – especially a merger with CG Conn Company. Satisfied with his lack of commitment on the design and manufacturing side after the merger, William Ludwig abruptly quit in 1936 and quickly opened the WFL Drum Company. He wasted no time rolling out a new product, the so-called ‘Speed King Pedal’, which Ludwig still manufactures today. In 1955, William bought the old com company back from Conn and named it the Ludwig Drum Company. In 1966, Ludwig made another coup in buying a rival, the Musser Marimba Company, which was engaged in making percussion instruments. Conn-Selmer is the current owner.
How much the big band players appreciated Ludwig’s instruments, it took rock ‘n’ roll to drive the company’s profile where it really played a role – in front of the young generation who want to be the next Ringo Starr, who became the first great rock musician to support them. Sales skyrocketed exponentially, leading the company to reward Starr’s patronage in 1965 by giving him a specially inscribed, gold-plated drum kit. Other heavyweights quickly followed in the 1960s and 1970s, including Cream’s Ginger Baker, Jimi Hendrix’s Experience Mitch Mitchell, and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham. Ludwig kits, whose drums were made of maple and other selected hardwoods, wished for their ability to cut through a ’60s live performance’. It was hardly a small issue, as drumming did not become a common practice until the end of the decade.
Throughout its existence, Ludwig has distinguished itself by experimenting with materials and finishes, such as the so-called ‘Black Beauty’, a nickel-plated brass skull roll made in the 1920s, and still valued by collectors. Another example occurred in the 1970s, when Ludwig introduced the Vistalite series, essentially a transparent acrylic design that benefited musicians from the hard-rocking Bonham, to soft-rock specialist Karen Carpenter. Ludwig also experimented with stainless steel kits, which Bonham favored during his later Zeppelin years. But the cost and weight of these drum kits forced their break, even though Ludwig resurrected them in 2007 for a special Bonham tribute model made in a limited edition of 100 units. Ludwig also excelled at producing snares such as its Supraphonic – which Baker, Bonham, Deep Purple’s Ian Paice, and Ace session master Steve Gadd used extensively – and Super-Sensitive, so named for its precision wood finish and response capabilities. h2> Potential The current design range offers something for everyone. In 2001, Ludwig revived its Vistalite series, and sales of that model – along with the Bonham-era replica kit – have even been strong enough to inspire other companies to offer their own acrylic models. Another major development occurred in 2007, when Ludwig reintroduced his classic shell design of maple reinforcing rings and supportive poplar wood garments. With endorsers such as Tre Cool of Green Day, Jim Riley in the country rock band Rascal Flatts and Meg White from the retro garage band White Stripes, there is the small question that Ludwig’s products continue to extend over the past and future – not a ploy for a successful company stay in business for 100 years For 100 years, Ludwig has ranked among the top drum companies. From the first success of bass drum pedals that enabled drummers to play faster beats, Ludwig has rightly gained a reputation as a leading company. This reputation first took hold during the Big Band Swing era of the 1930s and 1940s and went into overdrive in the 1960s – when Ringo Starr lent his Beatles credibility to Ludwig’s products. Classic kit designs from the 1960s and 1970s remain today, but Ludwig is not about to rest on his laurels – as evidenced by his current list of endorsers, who come from all genres in today’s music scene.