Over the past few years, I have been watching eBay and Craigslist for a set of 1970s Slingerland drums in good shape for a reasonable price. While I've picked up a few Sound King COB snares along the way, most of the used Slingerland drumsets I saw were either too pricey or in poor condition.
|1979 Slingerland "Country Roads" kit with oversized|
concert toms and Rogers MemriLoc hardware retrofit
|Vintage 70s Slingerland drumset in violin red wood finish|
When it arrived late last week, there were no disappointments--Slingerland's revered maple-poplar-maple 3-ply shells with reinforcement rings, 30 degree roundover bearing edges, beautiful original finish, bass drum hoops with the chrome inlay intact, and the famous stick saver hoops. The kit's violin red wood finish first appeared in the 1976 Slingerland catalog, and its serial numbers are in the high 230,000s, indicating that this is a 1975-1977 vintage kit, most likely 1976.
While this is going to be a player's kit rather than a museum piece, I decided against any upgrades that would prevent me from restoring the kit to original condition.
First upgrade: Heads, of course. The drums arrived with Remo Pinstripe batters all around, which decay too quickly for my tastes, but do produce the dull thuds typical of 70s pop/rock recordings! Each tom is now outfitted with an Evans coated G2 over a clear G1. The bass drum now wears Evans EMAD2 and EQ3 resonant black heads. The EMAD2 does a good job controlling the boom emanating from the 24-inch bass drum. A Remo Double Falam Slam Patch protects the EMAD2 from solid beaters, and a Slingerland bass drum decal adds a vintage touch to a modern bass drum setup.
|Gibraltar SC-USS Universal Suspension Mount|
is an excellent solution for vintage rack toms
|Large washers help spread the load the suspension|
mounts place on the Slingerland 3-ply shell at the lugs
To restore the rack toms to original condition, I simply remove the Gibraltar mounts and reinstall the Set-O-Matic tom brackets.
The first thing I noticed when playing my "new" Slingerland kit after these upgrades is that the rack toms really opened up with the suspension mounts. The Gibraltar SC-USS is an excellent solution for vintage rack toms with traditional mounts that limit positioning options or choke the sound. The warm tone of the toms caught my attention as well, thanks to the rounder Slingerland bearing edges paired up with two-ply coated G2 heads. And, last but not least, the 24-inch bass drum booms with authority, but the EMAD2 head (using the thicker of the two foam rings) keeps it under control without the need for a pillow--or the classic felt strips across the head approach as shown in the 1976 Slingerland catalog!
The right set of vintage drums can provide a new dimension to your sound. The warm sounds of classic Slingerland shells, the 13-inch rack tom, and the 24-inch bass drum are perfect for classic 70s rock. A word of caution, though, before you consider the purchase of a vintage kit: Each U.S. vintage drum maker peaked at a different time, during which it built quality shells with a signature sound still sought after today. However, as each party came to an end, shell quality declined, and the sound of the great American drumset declined with it. Look for vintage drumsets with the maker's signature shells--3-ply shells with re-rings in the case of Slingerland toms and bass drums. Otherwise, I think a modern mid-level kit is a better choice.