On a slightly overcast April day in London back in 1963, Ringo Starr and the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, visited Drum City Ltd, so Ringo could find a new drum kit. His previous set, a British-made Premier mahogany Duroplastic four-piece kit, was showing its age.
What happened next depends on who you ask, since many versions of the story have been shared through the years.
What Starr says is that he saw a Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl drum kit in the store’s window and immediately fell in love. He and Brian met with the store’s manager, Gerry Evans, to talk about what Drum City could offer. Other kits were discussed, but Ringo remained true to his first love: the American-made Ludwig Downbeat kit he’d seen in the window.
In order to close the deal, Brian wanted to meet with the store’s owner, Ivan Arbiter. Epstein wanted the band’s name to appear on the front of the bass drum and Arbiter made a quick sketch of how he thought the band’s name should look, emphasizing the “Beat” in “Beatles.”
What few people know is the now-famous Beatles “Drop T” logo (that’s as recognizable as Coca-Cola’s or McDonalds’) wasn’t created by some high-powered advertising agency or record label. It came from the creative mind of a London music shop owner.
The Downbeat drum kit included a 12” tom tom, 14” floor tom and 20” bass drum. This new Ludwig kit was first used on May 12, 1963. Gerry Evans (of Drum City) personally delivered them to the studios of the British TV show, “Thank Your Lucky Stars,” where the Beatles were to appear later that evening.
This set of Ludwig drums was heard in over 160 songs on 28 BBC radio broadcasts. It went on to be seen in almost 20 TV appearances. It was also used extensively on the first and second British albums including “She Loves You” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” In 1963 and early 1964, the Ludwig set crisscrossed the UK, throughout England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, then on to Sweden and France.
A little more than fifty years since Ringo entered that London music store (April of 2014), we here at Encore A&S Cases got a call from Ringo Starr’s organization. His representatives wanted to know if we could build five sets of high-quality road cases for the now legendary drum kits Ringo performed with as a member of the Beatles.
Over a two-year period from 2013 to 2014, Gary Astridge (the Beatles’ drum historian), Jeff Chonis (Ringo’s long-time drum tech) and Scott Richie (personal assistant to Ringo and Barbara) had been organizing and documenting all the Beatles gear Ringo had in his possession. With Starr’s blessing, a plan was created to make all five Beatles era drum kits complete, with historically correct hardware and cymbals.
Musicians won’t be surprised to learn that the men found some hardware pieces from the kits had been misplaced, replaced or lost over the years. Ringo provided funds to purchase period correct hardware and cymbals (including original vintage Ludwig T-Rods and Claws) so that each kit would be complete and authentic, perfectly matching what Starr bought on that auspicious day in 1963.
Ringo and his staff agreed that each drum kit should be ready to exhibit, as well as ready to play, should Ringo ever desire to do so. Important to this plan’s success was that each kit would also be protected in its own custom Encore A&S road case. The cases would be used to store and ship these drum kits, many of them not seen or played since the Beatles era.
Some of the drums were to be sold by Julien’s, the famous auction house in Beverly Hills, California. They would then have to be shipped to the lucky highest bidder. Our road cases would assure the drum kit got to its new owner in pristine condition.
Our sales professional, Jim Turner, took the lead with the order and specified purple fiberglass over ½” birch plywood, with ½” dividers lined with an inch of hard foam. Each custom case had four heavy-duty casters, with recessed handles and latches.
Julien’s held its auction for Ringo’s historic first Ludwig kit on December 4, 2015. The owner of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, Jim Irsay, purchased it for 2.1 million dollars. This sale set a world record for the most money ever paid for a road case—and a set of drums. We always knew our cases were worth their weight in gold. And in this situation, we have proof!
When the time came for preserving pieces of music history, the professionals turned to us. Whether you’re looking to preserve your own history, or just want to take your Stratocaster on the road and keep it looking fine, turn to Encore A&S. In business since 1976, we’ve become one of the world’s preeminent case suppliers because our cases are built to take the rigors of the road and keep their contents good as new. Call us at 818-768-8803 or email [email protected]