Collector’s Showcase: Mike Curotto
Jim Messina’s Vintage Drums
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Curotto Collection - Page 10
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Curotto Collection
Hi all, The latest to enter the collection is the famous Ludwig & Ludwig 6.5 x 14 “D.F.S.” Super-Sensitive DeLuxe snare drum. This was an eleven drum deal that well known drum collector and historian Harry Cangany and I worked out. Harry had extensively researched this drum over the years and believes that this snare drum is the most famous and most written about Black Beauty in history. A BRIEF HISTORY: A Ludwig employee of the 1920s with the initials D.F.S. asked the engravers to personalize this drum for him. Wm. F. Ludwig Sr. found out and made it clear that he was upset that the production line had been slowed down by this special request. The employee was allowed to keep the drum. He was not a drummer and he simply put the drum in storage rather than using it. At some point the drum was presented to Wm. F. Ludwig II. WFL II played the drum for a number of years and eventually sold it to Harry Cangany in the 1980s. The ownership/provenance of this drum is very clear; the first owner being the Ludwig employee (Mr. D.F.S.), the second owner WFL II, the third owner Harry Cangany and on March 29, 2018 I became the fourth owner of the D.F.S. drum. Harry Cangany allowed me to quote some excerpts from his original Modern Drummer article: “A little over twenty years ago I saw this snare drum for the first time. It was sitting on a shelf in the basement of William F. Ludwig II’s home in suburban Chicago. Bill told me to pick out three drums and I couldn’t believe my good luck. I decided on the Tom Mills metal snare drum that started the Ludwig Drum Company, the gold plated and engraved snare known as the William S. Hart Triumphal and this 6.5 x 14 Black Beauty with the letters D.F.S. engraved on the shell. Bill told me that those letters were the initials of a former Ludwig employee who wanted his own Ludwig DeLuxe, the original model name of what we call the Black Beauty. Mr. D.F.S. wasn’t a drummer himself but he wanted a fine and personalized example of the DeLuxe so he had the engraver add the initials inside one of the 10 leaf designs. Bill told me that the process of finishing this particular drum stopped production (there was probably some gawking going on) and his dad, the president, Mr. William F. Ludwig Sr. found out, was not happy and let everyone know about it. We don’t know who Mr. D.F.S. was and Bill couldn’t remember his name but one day the former employee contacted Bill and gave him the snare drum. It had never been played. For fifty years it lived its life in a closet. Bill used the drum. He outfitted it with plastic heads and gut snares because he played in a symphonic orchestra. The original wire snares under the top head are still there. This is a classic Ludwig Super-Sensitive snare drum with the two-piece soldered shell. Unlike so many other DeLuxe Black Beauties, our D.F.S. has chromed metal parts. It was built around 1930 and the Artgold/Nobby Gold/DeLuxe finish with its tinted lacquer sprayed on buffed copper parts had fallen out of favor. Chrome did not tarnish, discolor or chip off. The D.F.S. is a beautiful unrestored snare drum probably built in the months before Conn moved the factory from Chicago to Elkhart, Indiana to join Leedy in the Buescher building, the “new” factory for the next 25 years. Over those decades modern Ludwig has used pictures of the D.F.S. in advertising the company’s heritage. I was pleased to read a description of the drum on the internet post by Mike Dolbear, a noted vintage drum collector, blogger and writer, based in the UK. He called the D.F.S. the ‘king of Black Beauties.’ The D.F.S. is a one-of-a-kind and is remarkable for its story. This drum was William F. Ludwig II’s personal Black Beauty. Now if we could just find out more about Mr. D.F.S., the missing piece of the puzzle would be put into place. Know any good drum detectives?” 1929-30 LUDWIG & LUDWIG 6.5 x 14 ENGRAVED/CHROME PLATED DeLUXE SUPER-SENSITIVE MODEL (THE D.F.S. DRUM) The drum is in very good condition and needed no major cleaning whatsoever, just a little wipe down to remove some dust, finger prints etc. The shell is the heavy two-piece brass shell. The engraving is the 1929-30 (only) ten petal floral engraving pattern. The hardware is chrome plated which makes sense as chrome was introduced in the Ludwig 1929- 30 Ludwig catalogs. “Super-Sensitive” is stamped on the bottom rim which also puts this drum at 1930 (it is generally agreed that the engraved “Super-Sensitive” on the bottom rim would be 1929). There are modern day heads top and bottom and the Super snares are synthetic gut that were supplied by John Aldridge as WFL II preferred synthetic gut and did not want to fuss with original gut snares. There is a small piece of tape (sticker) on the inside that may have been a label, I left it as is. This is exactly how Harry received the drum from WFL II 35 + years ago and out of respect for WFL II Harry kept the drum in this exact condition. I will do the same. Enjoy! Mike Curotto
Hi all, This drum has been in my collection almost from the start (1995). My good friend Al Schneider aka The Drum Doctor had given me this drum on a permanent loan basis. I’m in between restorations so I figure it’s about time that I clean this all original puppy. 1947-49 SLINGERLAND 7 x 14 *BLUE DIAMOND PEARL RADIO KING MODEL *ABOUT THE FINISH: This seems to be an un-cataloged finish per Rob Cook’s THE SLINGERLAND BOOK (page 126). THE SHELL: The Blue Diamond Pearl wrap is in excellent condition but I cleaned and polished the wrap anyway. The solid maple shell is in round (dear diary) and the calf heads fit nicely without any un-necessary tweaking. I did notice some type of factory “patch job” on the interior of the shell. I’m thinking the post-Depression/post-WWII era commanded the use of all materials. The wrap covers whatever the problem was. The aluminum badge is very clean with a tight grommet. All in all the shell is in excellent condition. THE HARDWARE: The all original, nickel plated hardware is in great shape and cleaned up and polished up nicely. The original extension snares are in perfect shape including the tin strips. Enjoy! Mike Curotto
Hi all, This one is a blast from the past that I really never did an article about. This drum is on pgs. 14-15 in my book: THE CUROTTO COLLECTION. The story behind the purchase of this drum took a few turns for the worse before I was able to get involved. This drum was listed on EBay in the early 2000s. There were a number of bids, a lot of interest and the drum was reaching a pretty good price. All of a sudden a number of bidders withdrew their bids because someone had posted to the seller that his drum was a “6-lug” drum. Well, that was a true statement as the photos clearly showed that the drum was indeed a 6-lug snare drum. I guess the bidders thought that this drum was or should have been an 8 or 10 lug drum so the reverse frenzy resulted in all of the bidders retracting their bids...or...getting buyer’s remorse at the current price it was at? The simple answer is that at the time this snare drum was made Ludwig was only making 6-lug snare drums. The seller was very upset and ended the auction. This was at a time when it was very easy to contact an EBay seller via phone so I called the seller, validated him and his correct 6-lug snare drum was able to do the deal without involving anyone except me and the seller. 1919-21 LUDWIG & LUDWIG 5 x 14 ENGRAVED/GOLD PLATED TRIUMPHAL MODEL THE SHELL: The 5 x 14 heavy 2-pc. brass shell is gold plated in a satin gold plating with very ornate scroll engraving in every panel and a large presentation oval taking up a top and bottom panel. An interesting artifact from yesteryear is that the regular factory air hole was plugged in order to use the area for the top of the presentation oval and an alternate air hole was drilled right above the butt plate. Be sure to check out the photos. THE HARDWARE: The hardware is gold plated and brightly polished. The single band top rim has the “LUDWIG & LUDWIG CHICAGO” oval stamp which indicates that this drum may have started out as an early heavy brass shell Universal Model. As a bonus the drum came with calf heads and silk-wound snares. Enjoy! Mike Curotto
HI all, The latest addition to the collection comes from my good friend and fellow collector Mark Cooper of I usually stay clear of Duco finishes as a good number of them have not faired well over the 80 + years but this one had two things going for it: 1. Red/Cream/Red Duco which I have never seen. 2. This is a 6.5 x 15 Broadway Parallel model which is somewhat rare. 1935 LEEDY 6.5 x 15 RED/CREAM/RED DUCO BROADWAY PARALLEL MODEL THE SHELL: The R/C/R Duco finish is in excellent condition with no major dings or loss of paint. I did give the shell a light polishing as there was a little dirt build up, very little though. The clear maple interior is very clean with a date stamp of 3506 (June 1935). The clear interior is a little unique in that I’m used to seeing white interiors from that era. The badge is clean with a tight grommet. THE HARDWARE: The hardware is 100% original and all there. The nickel plated hardware is in excellent-plus condition, at first I thought that the hardware was chrome plated so I had to “A-B” the hardware vs. some chrome pieces to be sure. The hardware needed no attention, just a light once over with a cloth.  The Broadway Parallel mechanism is the second generation version. I did clean up the threads on the tension rods. A bonus here is that the original Parallel snares are intact. Original Leedy Parallel snares are much harder to find than original L & L Super snares and the fact that they are 15” snares adds to the bonus. As a finishing touch I added of-the-era top and bottom calf heads. Finally, a group photo of this drum with its little brother, a Leedy 6.5 x 14 Blue/Silver/Blue Duco Broadway Parallel. Enjoy! Mike Curotto
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Hi all, I just got this drum from my good friend and fellow collector Mark Cooper. This drum came to me in excellent shape so very little was needed to be done hence the short story. 1934- LEEDY 5 x 14 WMP FULL DRESS BROADWAY PARALLEL MODEL THE SHELL: The WMP has just a taste of ivory to it that blends nicely with the hardware. The red/gold sparkle Full Dress diamonds are a tad faded but all are intact. There is no date stamp inside but since the Parallel mechanism is the 2 nd generation version I’m going with 1934-. THE HARDWARE: The Knobby Gold hardware is in great shape and just needed a light dusting. As always I like to clean the tension rod threads so this was the only real cleaning that was done to the hardware. The Parallel mechanism is the 1 st version of the 2 nd generation Parallel mechanism. Mark was kind enough to add an original Leedy SUPERIOR HARDWHITE brand batter head, I had an of-the-era slunk head for the bottom. Leedy Parallel snares are very hard to find, this drum has a set of Adrian Kirchler (A K Drums, Italy) reproduction snares. Question put to Philly Joe Jones long ago: “What is your favorite drum set?” Answer: “The one that I don’t have to set up and take down.” Question put to Mike Curotto: “What is your favorite snare drum?”. Answer: “The one that I don’t have to clean or restore.” Enjoy! Mike Curotto