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Billy Gladstone Snare

This is a very cool drum. This is an original Billy Gladstone snare drum prototype built by Billy before he began building his first Gladstone snares. My friend and noted Gladstone expert Chat Falzerano, helped me when we first got this drum, which we both feel is a prototype that pre-dates Billy's first Gladstone snares (#00 Buster Bailey and #1 Shelly Manne). A number of years ago I sold this drum, along with the last Gladstone Billy had made (birdseye maple/gold hardware), to one buyer as the "Alpha-Omega" pair. The Omega is not available, but the Alpha is! Contact Steve at vintagedrums@aol.com to discuss pricing and purchasing. See my video: HERE

This drum is very interesting. Billy did not favor pearl wraps since he felt that they interfered with the sound of the drum, but he did use them if a customer requested them. This particular drum is unusual in that the shell is reminiscent of the Gretsch/Gladstone era, and has reinforcement rings. Reinforcement rings were not typically found on Gretsch shells, but they were used on some pre-war Gretsch/Gladstones. The Gretsch/Gladstone drums were a collaborative effort between Gretsch and Billy, but they were not built by Billy. They were built by Gretsch.

It was on these drums that Billy’s 3 way tuning system and his snare strainer were first seen. Billy generally didn’t like to use shells with reinforcement rings for the reasons mentioned above, and another unusual feature is that the lugs on this drum are of the “double post” design that Billy created after the “single post” lugs of the Gretsch/Gladstone period. The hardware was all gold plated, but the rim plating had started to wear thin on this drum. The rims for these drums did not hold plating well at all, and the example in the photo illustrates this clearly. The rims do have some remnants of the plating remaining in certain spots, but for the most part it had flaked off.

The drum also has an odd grouping of extra holes that required some research. My thought was that the holes were from an internal heater mechanism, however, the pattern of the holes did not match any heater I was familiar with. Arnie Lang provided the solution. The extra holes match a pattern that was used for a particular brand of internal heater. Arnie recalled the hole pattern as being the same as those for a certain type of heater used on timpani. 

 

This drum presents an unusual and unique combination of features, and much work was done in the process of authenticating it. Chet Falzerano knew of this drum and was of great help when working to authenticate it. In addition, the owner who sold me the drum also had information that authenticates it. The nameplate on the drum was not engraved, suggesting that this drum might not have been built for a customer, but may have been a special project that Billy had undertaken. My friend, Arnie Lang, provided expert restoration for this drum.

Below you will see an original photo prior to the restoration work. Arnie Lang replaced the rims with die cast and gold plated them to match the hardware. In addition, Arnie skillfully plugged the heater holes (which are underneath the name plate that Arnie created for the drum. There is only one flaw in the namplate: Arnie engraved this as a Gretsch/Gladstone, which is incorrect. Arnie was going to have the correction made and a new name plate created, but he never got this work done before he passed away. So, I have decided to leave this as-is since it adds to the story.  The Gretsch Gladstone drums differed in many ways and were made by Gretsch. This drum was made by Billy and incorporated the features used in all of his Gladstone drums. For those of you that are not familiar with the differnces between Gretsch Gladstone and Billy's drums, here are some of the key items:

1. Gretsch Gladstone drums were made in the Gretsch factory, not by Billy.

2. The Gretsch Gladstone drums had the traditional Gretsch "round badge". See pic.

3. The Gretsch Gladstone drums utilized a "single post" lug, while all of Billy's drums utilized the "double post"

4. The key for the Gretsch Gladstone drums mounted to the shell, as did Billy's, but Billy's key was engraved with his name and also had a triangular surround plate with Billy's name and patent numbers. 

5. The internal muffler system on Gretsch Gladstone varied and was typically the round knob muffler used by Gretsch at the time. Billy's Gladstone drums had a muffler system that was incorporated into the strainer and was graduated for tension via a lever and numbers engraved on the side panel.

6. Many of the Gretsch Gladstone drums were identified as such with the words Gretsch Gladstone engraved into the shell above the strainer.

7. Gretsch Gladstone snares were wrapped drums using the various pearl or sparkle finishes available in the day. Billy's drums were not wrapped, with the exception of this drum and a few select others that were made to suit specific customer requests, such as Cozy Cole, Saul Leslie Beimel and a few others.

Now: Time for some photos.

BEFORE:

AFTER RESTORATION

NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE ON THE GRETSCH GLADSTONE PIC BELOW. THE MUFFLER ASSEMBLY IS NOT THE SAME AS ON THE GLADSTONE.

NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PIC ABOVE AND THE GRETSCH GLADSTONE PIC BELOW:

LASTLY, THE PHOTO BELOW IS A GRETSCH GLADSTONE WHICH CLEARLY HAS THE GRETSCH BADGE, WHICH IS NOT FOUND ON ANY OF BILLY'S DRUMS. AND, YOU CAN SEE THAT THE GRETSCH GLADSTONE LUG HAS THE SINGLE POST AND THE ORIGINAL GLADSTONE HAS THE DOUBLE POST, WHICH IS WHAT BILLY USED ON ALL OF HIS DRUMS.


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