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Papa Jo Jones 4x14 Ludwig Black Beauty Snare Drum

I ORIGINALLY SOLD THIS DRUM BACK IN 2011. But, I am posting it again here because it is so historic and the story is very cool. Before reading the story below, check out this video of Papa Jo with Milt Buckner. He is using this exact snare:

This is truly a piece of our drumming history and it belongs in a fine collection to be preserved. John Riley sent me the following information:

Here's the story of my Black Beauty:

When I was a kid I studied with one teacher, Tom Sicola, for about 6 years.  At that point he suggested it was time for me to move on.  I searched for a teacher and ended up taking a couple of lessons from several teachers before I found Joe Morello in the summer of 1971.  Around 1970 or 71 I took 2 lessons from a fellow at Larry Rosen's drum studio who was really great but really strict and kind of stern, actually his seriousness frightened me a bit so I never went back.

Some months later a high school buddy, Richie Catanzaro, suggested I check out a new band called the Mahavishnu Orchestra so I bought "Inner Mounting Flame."  This music really was beyond my comprehension at the time but still knocked me out.  As I studied the small photos on the back of the album for insight into the music, I was surprised to recognize my "stern" teacher from Larry Rosen's: Billy Cobham.  I was also captivated by the drum set in the photo and the strange snare drum he was using.

Jump ahead to the early 80s.  I get a phone call from Art Weiss, a pianist I had done a bunch of commercial gigs with when I first moved to NYC.  Art told me there was a woman in his building on the upper West Side selling some drums and asked me if I was interested.  I said "no" but asked her name.  Art said: "Marcia Cobham."  I knew immediately who she was because Billy always thanked her in the credits of his recordings so I decided maybe the drums would be worth a look.

When I arrived at Marcia's apartment she showed me a gleaming gold plated Gretsch floating action bass drum pedal, a beautifully restored Leedy 14x12 "Victory" parade drum from the 40s with no metal parts on it, a Gladstone practice pad and a 14x4 Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum which I immediately recognized as the drum in the photo on "Inner Mounting Flame."  I couldn't imagine playing the gold plated bass drum pedal so I left it behind but purchased the other pieces.

Since I didn't have much use for the parade drum I had Barry, at Drummer's World, sell it.  I kept the snare drum at home and rarely played it but I did become a convert to the Gladstone practice pad.

At one point I mentioned having Billy's Black Beauty to Dennis Chambers and, being the Cobham fan that he is, he begged me for it.  I lent it to Dennis to check out but it took a year to get him to return it.

Years go by and I never cross paths with Billy.  Finally, must be mid 90s, we are both doing things at a PASIC convention.  After Billy's clinic I go up onto the stage, introduce myself and ask "Mr. Cobham, did you ever own a 4" Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum?"  His reaction was "YOU'RE THE GUY!" So I asked: "do you know anything about the history of the snare drum?" and he said: "as a matter of fact I do.  Jo Jones gave it to me and Sid Catlett gave it to him and Gene Krupa gave it to him and Bill Ludwig gave it to him.."  A couple years back Adam Nussbaum and I had lunch with Billy while he was performing at West Point, at that lunch Billy repeated that chronology.  Recently, after I read Billy's interview in DRUMMHEAD magazine where he mentions getting the drum from Papa Jo, I emailed Billy about the history of the drum and he said he could only confirm that Jo Jones gave it to him and that I bought it from Marcia. Regardless, the drum has been in good hands all these years.

I have been playing the drum of late, with a calf skin head on it, and it sounds fantastic in every setting - small group, big band or playing backbeat music.

John Riley



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