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Another Magical Mystery Drum: Ringo’s Golden Snare | Reverb

Another Magical Mystery Drum: Ringo’s Golden Snare | Reverb

Another Magical Mystery Drum: Ringo’s Golden Snare | Reverb
August 01
13:40 2017

On September 5, 1964, the Ludwig Drum Company presented Ringo Starr with a Super–Sensitive snare, plated in gold. Pictures were taken the moment he received it, and then the gilded drum disappeared. Or at least it seemed to.

Though The Beatles were among the most photographed humans on the planet at the time, this golden snare failed to reappear in a single photo, recording session notebook, or snippet of concert footage.

In the memoir The Making of a Drum Company: The Autobiography of William F. Ludwig II, the former president of the Ludwig Drum company confesses, “I was disconcerted by the image of the last time I saw the drum under the arm of a Chicago cop.”

From left to right: Dick Schory, Ringo Starr and William F. Ludwig Jr.
Photo courtesy of Ludwig Industries

If anyone was mystified by the disappearance of the golden snare, it was Gary Astridge. As you might recall from our article about Ringo’s other lost snare — Magical Mystery Drum: The Quest for Ringo’s Ed Sullivan Snare — Astridge is The Beatles’ drum archivist and gear curator.

He spent decades leafing through pages of magazines and books — even pausing on screen grabs — so he could astutely document every drum, cymbal, and piece of hardware that Ringo ever used.

While there’s no physical evidence of Ringo playing the golden drum, Astridge assures me that there’s a compelling backstory and plenty of entertaining theories regarding its fate.

The Glorious Gold–Plated Ludwig Snares

In The Making of a Drum Company, Ludwig Jr. recalls the inspiration for a run of gold–plated snares in the ‘60. “My mind went back to the glorious gold–plated drums of the glory days of Ludwig & Ludwig and the wonderful imitation gold plating on the black beauty models of the mid 1920s.”

The Ludwig Drum Company reportedly produced five gold–plated, Super–Sensitive snares made specifically for high–profile players.

That roster included Ringo Starr, Chicago–based percussionist Bobby Christian, Ludwig’s top endorser and Dave Brubeck’s drummer Joe Morello, Ludwig’s marketing director and Chicago Symphony Orchestra drummer Dick Schory, and Indiana University’s George Gaber who was the first–call percussionist of many famous conductors.

Each drum had the recipient’s name engraved on a small, gold–plated name tag that was fastened to the shell.

Unlike the drums from the ‘20s that Ludwig Jr. reminisced about, these five weren’t made with imitation gold. They were, in fact, brass shells covered in 24–karat gold. The drums were 5–by–14 inches and weighed about 12 pounds, with the exception of the George Gaber’s, which measured 6.5–by–14 inches.

A unique feature of Ludwig’s original Super–Sensitives were adjustable wires on the bottom of the drum. The number of wires would vary across the different Super–Sensitive models, but four of those golden snares had 10 adjustable wires and Gaber’s had 18.

A gold snare was certainly a generous, yet reasonable gift to an influential drummer like Ringo. It may have been offered to Ringo as a money–saving tactic.

Astridge shares, “One story I heard was that Ludwig [Jr.] caught wind that The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein wanted an endorsement deal since Ringo’s decision to keep the Ludwig name on the bass drumhead — instead of peeling it off — made the company a fortune. But, instead of discussing endorsements, they decided to design the gold–plated snare as a thank you.”

(Photo from

There is some truth to this rumor. In The Ludwig Book, Rob Cook explains how Buddy Rich had successfully negotiated an endorsement fee of $50,000. Ringo was never approached. Cook writes, “Mr. Ludwig was afraid to even think about what kind of fee Ringo might command.”

But according to Ludwig Jr.’s autobiographical accounts and Dick Schory, the golden snare was intended as a gift, not a means of avoiding an endorsement.

Sitting in his home office in Glenview, Illinois, 85–year–old Schory looks across the room and casually references, “I have one of them with my name engraved on it, sitting here in my office. I play it about every other day.”

Regarding his association with The Beatles, Schory recounts, “I was the one who had the relationship with [The Beatles’ manager] Brian Epstein. All of the servicing for the tours and the Ed Sullivan Show was my responsibility. And I met Ringo several times, too. He’s a very humble guy. He’s not hard to get along with at all. He was never demanding.

“He bought his first two Ludwig drum sets on his own. And after that, I figured, There’s something wrong here. So I called our UK distributor Ivor Arbiter and said, ‘Let me know when Ringo wants another set, and we’ll provide it to him free of charge.’ And we did.”

But the Ludwig company ended up wanting to do something more than just give Ringo some free kits. That brings us to the day of that fateful photograph.

Who Was Handed the Golden Snare?

Schory’s eye witness account of Ringo receiving his golden snare make it sound like the event happened a few months back, not an entire five decades ago.

He describes the upstairs ballroom at the International Amphitheater in Chicago that September day. About 150 photographers and people from the press were milling around the room. Ringo was handed that cumbersome golden snare for a photo op.

You’ll find all four Beatles in that photograph, alongside Dick Schory, William Ludwig Jr., and his daughter, Brooke. You’ll also see two unknowns: a young woman in the background and a man in uniform who has alternately been fingered as a security officer for the International Amphitheater or a Chicago Police Officer.

When I caught up with William Ludwig Jr.’s son, William (Bill) F. Ludwig III, at the Chicago Drum Show, he retrieved black and white 8–by–10 photos of the moment Ringo received the drum from Ludwig Jr. He placed two of the group shots side–by–side for comparison.

There’s a striking difference between the two photos that actually has nothing to do with Ringo or the drum but is humorous, nonetheless. Bill points out, “If you look at this photo on the left, my dad [Ludwig Jr.] looks happy. But over here, on the right, he’s not so happy. In between shots, McCartney leans over to my 16–year–old sister and says, ‘Hello, love. How about dinner after the show?’ And my dad heard that.”

Source: Another Magical Mystery Drum: Ringo’s Golden Snare | Reverb

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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