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OT: Earliest Music Gear I Went Ga-Ga Over
In my first year of college , I went and saw the group
Three Dog Night play up at the fairly recently constructed
Oakland Coliseum (the first of many shows I'd see there over the years).
The drummer was playing a double bass drum set of the brand new released
Ludwig see through Vistalite drums. I had never even heard of such a
and it was so wonderfully modern and psychedelic I became obsessed with
I had been drumming for about 4 years at this point on the first drumset
that my parents had purchased for me (a decrepit blue sparkle Stanford
and these things were like a spaceship to me.
As chance would have it, I dropped out of college that Winter quarter
to the chagrin
of my parents) and the next summer got a job working graveyard, 6 nights
week, 10 hours
a night at a Tomato canning factory in Eastside San Jose.
My station at the canning factory was about 20 feet above the canning
where mostly hispanic
women in hairnets picked through freshly boiled whole tomatoes were two
(the length of two football fields in this enormous tin sheds) that
two different sizes of
empty cans that flung by my face at an amazing rate of 7 per second.
These cans would then hit can diversion machines that would send a number
to each individual canning station with a dozen or so women
On the average of every 20 minutes a can would fall over, jamming the
machines and making
an even more horribly loud sound than that of thousands of empty cans make
hurtling down a line.
My job was to pick up the can.
On my station (and I was the only person up above the canning lines) the
rising steam from the boiling
tomatoes was so thick that I could not see the ground and the women (and
more importantly, the
supervisors) could not see me. The sound was so loud that I was able
play for hours
each night on the big metal canning lines with enormous 2S drumsticks (the
closest thing in the drumming
world to small tree trunks). Mind you, there was NOTHING to do at this
job for 10 hours a night.
I would play for 4 hours with my left hand and for 4 hours with my right
hand each night and I did religiously
for the whole summer. Lol, I thought it would make me a stronger
to do so (and I knew nothing
about good technique or the ergonomics of sticking at the time).
Well, I was being paid the ungodly sum of slightly over 5 dollars an hour
(this was close to three times minimum wage)
and at the end of 10 weeks of this, I marched to the store and proudly
bought a huge six piece Ludwig Vistalite
drum set, with a 22" kick, 13", 14", 16", and a custom 18" floor tom with
deepshelled 14" X 6 1/2" chrome
Supraphonic snare drum (that is still my favorite snare drum in the world).
For the first year I owned it, I was embarrassed to play in public with it
because I thought it was a way better drumset
than I was a drummer.
As the years went on (forgive me, this was the early 70's) I added on to
that drumset (and even had Metheny drummer, Danny Gottlieb
send me a 14" X 14" floor tom shell that matched it for free when he
I was looking for one) and even ended up replacing
the toms and built 8 octobans out of clear plexiglass shells so that by
time I sold it, it consisted of
2 22" kick drums
2 10" toms
2 12" toms
1 13" tom
2 14" toms
a set of concert toms (6",8",10", 12")
8 6" octobans of various lengths
1 14" snare drum
When I finally sold it, I did so to a friend of mine who had been a big
fan of my band Tao Chemical for
$600 and a Purecussion flat drumset.
This was about 2 years before Vistalites suddenly became huge collectors
items. I would have made four times that much had
I waited as it turned out.
I wish I had it to this day but I have to content myself with my custom
maple drums with vintage Leedy art deco hardware on
a vastly better drum set.
I tell you though, there's a reason that John Bonham played that huge
of Orange Vistalite Ludwigs with Led Zeppelin.
They sounded like GOD on big rock and roll numbers...................just
But we had entered the era of small drumkits and they were dinosaurs and
I miss that kit.
Here's what it looked like except that I had an extra 16" X 18" floor