The Original Delta Fireballs
Big City Rhythm &
Special drummers edition
In 2002 Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine ran this cover story featuring legendary Mississippi Delta blues drummer Sam Carr, and they chose to use the photo above of Sam standing with The Original Delta Fireballs drummer/guitarist 5&Dime's vintage Ludwig & Ludwig bass drum. For this edition publisher/photographer and tireless blues journalist Robert "Jr" Whitall snapped a few shots one morning while Geneva Red and 5&Dime were staying with the Carrs in Lula, Mississippi. A few years earlier Sam had mentioned to 5&Dime that he kind of missed his old single tensioner Ludwig bass drum, the one used during the time he and Frank Frost were backing "Rice" Miller (Sonny Boy Williamson #2). Carr told Jackie how he had kept his drums in a shed out by his house and his landlord accidentally lit the shed on fire and Sam's drums were lost in the blaze. The photo on the right above shows Sam Carr behind his old Ludwig bass drum with Sonny Boy #2 to his right holding the microphone and Frank Frost to his left with the guitar.
The morning Whitall photographed Carr with the Original Delta Fireballs drum, Jackie who had waited all night, had just revealed his newly restored single tensioner drum and expressed how much his friend Sam had meant to him, and in choosing this style of vintage drum. Needless to say there were a lot of smiles and a few more of Sam's spirited reminiscences.
Regarding how he acquired this vintage Ludwig & Ludwig bass drum 5&Dime tells this story:
"As my interest in playing drums was kindled I had always found it interesting how some of the older traditional drummers I knew had special little modifications they would use to achieve some practical performance enhancement for their kit. I knew that the drum kit as we know it today was a relatively new development in music history. Drummers had been assembling various assortments of drums, cymbals and other percussion instruments and eventually the basic trap set was standardized. Well the older traditional guys seemed to me to still have that "do it yourself", "necessity is the mother of invention" kind of modification mind set that I found really interesting and fundamental to developing my "One Man Band" type of drum kit. My friend Sam Carr, as well as having that great drum timing and feel he is known for, also had that practical ingenuity, and that impressed me too. I had noticed little things on his drum kit that he used to solve some kind of limitation issue or manufacturing weakness. Some of which were improvised "on the job" repairs that appeared to me to be very resourceful. For example, at some point a spur screw on Sam's bass drum must have pulled through the shell and he needed a wide and thick washer to remount the spur and be able to continue the gig. Sam quickly solved the problem by using an old key he had on his key chain. the hole in the key was the right size and it was thick and wide enough to hold the spur just right. Sam's kick pedals ,for most of his life, used a leather strap as they all did back then to operate the drum beater. Of course they would wear out over time and Sam started to use those plastic "wire ties" to replace the broken leather, another quick and easy fix that lasts along time. Anyway, when I mentioned to Sam that I was going to assemble a special set with an old single tensioner bass drum it sparked his interest and he was curious to why I would choose the older drum. When I mentioned that I wanted that big marching drum type sound he started beaming. He had used this type of bass drum himself and mentioned how he had actually enjoyed that type of sound too and when he told me the story about the drum that was destroyed in the fire and how he missed it I new I had to find one for sure."
"I started searching for a single tensioner marching style drum two years before I found the one that I have now. This 1930s Ludwig & Ludwig I use now came to me from another older traditional Jazz drummer friend of mine by the name of Bill Korst (Jazz Drummer/Author/Record Collector/Radio DJ). Bill mentioned to me that he had an old bass drum up in his attic that was the kind I was looking for. This drum was the one he had used in one of his earlier bands and if I was willing to do a little restoration I could have it for my first drum kit. Apparently early on, Bill had wanted to "modernize" the color of this drum the way youngsters tend to do, and had painted this drum black. He then stenciled the names of the guys in his band on the original calf skin head in black India Ink. Years later he decided to restore the drum back to it's original color and applied a paint stripper and back then with those strippers it was a laborious job to remove all the paint. Well Bill got side tracked and stopped half way through removing the goo that the paint had become and the stuff dried right there on the drum and eventually he put the drum into storage just the way he had left it. That's the condition I received it in. I'm sure glad that after decades the current paint strippers work much easier and safer. I was able to bring back the original mahogany color and shine the finish up nice and clean. If you look close enough at the front head, you can still see the names Bill had stenciled there sticking out and around our painted logo that is there now."
"It was really great that Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine was there to catch the unveiling of my classic old drum because it is very dear to me. I limit my use of it now to gigs where I feel the audience will appreciate it's vintage sound and look. I enjoy that traditional big thumping beat it brings to The Original Delta Fireballs performances and to our educational workshops."
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