SKF NOTE: Eames Drumshell Company founder, Joe MacSweeney, gives us a unique insight into Buddy Rich‘s drumset. Mr. MacSweeney collected and refurbished 1940-44 vintage Slingerland Radio King drums, using them to create a five-piece set, with original hardware and calfskin heads, for Buddy Rich.
During a 1982 meeting, MacSweeney said Buddy Rich “said that the perfect wood snare drum for him was a 5 1/2 x 14 Radio King,” which Joe found, reworked – including calfskin heads – and presented to Buddy. Rich “was…almost like a young kid getting his first drum,” said MacSweeney.
The two men talked about putting together a full set. MacSweeney said, “Buddy…referred to his style as simple, and he thought that set should be a basic, simple instrument. He was mainly concerned with the snare drum; the other drums were just tonal effects….” Rich wanted “a set…he’d be comfortable with.”
“Buddy always played relaxed. That was [a key] to his style,” MacSweeney continued. “He always considered the drums…should be played like any other instrument — not banged or hit.”
Drums were “tensioned,” not tuned, Rich believed. “He would actually let them get quite loose before he bothered to pull them up again,” said MacSweeney. “He got an amazing sound out of…the eight lug Radio King [snare] – by keeping the bottom head quite tight and the snares very tight, and he got depth from the drum by keeping the top head loose,” said MacSweeney.
That observation is new to me. I’ve always thought Buddy’s snare batter heads were tight. They sound tight. But, MacSweeney, says Buddy let his batter head “get quite mushy at times,” and he “loved to use calfskin when weather permitted.”
The bass drum, said MacSweeney, was the only drum Buddy muffled.
Source: Buddy Rich: A Special Tribute, Modern Drummer, August 1987