The Leedy Story

I first became aware of and was interested in Leedy drums in the early 1970s. I was in London working with a progressive Jazz/Rock band called 'Armada' lead by Sammy Rimmington, who played saxophone, guitar and clarinet. Sammy had already established himself as a very fine exponent of New Orleans Jazz music. He had in fact played with a lot of the original Jazz musicians in New Orleans when he was just 17 years old. He recounted to me how many of the drummers held Leedy drums in high esteem, particularly the snare drums. I did hear a couple of guys over here playing Leedy, but never owned one myself, despite my desire to after listening to Sammy's stories. It wasn't until 40 years later that I had the opportunity with 'Sir' Alan Buckley to own several Leedy drums myself to whom I am most grateful. These drums are all shown in this video and I have to say I was not disappointed when I got them those old New Orleans guys were of course right, they sound great! For me the 1920's models are a cut above the rest!

Subsequently I learned more about the innovations which Leedy had made regarding the snare drum, in particular the 'Multi-model' range, they must rank amongst some of the finest drums ever made.

As described many times in this video Leedy were forerunners in so many technological developments. For example; They produced the first practical folding snare drum stand, double flange rims, floating heads and self aligning tension rods.

Also, the overall appearance of Leedy drums was important to them, hence producing their 'full dress' finishes including the 'Black Lacquered Brass Shells' with 'Nobby Gold' Black Elite models which are believed to predate both the Slingerland 'Black Beauty' and Ludwig 'Deluxe' snare drums.

Leedy were probably the first to offer painted front bass drum heads for sale, with the 'Spider-Web Girl' being one of the first (see our Leedy Story Part 2 video.)

In addition, they pioneered the use of 'Pyralin' or 'Pearl' finishes as they are known today way back in 1924, it was a good 10 years before other manufacturers would appear to use similar coverings.

I do hope you enjoy our video: The Leedy Story part 1, and share my appreciation of these wonderful historic drums.

In part 2 we show 1920s and late 1930s kits side by side, to exemplify the difference in sounds and tones. On the 20s kit I demonstrated some 'Press Roll' based 1920s style drumming, but on the 1939 Leedy Broadway set I played along to Leedy drummer Cozy Cole's recording of 'Topsy Part 1' ending with my own improvisation in the style. This particular tune really shows off the big Leedy tom tom sound, and by the way, if you notice my exclamation of the words "here we go" and laughter in the middle section, that was due to a sudden increase in tempo on the record.

The later kit is great for swing with its deep 'Swingster' snare drum, and I am still enthralled by how bass drums such as this were reduced in diameter, primarily after WW2. This was when smaller bass drums became more popular. This 24" version was probably 28 inches at the beginning of its life, and I would like to thank Mr. Roy Holiday's experienced in depth explanation as to how this was achieved.

Bass drum reduction was one of Roy's tasks as a young apprentice in a London drum shop.

Have a look and a listen and let us know what you think about these drums in the comments section.

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Harrison Weston-Cottrell | Drums | Next Level Chops 2019