Vintage drums, legendary sounds: Rogers Holiday kit

Jay Joseph takes a look at the ‘Cadillac’ of drums… a late 1960s Rogers Holiday drum set

Images: Pete Norton

Rogers2_webWhen we think of legendary American actresses that Hollywood was built on, Virginia Katherine McMath (AKA Ginger Rogers) was certainly one of the finest. When we think of legendary American drums that the golden era of popular music was built on, one of the finest drum sets ever produced was this here ginger Rogers. Although this drum set started life in the catalogues and in the drum stores as a silver glass glitter wrap, time has matured it. Now, less silver glitter and more a sort of pewter, this drum set has taken on a lovely aged ‘Ginger Ale’ appearance.

The colour change is no indication of a poor quality finish; many drum sets from this era spent their days (and more likely, nights) in smoky bars and clubs and quite often, tobacco staining can be a factor of the colour change. Generally, those drum sets tend to have seen better days all round, but for the mint drum sets, like this Rogers, it’s just age and time gracing the drums with a mellowed colour in both appearance and sound.

Affectionately nicknamed the ‘Cadillac’ of drums, these Rogers are up there with some of drum history’s finest. Some believe these to be the finest drums ever produced, and the sound, build quality and design would certainly lend well to this accolade. Predominantly manufactured across two locations in America – Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio (Pre-CBS ownership) and Fullerton, California (Post CBS) – the Rogers brand was originally introduced by Irish migrant Joseph Rogers, who began manufacturing drumheads upon his arrival in America in 1849. It was his son who, in the 1930s, began producing drums. Rogers’ drum history is fairly short in comparison to most of the other brands we see, lasting only 50 or so years, the golden era for Rogers being the mid 60s through to late 70s.

This particular set is a silver glass glitter – now ‘Ginger Ale’ – ‘Holiday’ model. It includes a 22”x14” kick drum, a 12”x8” rack tom and a 16”x16” floor tom. The drum set is complemented by a chrome-over-brass 14”x5.5” Dynasonic snare drum.

From 1964 until 1978, Rogers shells were a maple five-ply construction, with five-ply reinforcement rings. In 1978, Rogers began offering drums with eight-ply shells without reinforcement rings (made by Keller in Manchester, New Hampshire) for its XP-8 line. XP-8 marked the beginning of relatively heavy, thick ‘stadium’ shells that favoured attack and projection over midrange tonality, largely to suit the changing music tastes of that time. Although promoted as ‘the best Rogers drums ever made’, the XP-8 models did not do as well among drummers and Rogers suffered because of this.

The 1964-78 shells are absolutely magnificent. Ludwig has ‘it’, and Gretsch has ‘it’, but Rogers are ‘it’. These drums record like no other and they’re built like no other. The designs, fittings and hardware were from a vision and time way ahead of their years, and to this day there’s arguably not a manufacturer standing that can match the genius and quality of the Rogers Swiv-O-Matic system of drum mounts and hardware. The first thing Ringo did when he brought those Ludwig’s back from the USA? Changed the rack tom mount to Rogers S-O-M. Mitch Mitchell and Bonham also swapped their flimsy-by-comparison Ludwig mounts for Rogers. The hardware features hex mounting rods and legs instead of the usual round rods/legs, giving way more stability and grip. The rack tom mounts feed into a tightening collet, a fixing method borrowed from the automotive machinery industry. Rogers were one of the first to introduce omni-ball mounts. And memory-locks, now standard furniture on any drum set these days, yes, you can thank Rogers and Roy Burns (Evans’ founder) for those, too.

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3 comments on “Vintage drums, legendary sounds: Rogers Holiday kit

    Hola me encanta mi Rogers pero quisiera saber de las que salieron despues de los 80s Sobre todo de algunas que no llegaron a Mexico. He visto una que tienen la Big R pero no dicen USA . Que pasa con ellas y si se puede confiar en las mismas???

  2. Don says:

    What drum heads in your opinion sound best on the Rogers Holiday shells? Batter and resonant.

  3. Marc Gurevitch says:

    Mr. Robbins,
    Just stumbled on your trip down memory lane.

    Played professionally out of Ontario, Canada for 16 years (’68-’84) on the same kit in pink champagne.
    Loved ’em.

    Included a year-&-a-half in England, first at a come dancing ballroom in Derby, then with the Fantastics (formerly The Velours) doing mostly the Top Rank circuit for the Gordon Mills Agency in ’72-’73.

    Shortly after getting back to Canada, decided (don’t remember why) to strip off the champagne veneer. Did and sealed with a couple of coats of urethane.
    Loved ’em even more.

    As great as they had sounded before, free from what I believe to be the chocking effects of the veneer, the drums just sang. Tuning took a little more effort originally- to find the sweet spot (as personal as that might be) between the increased resonance and too much ringing. Throughout the remainder of my career, neither stylistically nor musically did I ever feel a need to replace them. The kit simply expanded around those four drums.

    Again, thanks for the great article.

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