“Meet on the Ledge, We're gonna Meet on the Ledge, When you really mean it, It all comes 'round again.”
— Richard Thompson, “Meet on the Ledge”
The following story is completely true, and I play the proof. Although I'd been banging on things for years, it wasn't until I was 13 years old that I actually began to study drums. My first drum was a Slingerland snare I bought for $5 from my cousin who found he wasn't as interested as he had thought.
I learned on that drum, and in no more than a year, I was ready to move to a full drum set. My starter kit was a cheap four-piece job that arrived from Japan bearing a fabulous blue sparkle finish and the brand name Star. I dug that blue sparkle so much that I traded in the Slingerland so that I could get the matching snare drum.
I leaned on that kit, and in no more than a year, it was starting to fall to pieces, which bothered me doubly because, by that time, I had come into the knowledge that a Slingerland was one of the best drums around. I guess I wasn't supposed to keep it, because I didn't really understand what to do with it.
Flash forward four years to Albany, New York, where I lived as a music major at the State University of New York. In the intervening years, I had played the blue sparkle kit nearly to splinters and saved enough money to buy a “Ringo” kit: a five-piece Ludwig Hollywoods with a black pearl finish. By the time I was living in Albany, I'd been playing them for several years and had become a pretty good drummer.
It was the early part of a lovely fall evening as I walked out of my apartment in Albany. It was trash night, and there was … stuff on the sidewalk. Reaching the curb, I saw that someone was tossing out the generally smashed-up carcasses of a cheesy drum set.
Then I noticed that pretty much the only thing that the snare drum had in common with the rest of the set was a wood finish. Curious, I picked up the snare and looked it over. As I rotated it, the nameplate came into the streetlight: Slingerland. I'm not making this up; I still have this drum, and I'd even bet the streetlight is still there, too, in spite of my nearly knocking it over with a 24-foot truck when I moved from Albany in the middle of a blizzard. Even weirder is that it is actually an older model than my Ludwigs and has six lugs instead of the ten that are more common now.
But wait! There's more.
Throughout many years of playing, I have accumulated drums here and there, mostly from friends who weren't playing them. I got a fabulous kick drum and a tom that match my Ludwigs, a semitrashed snare, and an old Rogers marching drum that I turned into a floor tom. At one point or another, I have used each of those except for the snare because it needed some work, and I already had the Ludwig and the returned Slingerland snares. In fact, it wasn't until a few years ago that I took a serious look at what needed to be done to fix that snare.
I had never given a second thought to the snare's blue sparkle finish until just a few months ago when I happened to spot the nameplate, which said — you guessed it — Star. You just can't make things up as far-fetched as what real life sometimes hands you.
That little affair has actually had a pretty significant impact on my view of life. Clearly, the drum I couldn't appreciate came back to me when I was ready for it, and the Star snare came back to close the circle and make the point that, as the song says, “When you really mean it,/It all comes 'round again.”
Larry the Ois a musician, producer, engineer, and sound designer in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has been a contributor toEMsince 1986.