BY KEN YOUMANS
Hoshino Gakki’s 1977 purchase of the Camco trade name marks the rebirth of the Camco chain drive pedal.
Already producing product as “Tama” since 1974, Japanese musical products in general were perceived as inferior to their American counterparts. Ludwig, Rogers, Gretsch, and others dominated the market. Among them, the Camco brand had a reputation as a good jazz drum and as a maker of high quality hardware. When the brand became available for acquisition, Hoshino Gakki/Tama saw an opportunity to circumvent pre-existing opinions.
Shortly thereafter, production began of “the new” Camco drums at Cornwells Heights, PA. With the legendary Elvin Jones as the brand’s first major endorser, Camco was re-born at the summer NAMM show in 1979. The first catalog was printed in 1979 and offered only a belt drive pedal #CM200. Most likely those were built with parts leftover from the Camco #5000 pedal, an existing pre-acquisition product. The chain drive pedal was still yet to come.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Frank Ippolito’s Professional Percussion Center was a busy hub for drummers in New York City, some journeymen and some famous. Customers and staff would often converse about gear performance issues. Frank and Albert “Al” Duffy heard endless complaints about the bass drum pedal technology of the time; a strap made of leather or fabric connecting the cam and the footboard. (Note: Some makers did use steel straps, but with noisy results).
Apparently the continual repair of those straps provided the necessary contemplative time for a breakthrough idea. One day, as Albert repaired a timpani, he noticed the chain drive mechanism on its tuning system. He wondered: couldn’t the same engineering be applied to bass drum pedals? Modifying a Camco #5000, he substituted a chain for the pedal’s belt drive. Its smooth, quiet action impressed many of the shop’s regulars. The improvements continued. The original cam was replaced with a sprocket. Word spread and soon drummers were lining up to have the shop modify their pedals.
Although Professional Percussion Center wasn’t in the drum hardware building business, they knew they’d developed a valuable idea. Frank and Al applied for a patent and on March 19, 1974 they were granted U.S. Patent #3,797,356.
A few years later Mr. Ippolito passed away. His widow, Jayne Ippolito, put the patent up for sale and in 1980 it was acquired by Hoshino Gakki. Hoshino began its own round of improvements to the belt-drive pedal that would soon be marketed as a Camco product:
• Redesign of footboard surface and shape.
• Upgraded footboard material to lighter weight aluminum die-cast
• Reconfigured chain connections and mechanism to offer adjustability
The CAMCO #6735 premiered at the NAMM show in 1981. The pedal got its U.S. catalog number-name from what was then a customary practice of building list price information into the catalog number. In Japan the pedal was dubbed the DP120, because of its 12,000 yen list price tag.
The Tama brand soon blossomed into drum-making powerhouse, and the Camco chain-drive pedal played a role in that success, but as the decade wore on, the Camco brand was phased out. However, Tama has recently announced that it will resissue the famous Camco pedal, which will soon make their way into drum shops across the U.S.