BY NICOLAS GRIZZLE
Ringo Starr originally received his 14” x 5.5” Ludwig Oyster Black Jazz Festival snare on May 12, 1963. Now, 55 years later, you can get one too.
Fifteen snares were made using period techniques and the exact specifications of Starr’s unique snare, only six of which are known to exist. Each is signed inside by Sir Ringo himself and can be yours for $30,000, with proceeds going to Starr and his wife Barbara Bach’s Lotus Foundation Charity. The drums went on sale on April 18, exactly 55 years after the datestamp on Starr’s original Oyster Black snare.
“When Ringo gave his blessing, it threw me back on my heels,” says Gary Astridge, a Beatles historian who initiated the Starr Festival Snare project. “His only stipulation was that it had to be as accurate as possible. Ludwig was on board right away.”
Astridge, who has worked with Starr on projects in the past including posters of his drums, was the perfect person for the job. In addition to spending decades of his life researching and cataloging details of the drummer’s musical career, he was one of the few people who had recently handled the famed snare, having helped uncrate and set up the drums for the 2013 Grammy Museum exhibit Ringo: Peace & Love with Starr’s drum tech Jeff Chonis. It was there that he noticed the depth on Starr’s actual snare — you know, the one with the cigarette burn and tape residue on the side — was larger than almost every other Jazz Festival snare drum he’d come across of that era. That is, except for one he had bought on Ebay from a Milwaukee art museum curator years prior.
Turns out his was another Ludwig “mistake” drum from the same year. Now, out of the six known Jazz Festival snares of this configuration in existence, Astridge owns two. Starr only owns one (but it’s the one, so there’s that).
Astridge worked with Ryan Taylor, Ludwig’s design engineer of percussion, to create the replica snares. To make this drum, Taylor had to research how Ludwig was making drums in 1963. “We used a process that is no longer used here, which is making a scarf-jointed shell,” he says. That’s where two parts of a shell are overlapped, with the inside and outside of the shells sanded at the joint to make a smooth, seamless connection. The poplar plies back then were also a little thinner than today’s, so the whole ply had to be sanded down to match the exact thickness of Ringo’s famed three-ply, mahogany/poplar/mahogany snare.
The reinforcing rings, white interior paint, and even the position of the holes — drilled just off the off the seam of the wrap — were faithfully recreated. Even the hardware was “harvested” from 1960s Ludwig snares to give these drums a little extra historic mojo.
“Me kind of being a drum nerd and engineer myself, we had a really fun time working on this,” says Taylor. “It was a labor of love. It was lots of hours and handwork, but it was not just me. The plant played a huge role in this… I really tried to make sure the normal operators who are here got to use their expertise on this drum.”
For his part, Astridge couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. “I’m so happy and proud of this one,” he says. “For me, it feels like this was meant to be.”