Calfskin to Synthetic Head Changeover History

Medium Size Dog

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Am curious about who were early adopters, who were holdouts. Where might there be archived info from producers, engineers, drummers who debated the issue, maybe in old Downbeat articles, how the shift to definitely louder drums effected recording and live performance, musician relations, volume wars, etc. You can listen to drummers on recordings from the late 50's into the 60's that are usually jazz because more attention was paid to the smaller ensemble recording quality. I think I can tell the difference on some of them. Plus, I'd like to be able to know for sure something like, "Yeah that's Billy Higgins with calf on that 1960 Paul Horn album but by '63 he was all plastic". It's likely this has been talked about on other threads but do any of you people have any info to share? Thanks.
 

rondrums51

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Beats me. I was recently listening to San Levey's This time the Drum's on Me_ from 1955, and the drum sound with calf heads is gorgeous. After 1958-59, Stan was using plastic heads like everybody else, but it's hard to tell the difference on the recordings.

I do know this: Virtually every older drummer I knew when I was a kid said that plastic heads were the greatest thing that ever happened to drums. They all switched over immediately.

As to "holdouts," guys who insisted on keeping with calfskin, I don't think there were very many. The plastic head eliminated so much tuning hassle, and it sounded good, so everybody went for it.
 

atomicmorganic

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When I studied with Ed Thigpen, he used plastic on the snare and calf on toms and BD. Said that he tried plastic on all, but Oscar and Ray didn't like the sound of plastic on those drums.
 

Medium Size Dog

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Thanks atomicmorganic and rondrums51, wanting the added punch and attack of the snare while keeping the calf sound on the other drums makes total sense. It also seems plausible to me that recording studios would keep and use calf longer on their studio drums because the controlled environment of the studio would reduce tuning problems, give that gorgeous sound and engineers and producers could stick with their tried and true methods before adapting and while they adapted to synthetic and the growing number of drummers were taking their cheaper, easier plastic heads everywhere else before pretty much taking over.
 

ChrisBabbitt

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I think just about everything Mel Lewis recorded was with calf skin heads. I attended one of his clinics in the 70's and he said that he only used calf skins. I had a Camco Super snare with a calf skin batter, and that drum had a great feel, and just roared with a big band. It was a bit fussy, but still my favorite snare, and I"ve owned Supraphonic, Fibes and wood Dynasonic & Gretsch drums.
 


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