Identifying late 50s Slingerland "Radio King" Drum Kit - and a 1936 Broadcaster RK snare.

Tama CW

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In poking around the Slingerland catalogs and drum offerings the Radio Kings lost their distinctive embossed hoops after 1951. After that I don't see any outward signs to tell if you have a Radio King kit or not. In the 1959 catalog the Gene Krupa 1N ensemble kit is offered with "Radio King" bass drum, tom, floor tom, and snare drum. If one ordered this exact kit in these sizes, you probably have a Radio King kit. The snare drum is the one ply shell with the clam shell strainer. Once the drums are separated how do you tell if they are RK's other than the snare drum? Do all RK bass drums have the pair of cymbal mounts? Can a 3 point strainer still be on a later radio king snare drum? The topic seems pretty confusing to me. And then I look in the 1960 catalog and there's no mention of RK shells in the Krupa 1N Ensemble kit. So what's the story - is the RK only associated with the Krupa kits? For the late 50's and early 60's can sizes other that 13x9, 16x16, and 22x14 truly be a Radio King kit? Is a Radio King bass drum only 22" having dual lugs?

In the 1959 kit offerings (assuming whoever put this page together, did it correctly) there are 2 other smaller ensemble kits sporting "RK" bass drums and toms. I picked the 1959 year but you could probably ask the same thing for 1955-58, 60, and 62. Since there's a catalog for 59, I chose that year.

1959 Slingerland drum kit offerings
 

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retrosonic

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Tama: I'm confused also. I'd be interested to hear what our Slingy experts here have to say. I've always thought it was the shell that tells you your drum is a RK after 1951 when the engraving stopped.
 

Tama CW

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Retrosonic, that works for the 1 ply snare drum and having the clam shell throw off. Not sure about anything else. I'm getting the feeling that any Krupa 1N ensemble kit is "considered" by many sellers to be an RK kit to 1959, maybe even to 1962.

Here are a pair of photos of my 1940ish RK toms. In looking at these bearing edges they look 2-3 ply to me. In which case everything that follows is multi-ply on toms and kick.

bearing edge.jpg
bearing edge.jpg
 
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steambent

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Boy will be lots of opinions and assumptions on this. Toms and basses 99% ( if not 100%) of the time are plyed with rerings and not single ply. Snares are one ply about 80% of the time I guess and 20% plyed but both had rerings. Now in opinion only (not going by catalogs)many of us old hard core crustie guys says radio kings ended in the lug change in the mid 50s.
 

jptrickster

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according to Rob Cooks book Radio King model was dropped from the drum kit in ‘57. The solid shell snares still carried the name.
 

Tama CW

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In that 1959 catalog reference linked above showing kits, they mention the name "radio king" drums for the bass, toms, and snare drum. Got some feedback from someone who does a lot of Slingerland restorations and in his opinion if came down to the re-rings being used. Wide re-rings would suggest Radio King shell. Single ply shell on the snare with a bridge is an RK.

"Only considered a radio king if it had the wide rings inside. All RK toms and bass drums are 3 ply but the true RK era kits are the ones with the fat rings and after the shell changes in the mid 50s along with the lugs they are considered “Sound King” era with only the snare drums being considered Radio King due to the bridges. Once they go to zoomatic strainer they are considered “artist model” snares....single ply at first then more and more 3 ply till everything is 3 ply eventually. "
 

multijd

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My understanding is the lugs are key with toms and basses. The shells are the same but the lugs are what makes the toms or basses true Radio Kings.
 

Tama CW

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My understanding is the lugs are key with toms and basses. The shells are the same but the lugs are what makes the toms or basses true Radio Kings.
That was pretty much my understanding in years past, lugs and tension rods. Again, if you check that 1959 catalog page above there are 3 kits having radio king drums in them, with the later style BD tension rods and lugs that would be seen throughout the 1960's. Some inconsistency there that I can't resolve. I prefer the notion of the shell construction being beefier or different....hardware is secondary. It's nice when you have both.
 

Tama CW

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Thanks CWDrums. That link clearly show the various wider rings and when they were used. Been a while since I read all that cover to cover. Good stuff. Doesn't address RK drums specifically. But, it shows you what to look for.
 
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drumtimejohn

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I have such a set. 1957ish 22/13/16 ply and 5.5 solid shell clam. Double cymbal stand. The FT has narrow rerings while the TT and BD have wide. Same beautiful interiors. All nickel. It is an original set. I call it a RK because it’s cataloged that way.
 

Rich K.

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If you want to get geeky and technical... Slingerland started to refer to their complete sets as Radio King sets in their '39 or '41 catalog. (Vintagedrumguide has the '41 catalog). It seemed they referred to most of their sets as Radio King sets until the '59 catalog where they dropped the Radio King name for the sets, but still referred to the toms and snares as Radio Kings. There was never such a thing as a Radio King tom and a tom that wasn't a Radio King... it's not like they had two separate lines. In the '59 catalog they referred to a 16" floor tom model 1405 in one set as a Radio King, and on another set, the same model 1405 16x16 was just called a separate tension tom.
By the '63 catalog they dropped the Radio King from everything but the snares.
So if someone says they have a Radio King set, to me it would generally imply that it's a late '50s or earlier set... but it would be the same thing if they just said they had a Slingerland set.
 

K.O.

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If you want to get geeky and technical... Slingerland started to refer to their complete sets as Radio King sets in their '39 or '41 catalog. (Vintagedrumguide has the '41 catalog). It seemed they referred to most of their sets as Radio King sets until the '59 catalog where they dropped the Radio King name for the sets, but still referred to the toms and snares as Radio Kings. There was never such a thing as a Radio King tom and a tom that wasn't a Radio King... it's not like they had two separate lines. In the '59 catalog they referred to a 16" floor tom model 1405 in one set as a Radio King, and on another set, the same model 1405 16x16 was just called a separate tension tom.
By the '63 catalog they dropped the Radio King from everything but the snares.
So if someone says they have a Radio King set, to me it would generally imply that it's a late '50s or earlier set... but it would be the same thing if they just said they had a Slingerland set.
I'd agree, Slingerland did not build a special line of drums called "Radio Kings" but rather used that name on some of the drums they built. The drums evolved over time but that was across the line, they weren't making drums with fat rings called Radio Kings alongside drums with thin rings that were plain Slingerlands, all the drums had those wide re-rings at the time. Eventually they shifted to thinner rings. "Radio King" was a marketing ploy tying the drums to the hottest music medium of the time and by 1960 it probably started to seem dated and even a bit quaint. They switched to Sound King (I wonder if they ever considered TV King? ) but the design of the drum shells didn't change because of the name change. There was a tendency to reuse catalog copy and illustrations as long as possible so it took a while for the RK moniker to filter completely out of the catalogs and, of course, the RK model snare drum hung around longer and it did have unique features.
.

Not sure when the cutoff might be, but the changeover of the lugs and hoops in the mid fifties seems as good a point as any to pick. But whenever it was it was really a change in marketing, not in the drums themselves.

My overall point being, while there is a fair difference between a Slingerland tom or bass made in the 30s from one made in the late 50s there would not be much (or any difference really) between a tom or bass made in 1957 that might have been called a Radio King in the catalog and the same drum made in 1958 or 1960 where it perhaps wasn't called that in the catalog.
 
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Jazz Drummer

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As indicated above, catalogs only give you a guide. If a design was changed that did not mean the picture in the catalog was updated at the same time. I believe this accounts for any and all drum manufacturers, certainly for Slingerland, Ludwig and Premier.
 

retrosonic

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Kevin hit the nail right on the head, as always. Just to add...I also think the Slingerland "associated" the term "Radio King" with all things Gene Krupa, even after they had essentially dropped the name everywhere else.
 

Tama CW

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Went through 3 Slingerland vintage on line guides today. The Cooper's Vintage was quite informative and with great pictures. Lots of details on the Radio King introduction and the changes over the years. The simplest answer appears to be the best.....after the mid-50's or so only the snare drum lived on as a "radio king" and that was only because it was a Krupa + single maple ply. I'm researching a WMP Slingerland snare drum and the Cooper's site was helpful in nailing it down to a 1935-1937 Snare drum (1st cloud badge). No lettering on the hoops so not likely it's a Radio King or Broadcaster snare. I think the secondary line was "Artist" even back then. Missing the top lever of 3 point strainer and the muffler. Not much yellowing at all on this one.

http://www.coopersvintagedrums.com/newslinghistory.htm

IMG_20190810_162225.jpg
 

Tama CW

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While on the topic of Radio Kings.....this pair of toms I purchased a few months back appear to be RK's in shell construction. The wooden hoops with inlays were offered around the WW2 years. The calf skin heads are stamped RK. These were bought used back in 1970 by the previous owner.....and other than the red paint job they were unaltered. It hit me today....hey, these don't have ANY Slingerland badges on them! Did I miss the shells being plugged? I checked closely today. Nope, no plugs showing on the inside. They look unaltered. I guess Slingerland kept their theme on badging only snares and bass drums all the way back into the 30's.....or as far back as they go. Ludwig on the other hand badged their toms back in those days....and that keeps confusing me.

Restoring an early RK kit to full glory

This 1st photo looks to be a later 1950's 1 ply RK snare. Everything else on the drum matches up.


slingyBDP17.jpg
 

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retrosonic

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Tama: Are your two Red tom toms the actual drums in the black and white pic?
 

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