Behind the Drum Kit: The Ro Sham Bo Story
By Kevin Packard Director of Marketing, Ludwig Combo Percussion
In American popular culture, there are just certain things that are iconic. You could care less under normal circumstances if you see a Black Trans-Am; but if you get behind the wheel of a '77 with the Gold Firebird graphic on the hood, automatically you think you're Burt Reynolds; driving to Texarkana to get Smokey away from the shipment you are trying to get over the state line. It is pretty easy to say that we in the drum community have those iconic symbols we still desire to get behind. Is it because we honestly feel that by manning the helm of a Black Oyster Pearl Downbeat kit, we can somehow magically harness some of the magic that The Beatles spun on Ed Sullivan in '64, or is it just a need to connect with something we will never comprehend or touch? The reasoning for making the Ro Sham Bo kit in the beginning went down that very path. I, like every other teenaged drummer in the 80's, grew up playing (well, in some cases over-playing and in most cases attempting,) along to Rush records, and wanted nothing more than to sit behind that kit and play "Witch Hunt" from Moving Pictures....
No really, my vision for the 100th Anniversary Ludwig booth at the 2009 Winter NAMM Show was to re-create drum kits that defined certain eras of Ludwig manufacturing and artist input with the current output of Ludwig product. This way it pays tribute to our past, using the present, looking to the future (make sense?) I did this with the "West Side" kit (similar to Buddy Rich's set-up,) in homage to the 50's using the forthcoming Element SE Cherry/Gum drums, the Liverpool 4 kit (similar to the Ringo set-up,) in homage to the 60's using Legacy Classic, the Jason Bonham Signature kit in homage to the 70's using Vistalite, and RO SHAM BO (similar to the kit Neil Peart had made for the Presto tour,) in homage to the 80's/90's using Classic Maple.
The Ludwig Super Classic kit Neil played on the 1990 tour for the Presto album, to me, represented a brilliant bridge between the "old" Rush (which played many long and complex pieces based mostly on Greek Mythology,) and the "new" (a power trio that played songs to a sequencer about the ironies of the post-industrial world.) It was the last of his live kits to feature the classic double-kick configuration that is instantly recognizable to the Peart aficionado (of which there is a small army.) As the third of the five kits Neil had built during his tenure at Ludwig, this kit had been through some noticeable changes from the previous two: the four concert toms to the player's left had been replaced by three closed toms (6", 8" and 10",) and two concert toms (6" and 8".)
With the goal of re-creating this kit in mind, my partner in crime Victor Salazar (of Chicago's infamous Drum Pad,) set out to make sure it was totally authentic (well, within the limits of existing tooling, time, money, and technology.) All sizes in this kit are totally true to the original Neil played on this tour, but there were several little nuances that were totally unique to this set-up that Vic and I had to research to get exactly right. These are as follows:
•The 16"x24" bass drums (the first to feature this depth,) were made with two spurs on the outside of each, but only one spur on the inside so that they could be put closer together to accommodate Neil's playing.
Since Neil left Ludwig in 1995, we couldn't call the kit The Peart Kit, so we called our recreation RO SHAM BO (so named because on this tour, his kick heads featured three illustrated hands doing "Scissors-Paper-Stone" as described in the album track Hand Over Fist,) a very obscure reference that only a true fan would catch (Neil himself reportedly had to look up the phrase "ro sham bo" on Wikipedia to catch the reference.) Though the kit does not come with the cymbals, cowbells, chimes or bells that appeared on it at the show, it does come with all drums and hardware outlined in the attached document (the kicks have standard Ludwig logo heads on the front now, but that will probably change sometime soon.)