Having looked at double drumming in a previous blog, it is clear that two drums were being played by a single drummer by the early 20th century but the desire to play even more was strong. Unfortunately for most human beings, not counting those who were cross bred with an octopus or even that famous example of a chap who possessed centipede genes (look it up) , the great limitation was only having two arms and therefore only being able to hit two things at once.
This limitation was removed when the feet became able to play music rather than just supporting the weight of the body. This happened courtesy of the bass drum pedal. Pedals had already been experimented with in the 1890s but they required a laborious toe heel motion in order to strike the drum and then pull it back to the start position. Some were in the recognised form, attached to the bottom rim of the bass drum, whilst others hung from the top rim of the bass drum with a cord attached between the bottom of the upside down beater and the foot pedal on the floor. Other instances didn’t even possess a bass pedal, the beater attached to the foot directly with a cord, which may help to explain the term ‘Kick Drum’, which is still in use today. These examples were large and cumbersome.
And then came along a German who created a sprung version which returned the beater to its position after striking the drum. That man was William F. Ludwig who had moved to America in the 19th century as a boy and by 1908 he was drumming in the Auditorium Theatre, Chicago, getting increasingly frustrated with his poor quality wood bass pedal, whilst playing emerging up-tempo jazz and ragtime styles. He decided to build his own pedal, which turned out to be so successful that by 1910 he and his brother were mass producing metal pedals under the company name of Ludwig & Ludwig. The drummer was now a seated musician and had every limb at his playing disposal.
And so here we are 111 years later on our very comfortable padded seats but we wouldn’t have had a decent excuse to sit down if it was for Mr. Ludwig.
What a great guy!