Thursday, March 12, 2015

The little drummer boy

"When I grow up, I want to be Ringo Starr." 


  1. Awesome!

    Any idea on context for this? All Getty says is: "Johnny Arbiter, the son of an importer, playing a miniature set of 'The Beatles' drums, imported by Ringo Starr from Chicago, May 28th 1964. (Photo by Larry Ellis/Express/Getty Images)"

    So... are they Ringo's drums? Or are they a miniature set? I don't think Ringo played "miniature drums." :) These look full size, but I'm no drum expert.

    If it's the real deal, it would be peculiar to see their instruments not only unattended, but actually set up without anyone else from the Beatles inner circle around.

  2. Hey Lance, Though I don't have any definitive information, let me see if I can answer:

    1.) I don't think those are Ringo's drums, just by looking at the drum heads. There is still plastic on the high-hat cymbals, that's definitely not Ringo's ride cymbal. (i'm a drummer, by the way). The tom tom is set up wrong. Etc

    2.) As you can see, there are drums behind him, it's most probably the importer's warehouse. (this being the importer's son) There would be no need for an importer to be around at a Beatles concert.

    3.) Ringo DID use a smaller set of Ludwigs as it made him look taller. And though they call this kit "miniature", it looks (as you say) full size, or close to it.

    4.) Would be funny if the importer's name was Art Vandalay! (some will get that joke!)

    5.) Napoleon's guns, Sara! You sure keep things interesting around here! That is one great picture!!!! You never EVER disappoint!!!! Love it!!!!

  3. PS....Ok, I reread the comment...."imported by Ringo from Chicago".

    So these ARE Ringo's drums (according to the caption)....and as I said, that makes sense. It LOOKS like a full sized set....but it's a miniature set....not a toy set!.....a slightly smaller one, as I said, Ringo has said more than once (for instance, the book "The Big Beat") that he played smaller kits live so he'd look taller.

    The heads look shiny and plasic-y. No doubt those heads would have been changed to batter heads. And those are probably new cymbals that the guy had laying around. Ringo used specific cymbals (like every drummer) and cymbals are sold separately from a drumset.

    But that is most definitely a warehouse or something, that's not a backstage area. The guy probably let the kid sit behind them before he shipped them out, or when they arrived.

  4. I am entering an unprecedented third comment here!

    They were imported FROM Chicago (which is where I think Ludwig is). This is in England, probably. Even more improbable that this is at a venue. The Beatles were on hiatus on May 28, weren't they? Weren't they on vacation?

    one more time, with feeling: great picture, Sara!!!

  5. OK, I'm geeking out a little. What a fun discussion. Read on...

    First - Great points, Anonymous. Now that you mention it, I do recall hearing before that Ringo played a 'mini' kit. And I just looked it up in Beatles Gear (p88): "'... the drum kit we supplied was in a relatively small size.' ... the small size was needed so the relatively short Starr could sit "on top" of the kit and look big - and be seen." (In reference to Ringo's first kit.)

    The book also confirms that Ludwig was a Chicago-based company. (And agreed on this photo having not been taken at a venue. Mr. Vandelay, being both an importer and exporter, no doubt had a sizeable warehouse. ;))

    But now let's have some more fun... (especially if you ended up here via Google months or years from now)!

    After re-reading the Ludwig story in Beatles Gear (pp86-87), I was reminded that the London Drum City employee who designed the "drop T" Beatles logo was named... Ivor ARBITER! So what are the odds that this little drummer boy pictured above, Johnny Arbiter, was related to Ivor? Pretty good.

    After a little more digging, it looks like Ringo got his third new Ludwig kit on... ... May 31, 1964, in London, just 3 days after the supposed date for this photo. Again, Beatles Gear (p129) cites a note in a local paper: "Ringo took delivery of the kit at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London, on Sunday. ... But not before a six-year-old son of Ivor Arbiter, managing director of Drum City, who supplied the £350 Ludwig kit, could bash out a beat from the white skins."

    I'd say with confidence the photo was taken at Drum City, hence the other toms pictured in the back, as Ivor and crew prepped the kit for Ringo. By the way, this explains the new-looking drum heads - they were new, straight from Ludwig.

    So Ivor, the Beatles logo designer, is the father of the kid above. Cool. And to confirm the fact, Ivor's obit (he died in 2005), mentions a son "John" (who sadly passed two years before his dad).

    The only remaining question is why the Getty caption refers to Ivor Arbiter as an "importer." Maybe that technically works in this case, but for the sake of history, they could have been more precise.

    1. Lance, I've been gone since last Friday so I'm just seeing this now.....your information is fantastic!!!

      I mean, you really did your homework on this, man!!! Thanks!!!! I am even more honored that my off-the-top-of-me-head musings led to such a masterpiece of a comment!

      And even better that you got the Art Vandalay joke!

      (by the way, I'm not the Anonymous below: "as somewhat of Beatles gear expert....", as great as the information he provided is! I'm the Anonymous with too many exclamation points!)

      And Sara....thanks for letting us boys have a little geekfest time with the Beatles Gear!!! In this case, it's Meet The Beatles' GEAR....For Real!!!!

      - Anonymous Mike!!!! :D

  6. Speaking of miniature kits..

  7. As somewhat of a Beatles gear expert, the drum set is quite curious for a couple of reasons. First, the size are correct for that time period. Ringo used a 20" bass, 12" tom and 14" floor tom. The snare is standard 14". Obviously these are black oyster pearl, therefore also correct. The give away is the tom holder. Ludwig used a rail consolette which is NOT on these drums. Ringo originally had Mal Evans install a Rogers Swivomatic tom holder so he could adjust the tom easier. This set in the picture has a Roger's Swivomatic. It is true, that when the Beatles came to the U.S. Ringo only brought his Ludwig Jazz Festival snare and his cymbals. He bought a new set from Manny's in NYC. Manny's originally sent over a Ludwig white peral set, as seen during the rehearsals, but exchanged them for the correct black oyster pearl. Those drums would have come with the standard rail consolette. The pictured set does not have the consolette. Why do the drums look small? Ringo purposely used the smaller "downbeat" set so he would look taller when playing the drums. He would later get a 22" bass,13" tom and 16" floor tom set using his trusty old 14" Jazz Fest and again even later with his Hollywood "wood" set as see on Let It Be which George purchased for him from Drum City.

  8. Sorry, I was thinking this discussion was about Ringo getting drums when in NYC. This all makes sense now as the tom looks like a 13" not 12" which gives balance to the rest of the set being Ringo's new 22,13,16 set which he used the most. The Swivomatic has been installed per Ringo, but only part of the pictured set would have been used by Ringo. the cymbals, no. they most likely set some up from the shop for the picture- thus shiny and new! Also, the black oyster canister throne would not have been used by Ringo. All of Ringo's drum heads were hand painted- yes. I know the owner of the Sullivan head and have been to his home and seen amazing collection. The Beatles were not technical musicians and did not fiddle with their gear other than painting them etc. As a matter of fact, Mal Evans was sent out to get Zildjians for Ringo, picking them out himself. Mal also went out and bought the 2 light blue Strats that John and George wanted- the later one being painted by George (the Rocky Strat). Strings, drum sticks etc, were purchased by Mal all the time. When asked what kind of strings he used, Paul said "I dont know other than they're shiny". Their instrument were tools and they did not get into changing the windings on their pickups or this or that etc. Many drum muffling techniques were not created by Ringo, but rather by Geoff Emerick including the sweater in Ringo's bass drum to the tea towels he used. One more note of fun- George purchased Ringo's Ludwig Hollywood kit from Drum City for him (the natural wood colored set seen on Let It Be). Ringo played with adding a second tom on his bass drum before George bought him a "real" 5 piece set!

  9. I'd like to add a bit of info:
    There is a great website detailing all of Ringo's drums called The author on the site (Gary) has been recently involved in documenting all of Ringo's drums and the site is filled with great information.

    1. I believe this is Ringo's 3rd Ludwig set.... (the first two were 20, 12, 14, snare) and this would be the first Super Classic set with bigger sizes of 22, 13, 16, snare . Ringo had a total of four oyster black pearl sets. Two of the smaller "downbeat" models, and two "super classic" models.

    You can tell the difference in the bass drum sizes by counting the lug t rods. The 60's Ludwig 20" bass drums used 8 and the 22" bass drums used 10. In the picture above you can see 10 t rods.

    2. Regarding Mal Evans installing the Rogers tom mount....
    When Ringo's drums were being prepared for display in New York in 2014, Gary took the head off of the 13" tom. Inside the drum, wedged in between the washers for the mounts was a Drum City business card with Dave Golding's name & number on it. This would lead us to believe that the mount was installed at the drum shop and not by Mal Evans but one never can be sure. There is a great picture on the beatlekits website of the business card inside the tom.

    By the way .. the drums displayed in New York used the 13 and 16 toms from this first super classic set, but used the bass drum from the second super classic set that Ringo received just before (and rarely used after) the 65 tour. I asked Gary about this and he stated that the reasoning was complicated and I didn't press for more information!

    Hope this helps!

  10. I am Ivor Arbiters daughter. This is my brother. My Father sold Ringo his kit. He was a friend of Brian Epstein who had a music shop. He asked if this drummer could come down to London to buy some drums. My Father was the distributor for Trixon drums but was just beginning to sell Ludwig. He told me when Ringo came into his office he saw the colour samples of the Oyster Pearl Kit and only wanted that. My Father imported the kit from Ludwig and then wanted to get the Ludwig name as large as possible on the drum head, so designed the drop T logo so the Ludwig would stand out. I have these pictures of my brother on the kit in my Fathers warehouse. The kit just sold at auctioning in LA. My Father has never been credited for designing the Beatles logo. Both my Father and brother have passed away.