The Beatles took a well-deserved holiday break in May 1964 and reconvened on May 31st for a show in London at the Prince of Wales Theater. This show marked a significant change in Ringo’s on-stage appearance. That same day he took delivery of his first 22” Ludwig OBP set and, obviously, the requirement of yet another new front drumhead. Stokes went back to using a Remo Weather King head for the new larger kit. For this skin, Stokes’ font was a little more closely related to drum head No. 1 and again the Ludwig logo was hand painted on.
This setup was used exclusively for all appearances from May 31, 1964, straight through to August 1, 1965, for their Blackpool Night Out U.K. TV broadcast. Actually, from this May 31st date forward, Ringo never went back to playing his two 20” drum kits- whether publicly for concert/film appearances or as far as we can determine, for recording purposes- the one exception being that previously mentioned scene from Help. The use of this new 22” set included the Netherlands and Australian tours with Jimmy Nichol sitting in for Ringo and the Beatles first full-fledged American tour. This configuration is also seen in all Help scenes (with the exception of the one mentioned) and, in addition, their European tour of June/July 1965.
This drumhead has never been publicly auctioned through any of the major auction houses.
Ringo and The Beatles on Salisbury Plain in England during the filming of Help! on May 4, 1965. All but one drum scene in Help! was shot with this, "drop-T" head number 4, affixed to Ringo's 22" set of Ludwigs.
The Beatles returned to New York in August, 1965, to start their summer American tour. For this occasion, Ringo would debut his fourth and last oyster black pearl Ludwig drum set. For this new head, No. 5, they went back to a 22” Ludwig Weather Master. For the first time since logo head No. 1, a sticker was used for the Ludwig logo. The sticker was larger and thicker than the previous logos and the application was somewhat haphazard as it was put on crooked, running slightly uphill from left to right. The lettering in Beatles was not very pleasing on this one, differing from what had traditionally become the accepted logo. The lettering was fatter and much less italicized. This head/kit setup made its debut on the Ed Sullivan Show, taped on August 14, 1965, the day before their triumphant Shea Stadium show. The Sullivan show was broadcast four weeks later, the first show of the new TV season, on September 12th. The drum kit, in this form, was used throughout the 1965 American tour and into the fall, including the famous Shindig taping on October 3rd. The original ‘drop-T’ No. 5 is currently known to be in the collection of a well-known celebrity drummer who wishes to remain anonymous.
A consignment resembling this drumhead has twice been entered into sales at major auction houses, most recently in Bonham’s Tokyo sale in March, 1997. This skin, however, had a silvery sheen to the head surface and it was not a Ludwig Weather Master. After consultations, the head was withdrawn prior to the auction.
Ringo (with George Harrison) live on stage at the Sam Houston Coliseum on August 19, 1965 using the "drop-T" head number 5. (photo courtesy Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library)
On November 1st and 2nd, 1965, the Beatles went before the cameras again for another TV special. This one centered around their songwriting and was entitled The Music of Lennon & McCartney. On this night Ringo reverted back to his first 22” kit and another new logo head was broken in. Logo drumhead No. 6 was again a Ludwig Weather Master and this one was a little less opaque than its predecessors. Ringo appears to have used this drum set and logo head from this point exclusively through to Magical Mystery Tour. That is, every live and film appearance in 1966 was done with this set/head configuration. It’s also this setup that is evidenced in numerous studio photographs during the recording sessions for Sgt. Pepper throughout the first half of 1967.
The skin was temporarily removed from the bass drum for the Our World live world broadcast on June 25, 1967. It should be noted that this logo head was still in use for the Our World rehearsals, but was switched just prior to broadcast. In its place for the transmission was the orange/red ‘Love’ head that you also see in the Magical Mystery Tour film, which began shooting on September 11th. By November of that year, drumhead No. 6 was back on the drum kit and ready for the Hello Goodbye promo film shot at the Saville Theater. ‘Drop-T’ No. 6 turned out to be the longest used of the seven logo skins.
Ringo and The Beatles appearing at Cincinnati's Crosley Field on Sunday, August 21, 1966. On the front of Ringo's Ludwigs appears "drop-T" drumhead number 6. (photo by Gordon Baer).
Color photo of The Beatles taken on June 16, 1966, during what would be their last live TV appearance of their career. It took place at Television Centre, London, for the British TV show Top Of The Pops. On the front of Ringo's Ludwig appears "drop-T" head number 6.
Andy Babiuk, while working on his book Beatles Gear, uncovered an interesting story with regard to the disappearance of No.6. He was interviewing Brian Gibson, an engineer at Abbey Road in the ‘60s, who recalled that there was a storeroom next to studio 3 where instruments were sometimes kept.
Gibson recollected, “Ringo’s drum with The Beatles skin on it was left in there, and I remember thinking how attractive to a collector that particular item would be. Strangely enough- and I plead not guilty to this- we came in one day and someone had neatly trimmed the skin out of the drum frame. So someone somewhere has got the original Beatles skin that came out of Starr’s drum kit. After that they used the red-painted skin with ‘Love’ in yellow, rather than bother to get another Beatles skin because they obviously weren’t going to perform on stage anymore.”
This skin is probably still in the possession of whoever stole it in 1967. I imagine fencing a drumhead in this condition would prove rather difficult.
And finally we have the last of the ‘drop-T’ heads. Logo drum head No. 7’s lifespan consisted of about ten seconds of celluloid at the very start of the Let It Be film. The 22” Ludwig Weather Master- with Ludwig logo sticker- was originally intended for Ringo’s maple-finish Hollywood kit seen throughout the film. Due to the group’s recently adopted practice of not using a front bass drum cover during recording, the head was never mounted for the film or seen again during their career. Thus, head No. 7 was never really part of the drum kit at all.
This drumhead was originally put up for auction through Sotheby’s London in September, 1988. It was consigned by George Peckham, who was one of the original Fourmost, and worked for the Apple recording studio in 1969. His claim is that the drum skin was given to him by John Lennon. Sotheby’s estimated its value at around $50,000, but the bidding topped out below the reserve price and it didn’t sell. Sotheby’s again had the head on the block in August, 1992. This time it sold to an anonymous bidder who is presumed to still be in the possession of it.
"Drop-T" drumhead 7 (the Let It Be head) as it appears today. (photo courtesy Sotheby's).
One footnote to this history is that there were two retouched photograph versions of the logo heads that have appeared in publishing and advertising. In 1963, the Ludwig Drum Company, to capitalize on the Beatles growing popularity, used a photo of Ringo for promotional purposes. He was sitting at his first Ludwig set displaying drumhead No. 1 on the front. Ludwig had their logo sticker airbrushed out of the photo and replaced with a much larger Ludwig logo that they thought was more commercially pleasing. This photo was used for advertising the brand name.
Photo of "drop-T" number 1 used by The Ludwig Drum Company to advertise their brand name. The original Ludwig logo was airbrushed off the photo and replaced by a larger and more photogenic one. (photo courtesy of Ludwig Drum Company).
Also, early on someone doctored one of the photos from the Beatles Albert Marrion photo sessions with Pete Best taken in December, 1961. The photo shows Best sitting behind his marine pearl Premier drums with the other three Beatles to his right. The pristinely blank white bass drum head was airbrushed with a completely fictitious Beatle logo. This bogus photo on a few occasions, actually was published and made it into a few books. Pete Best does admit to at one time having a Beatle logo on the front of his kit but it was very short lived and apparently never photographed.
Photo from the Albert Marion session on December 17, 1961. The blank front drumhead has been airbrushed with a completely fictitious Beatle logo. This logo never existed.
In reality, Ringo’s very first Beatle drum logo was not a ‘drop-T’. It was a white linen sash that was stretched across the front of Ringo’s brown Premier drum kit during the first three or four months of 1963. The sash logo was sketched out by a Liverpool gentleman named Tex O’Hara based on some of McCartney’s doodles. The logo included bug antennae protruding out of the top of the “B”. When O’Hara was asked to do the graphics, he wasn’t sure if the band would want it done in the traditional black or if they would want it done in a dark brown to match Ringo’s drums at the time. O’Hara made both and the Beatles chose the black one to adorn the front of the drums. Gerry Evans picks up the story here. Evans, at the time the manager of Arbiter’s Drum City, remembers the end of the sash from Andy Babuik’s Beatles Gear interview.
“I took his old Premier drum kit from him and brought it back to the store. We renovated it in our workshop, and then sold it. I ripped off the bit of material from the bass drum head where he’d handwritten the Beatles name and threw it away.” O’Hara hung on to the brown copy as the Beatles fame rose and finally sold it at auction some thirty years later along with his preliminary sketches.
Color photo of Ringo taken on February 17, 1963, during a taping of the British TV show Thank Your Lucky Stars. This was Ringo's first Beatle logo, hand painted on a sash and stretched across the bass drum head. (photo by Hulton Getty).
B/W photo of The Beatles (taken at the same time as above) using the Sash. (photo by Hulton Getty).
Black and white photo closeup of Tex O'hara's brown sash with the "bug" logo. He hand painted two sashs for The Beatles - one in brown and one in black. The band chose the black one and O'hara kept the brown one as a souvenir. He later auctioned it off. (photo by Tex O'hara).
There is another aspect to this story that came to light a number of years ago, while researching what became this article, that deserves to be addressed. There’s an old ‘war’ story that has made the rounds over the years with regard to Ringo and his touring drums. It seems to have originated with two ex-executives of the Ludwig Drum Company that have perpetuated the story that Ludwig was responsible for providing Ringo with a new set of drums in each city the Beatles would visit during their American tours. This was supposedly done through the local authorized Ludwig dealer in each town. The two ex-Ludwig executives in question are Dick Schory, who was an advertising and education manager for the company in the sixties, and none other than William Ludwig, Jr. himself. On the face of it, this would seem a very feasible and economical way for the Beatles to tour the country without having to carry the drums around with them. The problem with this scenario is that it doesn’t appear to have happened this way. Photographic evidence proves conclusively that Ringo played the same set of drums at each and every venue with respect to each individual American tour. Not only did he play the same kit for the duration of the tour, but also it was always one of his own four OBP drum kits. If Ludwig did provide new drums for each tour date, then it is apparent their drums never made it on stage and were strictly used as backups. In fact, this scenario even seems to be likely given a couple of other incidents that have taken place in the last number of years.
A few years back it was brought to my attention through a magazine article that a museum in Huntsville, Alabama, had recently opened a 60’s exhibit. Included in this exhibit was what was being described as ”Ringo Starr’s drum set from his last Beatle concert at Candlestick Park, San Francisco.” Intrigued, I called the museum and spoke at length with it’s curator, James Hagler. Mr. Hagler was nice enough to tell me all he knew about the drums. I was intrigued because the photos in the article showed that these drums were obviously not the drum kit that appears in Jim Marshal’s excellent photos of the Beatles final show that August night in 1966. Not only were they definitely not the drums, but the front Beatles logo drum head was too italicized to be even close to any of the known seven, much less head No. 6 that was used that night. Mr. Hagler went on to tell me that the prized drums were owned and lent to the museum by Mr. Dick Schory.
About a year later, I got a phone call from a gentleman named Ken Williams. Mr. Williams had recently retired by closing up his San Francisco drum store called (ironically, and no relation to Arbiter’s) Drum City. Drum City in the 60’s was San Francisco’s largest authorized Ludwig dealer. Mr. Williams introduced himself and went on to tell me that he owned the logo drumhead used by Ringo for the Beatles 1964 Cow Palace show in the city. He said that he picked the drums up from the venue after the show, and before forwarding them back to Ludwig (because the tour was over), he removed and kept the front logo drum head which he proudly hung on the wall of his drum shop for the next 30 years. He wanted to know if I was interested in purchasing the drumhead from him. I told him I was interested and asked him to forward some Polaroids of the head to me and I would get back to him. Upon receiving the pictures, I was dismayed to discover that again the font was painted very differently than the one that appears in the photos taken of the Beatles on stage that night. However, it did seem to match the logo drumhead on the set owned by Dick Schory that I described earlier. Hmm….
Last year I was sent some photographs during a consultation that I was doing for one of the major auction houses. The pictures were of a Beatles logo drumhead for potential consignment for an upcoming auction. The head in question was instantly distinguishable from any of the original seven skins, but…it did seem vaguely familiar. Yes, you guessed it, it was a very close match to both the Dick Schory drum head and the Ken Williams drum head. I was later told that this skin could be traced back to Ludwig in Chicago. Hmm….there is an obvious pattern here.
All three logo drumheads used the identical Ludwig logo sticker and all three were of the same slightly over italicized font. It is absurd to me that the people claiming their drum heads to be “Beatle-used” never even bothered to consult a photograph of the particular show in which their claim is based. I’m not saying that any of the people whom I’ve named above have knowingly or intentionally misled anyone. Just that the photographic evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that things did not happen the way they thought they did. Who knows how many other supposedly ‘Beatle-used’ drum heads are out there. All that can be said for sure is that none of them were ever owned or played by Ringo in the context of a Beatles concert and therefore are not ‘Beatle logo drum heads.’
The Ken Williams drum head that hung in his San Francisco drum shop for 30 years. (photo by Ken Williams).
These seven ‘drop-T’ Beatle logo drumheads are the only drumheads that have ever been identified as having been used by Ringo. No more, no less. Each head is hand-painted and none was of the traditional calfskin variety. Each is mylar, which was fairly new to the industry in the late 50’s and early 60’s. No stencils were used. Original photographs exist which show spotlights hitting the heads at just the right angles to reveal a reflection of each of the individual brushstrokes. This creates, in effect, an identifying ‘fingerprint’ that allows you to differentiate these seven skins to the exclusion of all others. The whereabouts of most, but not all, of the original seven drumheads is known. It has also recently been verified, personally through Ringo, that he does not possess any of the original seven Beatle drumheads himself.
During the 60’s, Eddie Stokes was asked to paint a handful (estimated at 6 to 8) of Beatle heads for use as display or for promotional purposes. Some were used in the Sound City or Drum City stores (both owned by Arbiter). Some were used for cinema promotion and at least one was done for Madame Tussaud’s in London. In virtually every case though, some extra promotional graphic was also painted on the head in addition to the Beatle logo.
Pictured above is the Eddie Stokes hand painted drumhead done in 1964 for Madame Tussaud's in London
Over the years many fake drum skins have been submitted to the major auction houses as being actual Beatle used logo heads. I’m happy to say that most were turned away for what they were. A few though, especially prior to the last six or seven years, did manage to actually make it to the auction block and were sold. This was due, I think, to an understandable lack of time and resources on behalf of the auction houses. At that point, to my knowledge, this kind of research had not been published. We can be fairly confident that this would not happen today. A fake Beatle drumhead submission to a major auction house would have to get past a few people much more educated on the subject than in years past and that’s quite unlikely.
"Drop-T" drumhead number 2 (the Ed Sullivan Show head) as it is today owned by the author. (photo by Miki Slingsby).
Mini Bio – Russ Lease, of Columbia, Md., has been collecting one-of-a-kind Beatle memorabilia for well over twenty years and has built an extensive collection. Russ also does consulting work for some of the major auction houses. Russ can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his website at www.beatlesuits.com