Slingerland Drums

Slingerland’s legendary Radio King drum sets introduced the first double-headed tunable tom tom.

The Slingerland company was started by Henry H. Slingerland in Chicago in 1916. As a fast emerging company, Slingerland took up drummer Gene Krupa’s request for a cutting edge drum set with tunable resonant heads on the tom toms’ bottoms. The result was the Radio King drum set. Gene Krupa went on to become a big star with the Benny Goodman orchestra in the 1930s, and consequently, Slingerland drums and the Radio King became very popular.

The Radio King set was a strong seller during the 1950s, but by the end of the decade, Slingerland drums fell behind Gretsch and Ludwig, who were making a stronger appeal to rock musicians.

Despite weaker sales, the Slingerland company was nonetheless making its best drums, and in the 1970s continued adding unique features to their drum kits, such as the Set-O-Matic tom tom holder that facilitated a 180 degree rotation for a quick right to left-handed setup switch.

In the 1980s, a major problem facing all American drum companies was competition from Japan, and Slingerland was severely hurt and bought by Gretsch. At that time, Gretsch did face troubles of its own and did not promote the newly acquired Slingerland division to a great extent.

Slingerland changed hands once more in 1994, and this time it was bought by Gibson, which is manufacturing Slingerland drums from Nashville, TN. Slingerland’s modern drum set lines are called the Studio King and the Tour Series.


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