NSMD article - Mike Curotto - 1929-30 "DSF" Drum

Hi all,

The latest to enter the collection is the famous Ludwig & Ludwig 6.5 x 14 “D.F.S.” Super-Sensitive DeLuxe snare drum. This was an eleven drum deal that well known drum collector and historian Harry Cangany and I worked out. Harry had extensively researched this drum over the years and believes that this snare drum is the most famous and most written about Black Beauty in history.

A Ludwig employee of the 1920s with the initials D.F.S. asked the engravers to personalize this drum for him. Wm. F. Ludwig Sr. found out and made it clear that he was upset that the production line had been slowed down by this special request. The employee was allowed to keep the drum. He was not a drummer and he simply put the drum in storage rather than using it. At some point the drum was presented to Wm. F. Ludwig II. WFL II played the drum for a number of years and eventually sold it to Harry Cangany in the 1980s. The ownership/provenance of this drum is very clear; the first owner being the Ludwig employee (Mr. D.F.S.), the second owner WFL II, the third owner Harry Cangany and on March 29, 2018 I became the fourth owner of the D.F.S. drum.

Harry Cangany allowed me to quote some excerpts from his original Modern Drummer article:
“A little over twenty years ago I saw this snare drum for the first time. It was sitting on a shelf in the basement of William F. Ludwig II’s home in suburban Chicago.

Bill told me to pick out three drums and I couldn’t believe my good luck. I decided on the Tom Mills metal snare drum that started the Ludwig Drum Company, the gold plated and engraved snare known as the William S. Hart Triumphal and this 6.5 x 14 Black Beauty with the letters D.F.S. engraved on the shell.

Bill told me that those letters were the initials of a former Ludwig employee who wanted his own Ludwig DeLuxe, the original model name of what we call the Black Beauty. Mr. D.F.S. wasn’t a drummer himself but he wanted a fine and personalized example of the DeLuxe so he had the engraver add the initials inside one of the 10 leaf designs. Bill told me that the process of finishing this particular drum stopped production (there was probably some gawking going on) and his dad, the president, Mr. William F. Ludwig Sr. found out, was not happy and let everyone know about it.

We don’t know who Mr. D.F.S. was and Bill couldn’t remember his name but one day the former employee contacted Bill and gave him the snare drum. It had never been played. For fifty years it lived its life in a closet.

Bill used the drum. He outfitted it with plastic heads and gut snares because he played in a symphonic orchestra. The original wire snares under the top head are still there. This is a classic Ludwig Super-Sensitive snare drum with the two-piece soldered shell. Unlike so many other DeLuxe Black Beauties, our D.F.S. has chromed metal parts. It was built around 1930 and the Artgold/Nobby Gold/DeLuxe finish with its tinted lacquer sprayed on buffed copper parts had fallen out of favor. Chrome did not tarnish, discolor or chip off.

The D.F.S. is a beautiful unrestored snare drum probably built in the months before Conn moved the factory from Chicago to Elkhart, Indiana to join Leedy in the Buescher building, the “new” factory for the next 25 years.

Over those decades modern Ludwig has used pictures of the D.F.S. in advertising the company’s heritage. I was pleased to read a description of the drum on the internet post by Mike Dolbear, a noted vintage drum collector, blogger and writer, based in the UK. He called the D.F.S. the ‘king of Black Beauties.’

The D.F.S. is a one-of-a-kind and is remarkable for its story. This drum was William F. Ludwig II’s personal Black Beauty.

Now if we could just find out more about Mr. D.F.S., the missing piece of the puzzle would be put into place.

Know any good drum detectives?”


The drum is in very good condition and needed no major cleaning whatsoever, just a little wipe down to remove some dust, finger prints etc. The shell is the heavy two-piece brass shell. The engraving is the 1929-30 (only) ten petal floral engraving pattern. The hardware is chrome plated which makes sense as chrome was introduced in the Ludwig 1929-30 Ludwig catalogs. “Super-Sensitive” is stamped on the bottom rim which also puts this drum at 1930 (it is generally agreed that the engraved “Super-Sensitive” on the bottom rim would be 1929). There are modern day heads top and bottom and the Super snares are synthetic gut that were supplied by John Aldridge as WFL II preferred synthetic gut and did not want to fuss with original gut snares. There is a small piece of tape (sticker) on the inside that may have been a label, I left it as is. This is exactly how Harry received the drum from WFL II 35 + years ago and out of respect for WFL II Harry kept the drum in this exact condition. I will do the sa

Listing created May 19, 2018

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