Rogers Drums - History


The Rogers company was started in 1849 by an Irish immigrant from Dublin named Joseph Rogers. Rogers came to the United States and started crafting drum-heads. His son began making drums in the mid-1930s at a Farmingdale, New Jersey location. The first Rogers drums were assembled from shells and hardware of other manufacturers, but mounted with Rogers heads.

In 1953, Joseph Rogers' grandson, Cleveland, who had no heirs, sold the Rogers drum company to Henry Grossman. Grossman moved the company to Covington, Ohio, and under his leadership Rogers was propelled to the forefront of American drum-making for the next decade and a half. Design engineer Joe Thompson and marketing guru Ben Strauss were instrumental in Rogers' success during its golden age from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s. The company's drums were embraced by musicians from the dixieland movement to the classic rockers of the 1960s and 1970s. However, the manufacturer was most closely associated with the "big band" and swing drummers of the 1940s and 1950s.

Rogers is probably most famous for its "Dyna-Sonic" snare drum, which featured a number of innovations. In particular was a unique cradle in which the snare wires were supported. This meant that the longitudinal tension of the snare wires could be adjusted independently of the vertical force holding the snares against the bottom head. As a result, the snares could be tensioned as tightly as the drummer wanted without having to pull the snares against the head so hard they constrained (choked) the head's vibration. This and other innovations (for example, a remarkably shallow—4/1000" -- snare bed) made possible by the novel tensioning arrangement gave the drum a relatively crisp and recognizably-clear sound. Dyna-Sonics were made from about 1961 until the mid-80's. The company was bought in 1966 by CBS Musical Instruments, which had also acquired in 1965 Fender Guitar and Rhodes Pianos. The vast majority of Dyna-Sonics had COB shells - or "chrome over brass". Only a small number of wood-shell Dyna-Sonics was made during the lifetime of the drum. In part because of their rarity—only an estimated 3,000 were made—wood-shell models are highly sought-after by collectors. Pristine models can fetch thousands of dollars on the vintage drum market. Other notable Rogers drums were the Powertone model of snares and the Holiday model of tom-toms and bass drums. Dyna-Sonics, and to a lesser degree all Rogers Drums, are now considered to be collectors' drums. Fiberglass timpani were also manufactured for a time, the model being called Accu-Sonic.

In addition to its Dyna-Sonic snare drum, Rogers was renowned for its highly-innovative hardware. Much of it was developed by Thompson, including the Swiv-o-Matic line of bass drum pedals, hi-hats, cymbal stands, and tom-tom holders. The cymbal stands and tom-tom holders featured a ball-and-socket tilting mechanism that offered more flexibility in positioning than most if not all of the hardware of Rogers' competitors. Even Ludwig drummers like Ringo Starr of The Beatles, Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin used some Swiv-o-Matic hardware items on their kits. Neil Peart Neil Peart used a single Swiv-o-Matic tom holder on his large Slingerland Slingerland Drum Company and Tama Tama Drums drum kits through the mid 1980s, in order to position a tom-tom directly over the center of one of his bass drums.

Up until 1978, Rogers shells were 5-ply construction of mixed maple and poplar wood. They were recognized among drummers for having a fat tonality. But starting in 1978, Rogers began offering drums with 8-ply shells (made by the Keller Products company of Manchester NH) for its XP-8 line. These were the first all-maple shells on the market. They marked the beginning of relatively heavy, thick "stadium" shells that favored attack and projection over midrange tonality. Although promoted as "the best Rogers drums ever made", the XP-8 models did not curry favor with drummers, most of whom preferred the 1960s and 1970s sound.

1976 saw the introduction of "Memriloc" hardware. This innovation was co-developed by Dave Donoho and Roy Burns. It was one of the first super-stable hardware systems.

For the growing European market, Rogers drums were made in the UK by Ajax under licence from Rogers USA. The hardware was Rogers but the drum shells were supplied by Ajax from its UK production. Dave Clark of the Dave Clark Five and Pete York of the Spencer Davis Group were prominent British drummers using Rogers equipment during that era.

Shortly after being purchased by CBS 1966, Rogers drums moved its production in 1969 from Ohio to a Fullerton, CA factory complex, where the American Fender Guitars were also produced.

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