Ludwig Drums

Ludwig Drums is a US musical instruments manufacturers, focused on percussion. The brand achieved significant popularity in the 1960s due to the endorsement of the Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.[2]

Ludwig Drums
IndustryMusical instruments
Founded1909 (1909) in Chicago [1]
FounderWilliam F. & Theobald Ludwig [1]
Area served
ProductsDrum kits and hardware, marimbas, vibraphones, xylophones, bar chimes

Products manufactured by Ludwig include drum kits and hardware. The company also commercialises other percussion instruments (from the Muser Mallet Company acquired in 1965) such as marimbas, vibraphones, xylophones and bar chimes through its parent company Conn-Selmer.[3][4]


The Ludwig Drum Company was established in 1909 by William F. & Theobald Ludwig, sons of a German immigrant to the United States.[5] William Jr. had been a professional drummer, playing with circuses and touring vaudeville shows, along with the occasional skating-rink gig. Since this work was irregular, he and his brother, Theobald, opened a drum shop in Chicago; they called it Ludwig & Ludwig.[6] The company started with a concept for the design and manufacture of a functional bass drum pedal.[7]

The company added new products to its catalog, such as snare drums and timpani, in 1916. In 1917, Ludwig signed a deal to build rope drums to support World War I. Theobald Ludwig died in 1918, and William continued on his own.[7] By 1923, the factory was the largest drum manufacturer in the world, employing 240 workers.[6]

In the late 1920s, the company was sold to the C.G. Conn instrument company. William Ludwig stayed on to run the company for Conn (which also owned the Leedy Drum Co. at this time). Eventually, William Ludwig decided to leave Conn and start a new company of his own. He was unable to use the Ludwig name since that trademark now belonged to Conn who continued to market Ludwig & Ludwig drums.

In 1937, William bought a factory building and started The WFL Drum Company (his initials). The company continued producing drums at a small scale for the duration of World War II, but William got back to the idea of making the company a large drum manufacturer after the armistice. WFL was a competitor with Ludwig and Ludwig. Conn combined their two drum brands into one in the early 1950s, forming Leedy & Ludwig, and then decided to quit the drum business altogether. In 1955, William and his son Bill Jr. were able to buy the Ludwig trademark back from Conn, and over the next few years their company and its products transitioned from the WFL brand to being called "Ludwig" again.

I stopped at that picture and asked why he (Ringo Starr) put our name on the front of his bass drum head. Arbiter said that he was so proud that he had an imported drum set from America, especially from a famous company like Ludwig, that at the time of purchase he insisted on having the Ludwig name painted on the front of the head!

William Ludwig's grandson[6]

Despite initial success, Ludwig's global breakthrough would occur February 9, 1964, when The Beatles made their historic American TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show,[8][9] and the Ludwig logo, displayed on the front of Ringo Starr's bass drum, could be seen by the television audience of about seventy-three million people.[1][6][9] As it happens, Starr chose that brand upon joining the band simply because he liked the oyster pearl black color of the drum kit he chose. Regardless, the publicity resulted in Ludwig's sales doubling quickly to $13 million, which prompted production to increase to a 24/7 production as the company became the foremost drum manufacturer in North America for twenty years.[10]

Ludwig acquired the "Musser Mallet Company", a manufacturer of xylophones, marimbas and vibraphones, in 1965.[5] Ludwig was a strong presence in the marching drum market. Their drums along with their Slingerland rivals. During the 1970s, Ludwig's “Challenger” line of snare drums offered sophisticated tuning and strong build quality. Ludwig drums were used by many leading drum and bugle corp.

On 4 November 1981, William F Ludwig II sold the business to the Selmer Company (now Conn-Selmer). Selmer closed the Damen Avenue factory in the ensuing years and moved the drum production business to Monroe, North Carolina, in 1984.[5][6][11] In 2002, Ludwig merged with Conn-Selmer, becoming a brand of Conn-Selmer, Inc..[12]

The Musser manufacturing facility remained in LaGrange, Illinois, until 2013, and was then moved to Elkhart, Indiana.[13]


Some of the musicians that currently or previously played Ludwigs include:[14][15]

From above to below: Ringo Starr, Alex Van Halen and Marky Ramone, some of the musicians using Ludwig


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