Oct 8, 2008

Historic Drum Set #1: Hal Blaine's Monster Kit

Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame drummer Hal Blaine played on more Top 10 hits than any other musician. In fact, he played on 40 #1 singles, 150 Top Ten singles and 8 Grammy Records of the Year. If you don't know his name, you certainly know his drumming. As a pivotal member of the loose group of crack session musicians known as "The Wrecking Crew", Hal played the iconic beats on such diverse hits as "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes, "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys, "Strangers In The Night" by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley's "Return To Sender", and literally thousands of other songs from the 60's and 70's. The Monster Kit was developed by Hal along with his drum tech Rick Faucher and builder Howie Oliver. The basis for the kit was a Ludwig Super Classic Blue Sparkle set without the rack tom.The single-headed toms were made of spun fiberglass and Ludwig hardware was attached. Faucher and Howie Oliver created the mounting system in two pieces so it could easily roll into place in the studio. The kit grew out of Hal's signature tom fills - producers began to request the sweeping sounds that only eight toms could produce. Hal was so busy in his heyday that he needed two of these kits so he could leapfrog them between sessions!

I've known Hal for years and interviewed him about the Monster kit for my 1995 book "Star Sets : Drum Kits Of The Great Drummers" (shameless self-promotion!). He talks about using timbales for tom-toms to get a nice pitch bend decay on fills. "I was getting such great sounds with [the timbales], I started thinking 'Gee, if I had a whole mess of these I could do some really great fills.' Howie Oliver came up with the idea to use Klieg light stands for the mounting system. The idea was to augment a regular four piece Ludwig kit, where I could still reach every tom-tom with no problem."

Ludwig thought so much of the setup they stole Hal's idea and created the Octaplus set, which in turn was copied by other drums companies. The single-headed toms set the tone for the drum sounds of the 1970s and in the 80s, drum companies introduced the drum rack, again inspired by the Monster kit's innovative mounting system.

To learn more about Hal Blaine check out his wonderful autobiography "Hal Blaine and the Wrecking Crew: The Story of the World's Most Recorded Musician"

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