Meet the Dearloves

As much as we like to thing we’re all unique, 30 seconds on Google will quickly dispel you of that notion.  For example, a search shows there are at least six individuals who share both my first and last name.  Included in this illustrious group is an infamous “scrounger” who has been banned from every hospital in the U.K. for faking medical conditions, and another individual who was convicted of killing his two-year-old son in the mid 1990s.  Charming.

In case you’re interested, here are the six gentleman I’ve found so far who share my name.  Try to guess which one has a criminal record.

Dearlove 1

Dearlove 5

Dearlove 4

Dearlove 3

The DearlovesDearlove 6

1981 Tama Mastercraft Artwood Superstar Snare

I’ve definitely been bitten by the vintage drum bug over the past year.  Since picking up a nice Ludwig Acrolite in the spring of 2014, I’ve become a bit obsessed and have started a nice collection of snare drums.  There’s a ton of information online about seemingly every make and model of drum, although sometimes the first source isn’t always right.

IMG_3627Take this 1981 Tama Superstar snare drum I picked up about a month ago.  It appears in a 1981 Tama catalogue with the name Mastercraft Artwood, and the description says the shell is six plies of rock maple.  However, a number of people on-line dispute that fact – in reality, it’s a birch shell.  Apparently Tama did make a few maple shell drums around that period, but they were leftover Camco shells.

Artwood Snare 2 In any case, this drum popped up on my Twitter feed and I immediately drove over to Dave’s Drum Shop to pick it up.  I’m a big fan of 80s Tama drums, and this Superstar version, with the nice inlay, was too pretty to pass up.

Artwood SnareFrom what I’ve read, Tama made these inlay snare drums for only a short period of time in 1980 and 1981.  The model numbers are AW-455 (5″ depth) and AW-456 (6″ depth), and it sounds like the 5″ depth is a bit more rare.  There were two different inlay patterns – the angled one that’s on my drum, and the band that’s shown in the ad.


While the badge on my drum says Superstar, the catalogue referred to these as Mastercraft Artwood.  Mastercraft refers to the kind of snare strainer that’s used, and Tama began to use the Artwood name for its snare drum line around that time.

IMG_3671I love the inlay on this drum.  A simple element, but I think it immediately makes the drum more interesting than the majority of the drums I come across.  I know Tama continues to use an inlay pattern on some of its higher-end drums, and of course Craviotto uses an inlay extensively, but I’d love to see more drum companies incorporate it into their designs.

In trying to find information about this drum, I came across a few posts of these beauties.  They’re a bit of a rarity from the late 70s when Tama had acquired Camco.  I’ve seen them referred to as Hoshino badge – whatever you call them, I’d love to have a set.  Just another thing to add to the list of future acquisitions.IMG_6857

Bringing a Deagan Back from the Dead

I’ve come across a few Deagan Century of Progress marimbas online over the past few years.  A couple have been in beautiful shape, with bright green laminate and gleaming brass resonators.  More often than not, though, they’ve started to show their age.  Missing plaques, dented resonators, deep patina on the metal frame.  The green laminate on my own instrument has faded to a green-brown (perhaps one of it’s previous owners was a smoker?), and a few of the bars have water rings from when it was used as a coffee table.

I’ve never seen one that looked as bad as the one I found on the Fall Creek Marimbas Facebook page, though.  The highly-regarded mallet instrument builders and restoration experts posted a series of photos of a 3.5 octave Century of Progress marimba that obviously had seen better days.  I have no idea what the story is behind this instrument, but from the first photo, it looks like it’s been to Hell and back.

Deagan Before

It’s hard to see what had become of the beautiful Art Deco resonators.

Tarnished Resonators

The work that the team at Fall Creek did is nothing short of remarkable.  I’m sure I don’t know half of what was involved in restoring it to its original beauty – certainly new laminate for the frame had to be cut and reset, bars refinished and retuned, a new plaque designed and engraved, resonators re-plated (or some kind of alchemy).

Restoration Underway

The result is a Century of Progress marimba that looks as good, if not better, than it did when it debuted back in 1933.  Makes me wonder what my own ugly duckling might become with a little / a lot of TLC.


Finished Deagan 2

Finished Deagan

Finished Deagan 3

Brass Plate

Guard History: The Champagne Breakfast vs. The Beer ‘N Steer

The following is a short article I wrote for the latest edition of the Guardsmen, the official newsletter of the Fort Henry Guard Club.

At the heart of the Guard is the not-so-subtle rivalry between the Drums and the Squad.  While friendly in nature, the divisions between the two units have deep roots, and upon joining one or the other you immediately inherit decades of tradition…and broad stereotypes.

It was something we all played up to some degree.  Members of the Drums didn’t seem to mind being cast as sensitive, enlightened artistic types, while some in the Squad appeared to take pride in being the complete opposite – not quite Neanderthals, but definitely closer to that side of the evolutionary chart.

Perhaps one of the clearest illustrations of this divide is the Champagne Breakfast vs. the Beer ‘N Steer.  Built around camaraderie, food, and an appreciation for alcohol, these long-standing annual events were among the most highly anticipated mornings each summer.

As one might expect, the Drums’ Champagne Breakfast was an elegant affair.  In the early hours before work, men in blazers and women in dresses gathered for an elaborate spread of quiche, pastries, canapés and fluted glasses filled with orange juice and champagne.  With classical music playing in the background, conversation would range from Dostoyevsky’s influence on Chekhov and Sartre to Chopin’s early piano work.

It’s my understanding that the Beer ‘N Steer, on the other hand, was a more hedonistic celebration.  While I was never actually lucky enough to attend one, it’s easy to picture members of the Squad enjoying hunks of rare red meat, washed down by pints of Canadian to a soundtrack of Rage Against the Machine and Jane’s Addiction.

Of course, all good things must come to an end eventually.  By the late 1990s, drinking before work was viewed by management more as a potential liability than a novelty, and the ill-fated decision to sneak the keg into the locker room after one memorable Beer ‘N Steer was the final nail in the coffin for both events.  They joined other Guard traditions, including Zulu and ditching, that failed to make it through the 90s unscathed.

FHG 1691

There’s A Deagan In My Attic

The search for vintage percussion instruments often leads to funny places.  An antique store in Wisconsin selling a Century of Progress marimba.  An old Ludwig Black Beauty found buried in newspapers and sheets in the back of a garage.  An estate sale in Guelph that includes a 1930 Deagan marimba that used to belong to a long-forgotten virtuoso.

My brother sent me a link to Kijiji ad from Kitchener for a “1919 Degan Xlophone” (sic).  It was almost a collector’s cliché – a dust-covered vintage instrument, apparently stored in an actual attic.  It definitely got my attention.

Deagan Xylophone 1Deagan Xylophone 2

Although it’s hard to tell for sure, I think it’s a Deagan xylophone, model 262 – the rounded bars are a good indication, and the range of the instrument makes sense.  And if that’s the case, it’s a pretty desirable instrument.  Made in the 1920s with the name Artist Special, these instruments are coveted by some of the world’s top mallet players.  For example, Bob Becker bought his first 262 back in 1972, and I believe he owns at least four of them in various sizes.

Deagan Xylophone 4Here’s a Deagan model 262 with considerably less dust and grime.

Deagan Xylophone 3

And here’s another one that’s been completely restored.  Looks very pretty, and can be yours for only $4,700 USD.

Of course, I was hoping that the gentleman selling this old treasure had no idea what he had and might be willing to part with it for a bargain price.  Such are the dreams of the vintage collector – always on the lookout for naive sellers and lucky finds.

Alas, that was not the case this time around, as apparently the seller had it appraised at some point for $3,000 – perhaps a fair price for the right person, but definitely too much for me.  So now I’m just left to wonder how he came to own such a nice xylophone, and why it’s in an attic gathering dust instead of being played regularly by someone who can appreciate it.  Hopefully it finds a good home soon.