The Rarest Snare Drum In the World - Part Two


Billy Gladstone was a perfectionist. He transferred his inventive genius directly to the instruments he built. His goal was to design the finest sounding snare drums with vital,unique and practical features that made the drummer's job easier.

Three Way Tuning System:

To overcome the adverse effects in changing temperature and humidity on calf skin heads , Billy patented a 3 way drum key whereby both heads could be tuned individually or together from the top head without removing the drum from the stand.

Key 1. Separate tensioning of batter head alone

Key 2. Separate tensioning of snare bottom head alone

Key 3. Similtaneous tensioning of both heads at once


Simple Snare Strainer:

Billy designed a lightening -fast and smooth snare throw off. The strainer arm moves away from the drum with a mere tap of the drumstick allowing for dependable release and engagement of the the snares. The projecting lever of the throw off forms a natural rest for your drumsticks, holding them safely within reach.


Adjustable Internal Tone Control:

With the touch of a finger lever, conveniently located in the snare strainer base, the drummer could eliminate or restore overtones or "ring" found in every drum. The muffler utilizes a lever which points to a series of numbers to facilitate different settings. For orchestral work this feature is excellent.


The Shell: 

Billy used 3 ply wood shells made by Gretsch without reinforcement rings. He felt the shells resonated better without rings. He viewed the bearing edges the same as a bridge on a violin- fairly sharp providing excellent articulation. The interior of the shell would be lacquered, since Billy felt it improved sound quality. Gladstone offered the following finishes: Birdseye Maple, Black,White or Gold Lacquer. Hardware was available in Gold or Chrome.

Billy even gold plated the snare wires. He did prefer to use gut snares but did offer the option of wire snares. The individual strands were clamped into the snare butt with small hex screws. Above the butt plate is the hex wrench holder that serves two functions. First as a snare wire wrench and secondly for rotating - opening and closing- the six tiny vent holes. Billy included an inscribed nameplate for the original owner of all of his snare drums.

Billy Gladstone photo:

This autographed picture was presented to his friend John Noonan (noted percussionist and clinician from 1940-1960)

Billy is pictured here with the Gold Plated-Gold Lacquer 7x14 snare drum that he used most of his career. It was supposedly the second drum he ever made . The first one was alleged to be the one he made for Shelly Manne in 1950.

The last one he built is the 6x14 Birdseye Maple with Gold hardware (sometime between 1957-59).


Ray Reilly photo:

Billy made this drum for Ray in 1958. It is a 7x14 Black lacquered with chrome hardware. The nameplate is engraved " Ray Reilly- Toronto Symphony, January 1st, 1958".

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1 comment

Spectacular work on delineating the genius that was Bill Gladstone and the rarity of this instrument. A great picture of Ray also, way before I knew him – with his Black/Chrome Gladstone. Thank you for your work on this educational presentation.


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