Chicago Recap

The 2012 Chicago Drum Show was the first official event for the Jenkins-Martin Drum Company. Preparation for the show included a trip by me from Cleveland to Los Angeles and then another trip by Jerry and Greg from Los Angeles to Cleveland. These trips gave each of us the opportunity to experience the manufacturing process from each others point of view. It also gave us the opportunity to plan our strategy, develop a game plan and decide on the overall logistics of getting to and from the show. Some things just can’t be done correctly over the phone or email.

As it turns out it was a good thing that we put in all the preparation. The show was overwhelming. The quality and number of visitors, as well as exhibitors, seemed to be way up. Several of the “big guys” were well represented and there were more than a few very impressive custom companies. We had non-stop traffic in our booth and I am still waiting for my voice to come back due to all the talking over two days (trying to talk over the constant, two day solo from Chops McRockstar a few booths down took its toll!).

These drums sounded unbelievable in the hall. More than a few people commented that they were the best sounding drums at the show. Jerry kept tinkering with the tuning and mounting on Saturday trying to get the drums to sound perfect in the hall. Not an easy task considering we were on a bare concrete floor, in a room not made for acoustics, with about 800 other drums. Jerry is a perfectionist when it comes to the sound of these drums, so that evening after the show closed we headed out to a drum shop to get a couple sets of the reso feet for the floor toms. That little adjustment made all the difference on that concrete floor and Jerry was able to settle down a bit.

The bass drum (16×22) didn’t need any adjusting out of the box. Jerry had it tuned up perfectly, with the perfect heads, and it just thundered. We developed a bit of an inside joke about “the Blaemire look”. That is, the look on people’s faces when they first heard the bass. A few people told me that they heard (and felt!) that drum as soon as they walked in our hall and immediately went looking for the source.

There were several stand out moments from the show. The most special for me was the time that Johnny Craviotto spent in our booth. He took a good amount of time inspecting the shells and listening to the drums and had some very nice compliments and words of encouragement on his way out. He even stopped by for a second visit the next day. How do you top that?

Several things surprised me from this experience. First, it blew me away how many people knew the history of these drums. We expected some attention from a few enthusiasts, but there were dozens of guys in their 20s and 30s who knew all about the shells, how they are made, Hal Blaine, etc. A few old timers even had stories about buying directly from Allen and wishing they still had those drums. Several people came from long distances simply because they heard we would be there with the commemorative reissues.

Second, aside from one ornery gentlemen everyone loved the green color. I had been operating under the mistaken assumption that the green color would be reserved only for the purists and that the general market would rather have more traditional colors or finishes. Boy was I wrong! The green color was a huge hit. Every time I told people that we would be coming out with a palette of color choices next Spring they would say, “No way, I want the green!”.

I’ll admit that going into this show I was quite nervous about the reception we would get. Jerry and I have been working on perfecting these shells for nearly two years. In our relationship Jerry has always been the “Blaemire sound guy” and I have been more focused on the manufacturing technology. I don’t play as much as I used to and I never had half the ear that Jerry does. So, much of my work and investment over these past two years has been a bit of a leap of faith. I know these drums are good, but are they as fantastic as Jerry says? Will the market accept another “synthetic” drum? I went into the show not knowing the answers to these questions and with a great deal of uncertainty.

I would get the answers to those questions from a guy who was manning a booth right behind us. He was there with another drum company but he kept sticking his head through the curtains in disbelief over the sound of our drums. This happened six or seven times before I finally grabbed him and put a pair of sticks in his hands. That was all the permission he needed because he ran over, sat down and started jamming. This guy was good. He had the chops, the feel, the soul, the groove. He was, to me, the total package, and he knew how to make these drums sing. This all happened about half way through the first day, but it was the first time I really sat back, closed my eyes and just listened to the drums. And suddenly I could hear it. The resonance, the depth, the tonality. All the things that set these drums apart came through to me all at once. That was my moment of validation. That is when I knew we had something unique. There really is something special about these drums.



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