Sunday, July 26, 2020

NICHOLAS C. ATTANASIO, 1922–2018

My first exposure to the Les Parks grip method was through my friend, Dave Moyer, a talented former snare drummer with the Colts Drum & Bugle Corps (Dubuque, Iowa, the late 1970s.) I noticed his traditional left-hand grip was unique. He kept his little finger curled under the ring finger; I asked him about it, and he explained its advantages.

My next exposure to the Parks technique was through my friend, Dave Nicholas. Also, an excellent former Colts snare drummer (early 1970s.) I noticed that Nicholas used the same unusual grip technique as Moyer. I asked him about it, and he explained it the same way. 

Moyer and Nicholas never mentioned any connection between their grip method with Parks or Thompson. “That’s just how we did it in the Colts” is all they knew of its history. At that point, I assumed that it must have been something unique to the Dubuque Colts.

Years later, I discovered photos on-line of elite drummer Steve Gadd demonstrating the curled finger grip and read comments attributing the technique to Bobby Thompson.

I followed up by searching for more information about Thompson. I quickly learned that he had been a member of The Sons of Liberty F&D with Les Parks, Jay Tuomey, Bob Redican, and a bass drummer named Nick Attanasio.

Mr. Attanasio’s innovative and ground-breaking bass drum playing style during the 1950s earned him induction honors in the American Patriots Rudimental Drum Corps Hall of Fame, the World’s Drummers Hall of Fame, and the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame.1

I often discussed drumming with my cousin, Mike Flack, who had grown up playing in drum corps. I mentioned to Mike what I had been learning about the Sons of Liberty.

By a remarkable coincidence, Mike told me that he had recently been in contact with Nick Attanasio.

Mike was promoting his custom-designed reed-style brush drum sticks called “Flack Wackers.” He had been reaching out to various contacts. Modern Drummer Magazine featured a brief review of his product in the April 2013 issue.

During Mike’s marketing efforts, he came in contact with Attanasio. They hit it off well and talked several times by phone, sometimes to discuss drumming and sometimes just to “shoot the breeze.”

Mike was a deeply empathetic person and a good listener. Nick was comfortable talking with Mike and opened up to him about his grief over recently losing his son.

Mike gave me Nick’s phone number and arranged an introduction so I could talk with him. On October 24, 2013, I picked up the phone and called him.

Mr. Attanasio was happy to take my call and to answer my questions. I found him to be entirely amicable and very eager to talk about his drumming experiences.

He told me that Parks was “the leader of the Sons,” and the style they all played, including Bobby Thompson, was “directed by Les Parks.” He told me to play snare drum with the Sons, “You had to adopt the Parks method. All snare drummers used the same grip and techniques.”

According to Attanasio, Parks directed a playing position with the elbows closer to the body, enabling the right wrist to bend slightly to the outside (ulnar deviation.) Both hands were positioned low, just above the drumhead level.

That adjustment aligns the drumstick as an extension of the forearm. From that orientation, the right stick can be raised and lowered by bending the wrist in a hinge-like fashion (flexion and extension.)

At one point in our conversation, I ignorantly asked Nick if he knew Earl Sturtze and how his teaching compares with the Parks’ method. There was a cold silence on his end of the line; then, he told me that there had been “No love lost between Parks and Sturtze.”

Apparently, at some point, Earl Sturtze said words to the effect of “All the best drummers are from Connecticut.” The Sons of Liberty were from Brooklyn, NY. Earl’s comments did not sit well with them. Not well at all.

Nick Attanasio died on November 5, 2018. He was 96 years old.2 I am very grateful for the honor of speaking with one of the iconic figures of traditional American drumming. I wish I had the presence of mind to ask him more about some of the other great drummers he knew.

I have fully embraced the Les Parks grip method. Initially, it was challenging. It takes a concentrated effort to keep the little finger cocked back. With persistence and resolve, it soon became ingrained to the point where not curling the little finger now feels unnatural to me. I’m glad I learned it.

Ed Flack, 2020.


NOTES

1. “Attanasio, Nicholas.” WDCHOF, March 21, 2018. https://www.wdchof.org/members/attanasio-nicholas/; “Apples for the Teachers.” Drum Corps International: Marching Music`s Major League. Accessed May 9, 2020. https://www.dci.org/news/apples-for-the-teachers.

2. “Obituary for Nicholas C. Attanasio at Joseph V. Leahy Funeral Home, Inc.” n.d. Www.Jvleahyfh.Com. Accessed July 26, 2020. https://www.jvleahyfh.com/obituary/nicholas-attanasio.

GEORGE P. CARROLL, 1932–2020

GEORGE P. CARROLL, 1932–2020. I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. George P. Carroll (March 3, 2020.)1

The beautiful rope drum on this book’s cover is one that he made for me in 2007. I was fortunate to speak with George many times by phone. We exchanged several messages regarding drumming’s history and techniques—of which he was a highly respected authority. 

George played a crucial role in establishing the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps in 1960. The fife had been absent from U.S. Army bands since 1875 and reinstated through his efforts.

He was born in Canada, and at the age of 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy. He graduated from the Canadian Navy School of Music. Upon completing his five-year service, he became the Drum Sergeant of the Black Watch Military Band. He successfully auditioned for the U.S. Army Band and enlisted in 1958.2

In January 1961, he was in the Army Band that played for the inauguration of JFK. George told me he was sitting 20ft from President Kennedy when he made his inspiring speech—challenging all Americans to contribute to the public good.

While in the Army Band, Carroll recognized that the Army needed a standard drum beat for funeral duties. His “slow beat” was played in the escort of President Kennedy’s funeral caisson through Washington’s streets in 1963.

Among his many accomplishments, Mr. Carroll helped create the Colonial Williamsburg Fife & Drum Corps, the International Association of Field Musicians, and the Yorktown Fife & Drum Museum.

In 2009, my wife and I were in Washington, DC, and we stopped to visit him at his drum shop in Alexandria, VA. George was very hospitable, extremely friendly, smart, and talented. He shared his impressive collection of drums with us, including a Civil War contract drum and a beautiful Sanford Moeller “Grand Republic” rope drum. The drum was designed by Moeller and hand-made by Buck Soistman in 1959 for The U.S. Army Band (after Gus Moeller fell ill and could not complete the build order.)

George was supportive of my endeavor to learn more about the history of American drumming, and he directed me to many historical source documents and additional reading.

He was happy to share what he knew. He told me that as traditional drummers, “We have to share what we’ve learned or it will go with us to the ground and be lost forever.”

I wish I could talk with him again. I still have many questions.

Ed Flack, 2020

PHOTOS:

George Carroll rope drum featuring the “Bunker Hill” tack design.

George Carroll, proudly displaying his Gus Moeller designed “Grand Republic Drum.” Made by Buck Soistman.

Ed Flack and George Carroll, in front of Carroll’s drum shop in the old Wise’s Tavern building, Alexandria, VA. The place where George Washington was first publicly addressed as “President of The United States.” 

Union Army, "contract drum," Civil War era.






NOTES

1. “George P. Carroll « Bucktrout Funeral Home and Crematory.” n.d. www.Bucktroutfuneralhome.Net. Accessed July 26, 2020. https://www.bucktroutfuneralhome.net/obituary/george-p-carroll/.
‌2. “George P. Carroll.” The Company of Fifers & Drummers, March 21, 2020. https://companyoffifeanddrum.org/news/remembrances/george-p-carroll.

LES PARKS UN-TRADITIONAL SNARE GRIP

Recently, while poking around with my settings in the updated Blogger site, I accidentally deleted my April 2009, post about the Les Parks snare drum grip method. I did not intend that, and I am sorry if you were looking for the link only to discover it had vanished. Here it is again, reposted, July 26, 2020.

AN UN-TRADITIONAL GRIP

Many drummers find the traditional method of holding the left-hand drumstick to be challenging to learn, and many drummers have abandoned the style in favor of matched grip. The truth is that right-handed people will always have difficulty getting the left stick under control, regardless of grip technique. Let us assume that you have overcome the stereotypical resistance and have discovered for yourself the joy of playing traditional grip—this information is for you.

There is a uniquely American innovation to the traditional left-hand grip that is alien to most drummers. The method is often referred to as “the Bobby Thompson grip” because he did so much to promote it through his performance as a drummer with the Sons of Liberty and instructor for the Blessed Sacrament Golden Knights and others. However, Thompson learned the method from Les Parks when they performed together with the Sons of Liberty F&D.

Parks devised this method with encouragement from his teacher, Morris Goldenberg, at the Julliard School of Music in New York City.1

The concept behind it was to find a better way to facilitate left-hand stick control by using more of the index finger and less of the thumb. Parks believed a flat-handed thumb grip could not deliver the kind of precise control and power needed for competitive rudimental drumming.

During his career, Parks instructed the St. Vincent Cadets, Garfield Cadets, the Hawthorne Caballeros, the New York Skyliners, and many others. He founded The Sons of Liberty, an influential fife and drum corps from Brooklyn, New York (1947-1968.)

The Parks method resembles the traditional left-hand grip in every respect except that the little finger curls back. 

The middle finger extends along-side the stick to balance and assists in guiding the strokes, but it does not touch it. The index finger acts as the primary controlling digit by pushing down or pulling in. The thumb covers the stick lightly, creating a narrow fulcrum point for the stick to balance on.

Marty Hurley, a student of Bobby Thompson, said, “When the pinky finger is back, it forms a better bridge for the stick to rest on. The ring finger is less likely to move. Les and Bobby spent hours perfecting the technique. They wanted a method that had the left hand under more control.”2

Hurley was the percussion arranger/caption head of the Phantom Regiment (1976-1992.)


CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PARKS GRIP

1. The forearm is rotated with the thumb to the top creating a narrow fulcrum point where the stick balances.

2. The curled little finger acts as a natural pendulum, which helps rotate the palm to position the thumb topside. More arm muscles can then be involved to enhance power, control, and stamina. The forearm has a more outward rotational range available to play full strokes and accents.

3. Upward support from the curled little finger enables the ring finger to work as a springboard under the stick; this creates a more secure grip by helping the left-hand muscles apply pressure where needed.

4. It has the psychological effect of bringing the drummer’s attention to the grip’s details into sharp focus. 

The Parks method does not require the player to deviate from the correct underhand technique’s established principles. However, it enhances awareness of how one uses it, helping the drummer focus and burn the underhand grip habit into the muscle memory until it becomes a natural and unconscious act.









NOTES

1.Mazur, Ken. “Who Took the Drum Out of Drum Corps?” Who Took the Drum Out of Drum Corps? | RudimentalDrumming.com. Accessed January 19, 2013. http://rudimentaldrumming.com/node/17.

2. Mazur, Ken “The Perfectionists: The History of Rudimental Snare Drumming from Military Code to Field Competition,” Percussive Notes 43, 

no. 2 (April 2005), 10-21.


VIDEO EXPLANATION:

https://youtu.be/c_SkLdNM5VI



Saturday, July 18, 2020

CHARLES STEWART ASHWORTH and CHARLES EDWARD STUART

CHARLES STEWART ASHWORTH
Charles Stewart Ashworth learned to drum in his homeland of England. He immigrated to the United States, and in Boston, on December 13, 1802, he joined the Marine Corps at the age of 25. Enlistment records indicate that he was 5' 6" tall, with blue eyes and light brown hair; he reported his occupation as “drummer.”1

He entered the Marine Band, established by an Act of Congress on July 11, 1798. On November 24, 1804, he advanced to Drum Major, becoming the band’s second leader following William Farr, who had served as Drum Major since January, 1799.2

While Drum Major, he wrote a manual for all U.S. military musicians titled A New, Useful, and Complete System of Drum Beating. He deposited a copy with the District Court of the District of Columbia on January 15, 1812. Ashworth’s book was the first American drum and fife handbook to show notation for the drum.

Pages 3-5 of Ashworth’s book included notation for a series of drumming exercises, which he listed under the heading “Rudiments for Drum Beating in General.” Ashworth is the first author to use the word “rudiments” to describe these essential drumming skills previously known as “lessons, rules, or exercises.” 

The U.S. War Department approved the book, and during the War of 1812, it was the official duty of all U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine musicians. It became a template to subsequent textbooks for military musicians, i.e., The Camp Duty

George B. Bruce praised Ashworth’s work in the preface of his book, The Drummers’ and Fifers’ Guide. Bruce wrote, “After carefully examining all the drum books that have been published during the past twenty-five years, the author finds none to compare with Ashworth’s Rudimental School.”3

Charles S. Ashworth has earned his title in history as “The Father of American Rudimental Drumming.”

CHARLES EDWARD STUART
On August 24, 1814, after defeating the Americans at The Battle of Bladensburg, a British force led by Major General Robert Ross occupied Washington, D.C., and set fire to many public buildings. The facilities of the United States government, including the White House and the U.S. Capitol, were burned.4

On that fateful day, as the British searched for fuel to start the fire that burned the White House, they found unbound stacks of Ashworth’s book. It was those pages that the British used to ignite the flames.5

The similarity between the name Charles Stewart Ashworth with the name of Prince Charles Stuart was not lost on
British soldiers as they ransacked the Capitol.

Charles Edward Stuart, also known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie” and “The Young Chevalier,” was a central figure of the Jacobite rising of 1745. Prince Charlie intended to restore the Stuart dynasty to Scotland and England’s throne for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart.

On September 21, 1745, Stuart, with an army of Scottish clansmen, attacked British forces near Edinburgh in the Scottish Highlands and claimed a decisive victory at The Battle of Prestonpans.

Less than a year later, on April 16, 1746, Stuart’s Jacobite forces were defeated by the British at The Battle of Culloden, effectively ending the Jacobite cause.



UNITED STATES FLAG, 1812 — During the War of 1812, the flag had Fifteen stars and fifteen stripes.


NOTES

Historical details about the military service of Charles Stewart Ashworth is from a foreword written by George P. Carroll in a supplement to his facsimile reproduction of Ashworth’s original work. Included with Mr. Carroll’s commentary are his transcriptions of Ashworth’s drum beatings to modern drum notation.

1. Ashworth, Charles Stewart. “A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating.” In A New, Useful, and Complete System of Drum Beating, edited by George P. Carroll, 1–6. Williamsburg, VA: Geo. P. Carroll, 1966

2. “Unit Home.” Charles S. Ashworth. Accessed March 16, 2020. https://www.marineband.marines.mil/About/Our-History/History-of-the-Directors/Charles-S-Ashworth/.

3. Bruce, Geo B., and Dan D. Emmett. The Drummer’s and Fifer’s Guide (New York: Wm. A. Pond & Co., 1862), 3.

4. “Wiki Encyclopedia of Everything - Everipedia.” everipedia.org. Accessed March 16, 2020. https://everipedia.org/wiki/lang_en/Burning_of_Washington.

5. Ashworth, Charles Stewart. “A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating.” In A New, Useful, and Complete System of Drum Beating, edited by George P. Carroll, 1–6. Williamsburg, VA: Geo. P. Carroll, 1966

6. “Be A Fifer! Learn to Play the Fife!” Be A Fifer! Learn to Play the Fife! Edmond Boyle. Accessed May 15, 2020. https://beafifer.com/.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

RESTORATION OF A SLINGERLAND MAHOGANY DRUM SET


I worked at restoring this old set of mahogany Slingerland drums little by little for more than a year. They were worth it to me; we have a history together.


I bought them used in the fall of 1983 in Waterloo, Iowa, at The Music Corner. I stopped dead in my tracks when I first saw them. I thought they were beautiful! At that time, store manager Steve Tillapaugh told me that he sold them new in 1977 and recently took them back in on trade.


Over the next few years, I played many live gigs with them and used them in a couple of recording sessions, and I was never disappointed. One day in 1990, I suffered a lapse in judgment, and I traded them away for a new Pearl drums set. I have nothing against Pearl, but it was a mistake—I missed my Slingerlands.


A few years later, my cousin, Mike (also a drummer), found my former Slingerland set! They were at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop in Cedar Falls, IA. He recognized them as my old kit, and the confirmation detail was the two holes I drilled in the bass drum to install an XLR jack and an internal microphone. He bought them for forty bucks!


Sometime later, I saw him playing them at a gig, and lo and behold. The drums were all painted a bunch of wild colors! (Mike said that when he found them, the bass drum had already been painted red.)


Mike had a mismatched combination of drums: Ludwig, Pearl, Rogers, and Slingerland. With only forty bucks invested, he figured he had nothing to lose by experimenting with paint to assemble one big kit with a coordinated finish. It was actually kind of groovy in a weird and funky, hippie sort of way.


Fast forward to the spring of 2018, Mike had other drums, and the Slingerland was taking up space. I mentioned they would be an excellent candidate for a restoration project and would like to buy them from him. He just said, “Cool idea, you can have them!” As it turns out that it was only about four months before he died of a sudden heart attack. 


I had the paint stripped before he passed away, and he knew what the plan was. I am sorry he never got to see the finished project. I believe he would have approved.


It was frustrating at times, it took many hours, but I’m glad I did it and am pleased with the results. I hope I’ve added another couple of decades to these drums’ lives.










Here is a summary of my process and the materials that I used:

I consumed many YouTube “how-to” videos on wood finishing, and I read a lot of blogs, product information web sites, and product labels. I consulted with experienced woodworkers, and I visited vintage drum FaceBook pages, where I posted photos and asked questions. 


I received excellent advice from my cousin, Elon Flack, a master woodworker, and Mike’s older brother. I wanted to study first because I figured I had only one chance to get it right. Elon kept telling me, “Don’t rush it. Patience is a virtue!” I think that is the best advice that anyone undertaking a project like this could follow. That includes not only the work you’re doing but also the cure time between steps.


One bass drum counter hoop was missing, and I replaced it with an early 1960s Ludwig hoop and some aftermarket Slingerland style claws. I didn’t have the original bass drum hoop inlays, so I used copper metallic paint on the inlay areas after I painted them black. Eventually, I may install a proper inlay material, but I think they look good for now. (The original inlays were metal, with a polished chrome look.) 


The rack tom arm was missing, and I replaced it with a reproduction from Maxwell’s Drums—it fits perfectly and works well. I had two of the three original Niles, IL badges, and I bought the third on eBay. The bearing edges are in excellent shape, the shells are round, they tune quickly, and sound great! I use Evans G1 coated heads on top and G1 clear on the bottoms. I am always happy with the Evans 360 drumheads on vintage drums. I use them on my 1972 Rogers kit also.


I filled the microphone holes in the bass drum shell with hardwood discs, but the finish did not match, so I covered them with a US flag graphic outside and a paper tag on the inside. On the paper tags, I printed —


1977 Slingerland Drum. Made in Niles, IL.

Distributor: The Music Corner, Waterloo, IA.

Restored and refinished by Ed Flack, 2019.


To make the paper tags, I printed them on a resume’ quality cream-colored paper stock. Then I coated over the paper on both sides with the same clear gloss polyurethane that I used on the shells. Once dry, I trimmed them with an X-acto knife and a straight edge, then glued them to the drums using rubber contact cement.


I had six new vent hole badge grommets to start. I practiced three different techniques of crimping them and failed every time. They all split or went crooked or both. Not wanting to destroy my last three chromed grommets, I simply used small rubber O-rings on the inside to hold them—that works great! I’ll see how they hold up over time and subject to vibration. I suppose a dab of contact cement will secure them if needed.


I had a junk drum shell that I used to practice with various stripping materials, sandpapers, finishes, and techniques. I highly recommend you practice on a junk drum shell or some old boards first. A thing to be aware of is that drum shells are round, and the wet materials can run, usually at a place not noticed until you’ve waited for it to dry!


PRODUCTS USED: 

Dust Mask: try not to breathe in sawdust while sanding; not good for the lungs.


Jasco Stripper: a powerful chemical stripper that works well, but you need to be in a well-ventilated workspace. I also had good results experimenting with a more natural stripper called Citristrip. Citristrip is less toxic, but you might have to go over the same areas a second time. It helps to let it sit and work longer.


Mineral Spirits: for cleanup; and to thin certain kinds of finish if needed. I used mineral spirits to “wash” the shells after stripping.


Masking Tape: when working on the inside with oils, stains, and cover coats, be sure to tape all holes outside, so stuff does not run to the outside and cause problems. When working on the exteriors, tape the inside of all holes.


3M Sandblaster Sandpaper: Don’t waste time and money on cheap sandpaper. For my first rounds of sanding to prepare the wood, I worked with dry sandpaper. I started with an aggressive 80 grit for some of the worst primer/paint areas on the insides. On the outside mahogany, I never went coarser than 150 and worked my way down to 220 and 320 grit.


Tack Cloth: to wipe sanding dust off. However, tack cloth can leave wax behind, so go lightly with it to not smear wax in. I used my ShopVac with a soft bristle brush to vacuum away as much dust as possible. Then I hit it lightly with some tack cloth. You can wash the sawdust off using mineral spirits, but it will need time to dry.


Watco Danish Oil: Once cleaned and satisfied with my final smooth sanding, I decided to use an oil-based finish and not a color stain. I chose Danish Oil from Watco, a “natural” finish with no coloring additives. You just wipe it on with a clean cloth. I let it dry a few days, then I applied another coat of the Danish Oil. However, this time, I wet sanded it in and let it cure for a couple weeks.


Minwax Wipe-On Polyurethane: Next, I started coating them with a clear gloss wipe-on polyurethane. Wipe-on is easy to use, but it is thin. You will need to do several coats — at least 6 coats; I used 8. It’s a drag because you must sand between every layer using a fine grit 220 to 320. Don’t scrub too hard on that sanding. Just lightly haze it up all over. Polyurethane needs a mechanical grip surface. That’s why you must sand. Some finishes “melt” into previous layers but not poly. 


Restore-A-Shine:  I let the last coat of poly cure for 30 days (so hard to wait.) Then I polished the shells with Restore-A-Shine “polishing compound” (not Restore-A-Finish.) Great stuff, use a soft cloth and a hearty helping of elbow grease!


Meguiar’s Carnuba Paste Wax: Finally, I waxed the shells inside and out with a good quality paste wax. I individually cleaned every chrome hardware piece with Never-Dull wadding, buffed with a terry cloth towel, and waxed them with Meguiar’s. This step was probably unnecessary.


Tip: I learned from my cousin Elon — if you want a satin finish, use gloss on every layer up to the final coat, then put your satin coat on last. Several coats of satin can end up looking milky. 


I waited for 24 to 48 hours between each coat of poly. You probably don’t have to wait that long, but you do not want it to be the least bit soft or sticky. My final bit of advice is that when reassembling, be careful not to crank too hard on the screws with wrenches, or you may strip the threads.

Monday, June 10, 2019

REPLACING SLINGERLAND TDR 100 SNARE GUT WITH WEED-EATER LINE

By Ed Flack, 2019

I read that you can use a weedeater line or tennis racket line to replace TDR snare gut, but nobody explained how to crimp the ends. I first searched fishing tackle and found nothing that worked. Then I thought of wire crimping and discovered that crimp terminators work great!

Weedeater lines are available in various diameters. I found that .065 inch diameter fits just right. There are round lines and hex-shaped lines (with edges for cutting.) Use the rounded lines.

You’ll need a crimping tool, and the wire crimp sizes are designated in AWG, which stands for “American Wire Gauge.” A crimp size of AWG 14 is .064 inches, but I had no trouble sliding the .065 line through. 

There is a plastic insulator on the terminator that slides off; you don’t need it. Once you crimp the end of your line with the crimping tool, you can easily snip off the head with a wire cutter. The connector ends can be different types, like oval or circular rings or open “U” shapes. It doesn’t matter for this use. IMPORTANT: Use a wire crimping tool, not pliers!

I suppose you could hit the crimped weed line end with a lighter to fuse/melt them together, but I don’t think it is necessary. I recently replaced some missing gut with a weedeater line on an old TDR, and it sounds great! (TDR’s have a clean, sweet, and punchy tone.) 

There are drum parts and service shops that will sell you new snare gut to replace the originals. You may still have to find a way to crimp the ends. Using a weedeater line is an inexpensive short term fix.

Final note NEVER put Kevlar heads on a TDR!!! You’ll bust the lugs.

See the images below for an AWG wire gauge chart, examples of wire ends, and photos of a TDR with weedeater line used as a replacement snare guts.




Friday, August 24, 2018

THE THREE CAMPS REVEILLE

Also known as “The Mother and Three Camps” and as “Points of War,” “The Three Camps” is one of the oldest and most famously known of all snare drum compositions. It was played as a morning wake up reveille in all U.S. military branches from 1779 until 1875 when a bugle call replaced it.1 During the 20th century, it received wide U.S. distribution as an educational resource. Its value as an exercise to improve technique and stamina and as a performance etude has never been disputed.

The earliest known written notation of the “Three Camps” is found in The Young Drummers Assistant, published by Longman and Broderip in 1780.2 It is much older, but the precise date and place of origin are unknown. It has been a standard within editions of U.S. military Camp Duty since 1812 when Charles Ashworth included it in A New, Useful, and Complete System of Drum Beating.3

The Camp Duty was a collection of military directives that specified the musical repertoire and performance standards, or “duty” of fifers, drummers, and buglers.

The way “Three Camps” is written and interpreted has evolved. During the 1800s, the 11-stroke roll, now standard, was frequently noted as a 7-stroke roll or a 9-stroke roll. The oldest notations, including Ashworth’s, indicate no time signature. We assume Ashworth intended a time signature of 2/4 because he wrote the companion fife melody in 2/4 time.

In 1862, George B. Bruce wrote it in 2/4 time.4 In 1869, Gardiner A. Strube transcribed it to 4/4 time.5 During the 20th century, 4/4 time versions were the most common.

The “Three Camps” may be written in 2/4 or 4/4, but the rolls should be interpreted with a triple pulse division and feel. Because of the triple pulse nature, notations written in 6/8 or 12/8 have become common.

As a reveille, the timing of each roll compliments the fife melody’s phrasing. The rolls commence with an unaccented double stroke and resolve on a single accent.

It is acceptable to play “Three Camps” as a continuous roll exercise with accents. For that purpose, the rolls can be thought of as inverted. That is to say, commencing with a single accent and resolving with double strokes. A goal, when used as an exercise, is to play it as fast as possible.

Regarding the name, “Three Camps.” During a lecture he delivered in 1988, William F. Ludwig Jr. claimed that the name derives from the practice of dividing a company of troops into multiple camps, “For reasons of security.” According to Ludwig, three separate camps were each assigned one drummer. “The drummer in each camp would play a passage and wait for the neighboring camp drummer to repeat it or embellish it as a sign that all was well.”6

That is a good story, but, like so many examples of drum legend and lore, the source of Ludwig’s information is unknown, and its accuracy cannot be verified. No evidence of this practice exists in historical editions of British or American military Camp Duty. “Three Camps” has long been identified as a reveille call and not a signal between camps. Its title remains as mysterious as its origin.






NOTES

1. U.S. Marine Corps, Prologue, Manual For Drummers And Buglers (Washington D.C.: Department Of The Navy, Dec., 1971), viii.

2. Longman, James & Broderip, Francis. The Young Drummers Assistant (London: Longman and Broderip, 1780), 4-5.

3. Ashworth, Charles S., and George P. Carroll. A New, Useful and Complete System of Drum Beating (Williamsburg, VA: Geo. P. Carroll, 1966), 12-13.

4. Bruce, Geo B., and Dan D. Emmett. The Drummer’s and Fifer’s Guide (New York: Wm. A. Pond & Co., 1862), 28.

5. Strube, Gardiner A. Strube’s Drum and Fife Instructor (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1869), 29.

6. From a lecture by William F. Ludwig, Jr. on Revolutionary War Drumming given on January 24, 1988 at the Percussive Arts Society Day of Percussion (Maryland/Delaware) held at Towson University, Baltimore, Maryland.

NICHOLAS C. ATTANASIO, 1922–2018

My first exposure to the Les Parks grip method was through my friend, Dave Moyer, a talented former snare drummer with the Colts Drum & ...