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Inside | C&C Drum Co.
With an uncompromising approach to quality craftsmanship and a devotion to the sound of vintage drums, C&C Drums is a brand after our own hearts here at Chicago Drum Exchange. As a go-to destination for drummers of all stripes—touring professionals and amateur musicians, alike—the decision to offer C&C Drums at CDE was a no-brainer.
"It’s easy for us at Chicago Drum Exchange to get behind a brand like C&C, which offers high-quality, great-sounding custom drums at a decent price for working drummers—because that’s what all of us are,” said Mike Hussa, drum product manager at Chicago Drum Exchange. “The fact that they’re all such good people who are truly passionate about the instruments they create only adds to the appeal and has helped to build a strong bond between CDE and C&C, since day one.”SHOP C&C DRUM CO.
Whether you’re looking for a kit like the 12th & Vine, which is made to sound like a vintage kit from the bebop era, or one of the sets in the Player Date series—modeled after kits from the ’50s and ’60s and built to handle a variety of different playing situations and styles—C&C drums are practical, touring-friendly, kits that offer a wide tuning range for players of all types.
Built by the founder of C&C Drums, himself, alongside a staff of seven others, who are as devoted as he is to the craft of making the best-sounding drums they can, material supply shortages throughout the past two years have limited the C&C staff to churning just seven or eight drum sets per week out of C&C’s Gladstone, Missouri, shop—when, previously, they’d make upwards of a hundred a week.
Still, the list of professional drummers playing C&C drum kits continues to grow—so the Drum Exchange keeps on ordering as many as we can! In the midst of C&C building several Player Date drum kits for us, we talked to the company’s founder to give CDE visitors the C&C Drums backstory, plus a look into what makes them sound so good!
When C&C Drums Inc. Founder Bill Cardwell retired early from his corporate life, he started following his passion for music by opening a drum shop with his business partner, David Carrington (the other “C” in “C&C”). With a particular affinity for the sonic characteristics produced by vintage drum kits from the 1940s to the early ’70s, Cardwell discovered, over the years of buying and selling vintage drums at his shop, that the secret to getting the particular sounds he was seeking out of a drum set had everything to do with the types of wood laminated together in layered combinations to make each drum’s shell.
By the ’90s, most drum manufacturers eschewed earlier drum-making techniques in which different types of wood were combined together, in lieu of shells made using a single type of wood, giving newer drums a distinctly different tone than the kinds of vintage drums he preferred to play, himself, and sold out of his own shop.
“I always loved the way they mixed the woods on older drums,” Cardwell told CDE. “For a long time, you got a shell that was all maple, and a birch shell that was all birch. We’d stopped doing the wood combinations we’d done for so many years—which made such cool shells that you could do so many different things with! So, one of the desires I had was to be able to make a shell that was going to be different from what we were used to hearing, then.”
That’s when Cardwell started to make his own drum kits. Orienting his drum-making craft around the designs and techniques once used to make vintage sets he loved most, he started fabricating his own drums, making one-offs for artists, like Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer), for example, who asked Cardwell to build him a kit modeled after Gene Krupa’s 1940 Slingerland with gold-plated Radio King Hardware—which became the very first drum kit Cardwell ever built.
It wasn’t until Cardwell’s son, Jake, got involved that C&C Drums took off.
“The beginning of anything is really pretty slow,” Cardwell said. “My son, Jake, played a certain drum brand’s kit, back then, when I had a store in Lawrence, Kansas. But he was recording in a studio, and the recording engineer wasn’t happy with the sound of the bass drum, so he told my son, ‘Go borrow one of your dad’s bass drums, and bring it down here to the studio.’ So, Jake went and got the shell and took it to the studio, and the guy said, ‘Now that’s a bass drum! I want that bass drum.’ It took a sound engineer to convince my son that I could build a drum that would sound OK!
“That’s when a lot of stuff started happening for C&C, because suddenly Jake was taking them out and playing them, and other people were seeing them. Then, other bands wanted kits—and he was playing with bands from different parts of the country. That’s when we really got started building C&C drums. Everything was organic and word-of-mouth—which goes along with the sound of the drums, in a lot of ways.”
After years of making one-off drum kits and taking them to trade shows, where Cardwell might sell a kit one year, then none the next, a new crop of professional drummers—playing for bands like Alkaline Trio, The Get-Up Kids, Superchunk, Sparkle Horse, and Brand New, to name a few— wanted drum kits that sounded as good in the studio as they did at every stop along a tour. And C&C Drums proved to be the best-sounding, most road-ready kits they’d find, anywhere.
The reason those drummers chose C&C during the brand’s fledgling years—over all other drum kit brands—had little, if anything, to do with the sound and style of music played on kits from which C&C takes inspiration. The key factor for anyone choosing a drum set is, of course, always the quality of sound that the drums produce.
When it comes to drum sounds, it might seem that certain tonal qualities transcend temporal and stylistic contexts, reaching a kind of ideal as to how a drum ought to sound. But, while it’s within this realm of ideal drum tones that C&C’s kits are forged and tested before they ever see the light of day, Cardwell is the first to admit that there’s no such thing as the “perfect drum tone.”
“I love a wide-open drum as much as anybody,” Cardwell said, “but most of the kids playing today want them deader than hell! We try to EQ the drum as close to flat as feasibly possible to get the true sound of the drum out of it, so the same kit that they use in the studio works on the road.
“Your ear changes as you age. There are things that I listen to now that I wouldn’t listen to years before—and that’s the way it is with drums. I’ve learned a greater appreciation for all different sounds that I didn’t care for before because I’ve seen them used in applications. If I know the sound a guy is going for, I can tailor the shell and the bearing edge to give him the sound they want.”
If you’ve been looking for your own ideal drum tone—or you have yet to hear what that sounds like—stop into Chicago Drum Exchange and test-drive one of our C&C kits, today, to hear timeless drum tones and find out if it matches your own ideal!
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