Ludwig Drums
IndustryMusical instruments
FoundedDecember 11, 1909; 112 years ago (1909-12-11) in Chicago, Illinois, United States[1]
FounderWilliams F. & Theobald Ludwig [1]
Area served
ProductsDrum kits and hardware, marimbas, vibraphones, xylophones, bar chimes
Ludwig Drums Exhibit at 'The NAMM Show' on January 17, 2020, in Anaheim, California
Ludwig Drums Exhibit at 'The NAMM Show' on January 17, 2020, in Anaheim, California

Ludwig Drums is a United States musical instrument manufacturer, focused on percussion. The brand achieved significant popularity in the 1960s due to the endorsement of the Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.[2] It is a subsidiary of Conn-Selmer.

Products manufactured by Ludwig include timpani, drum kits, and drum hardware. The company also makes keyboard percussion instruments, such as marimbas, vibraphones, and xylophones, through the Ludwig-Musser brand.[3]


The Ludwig Drum Company was established in 1909 by William F. & Theobald Ludwig, sons of a German immigrant to the United States.[4] William Jr. had been a professional drummer, playing with circuses and touring vaudeville shows, along with the occasional skating-rink gig. Since this work was irregular, he and his brother, Theobald, opened a drum shop in Chicago; they called it Ludwig & Ludwig.[5] The company started with a concept for the design and manufacture of a functional bass drum pedal.[6]

The company added new products to its catalog, such as snare drums and timpani, in 1916. In 1917, Ludwig signed a deal to build rope drums[clarification needed] to support World War I. Theobald Ludwig died in 1918, and William continued on his own.[6] By 1923, the factory was the largest drum manufacturer in the world, employing 240 workers.[5]

In the late 1920s, the company was sold to the C.G. Conn instrument company. William Ludwig stayed on to run the company for Conn (which also owned the Leedy Drum Co. at this time). Eventually, William Ludwig decided to leave Conn and start a new company of his own. He was unable to use the Ludwig name since that trademark now belonged to Conn who continued to market Ludwig & Ludwig drums.

A Ludwig banjo in the Jazz Age
Ludwig Big Chief Banjo (1930), American Banjo Museum
From about 1921 to 1931, Ludwig made banjos, such as the Big Chief Banjo (1930), displayed at the American Banjo Museum.[7]
Body of Ludwig Big Chief banjo (1930) at American Banjo Museum
The Big Chief banjo was highly decorated, with gold plating, engraving, and decorative inlayed wood patterns.
Back of Ludwig Big Chief banjo (1930) at American Banjo Museum
The back, in wood inlay. The banjos are highly prized today, but were ultimately a financial failure, the market having disappeared.[7]

In 1937, William bought a factory building and started The WFL Drum Company (his initials). The company continued producing drums at a small scale for the duration of World War II, but William got back to the idea of making the company a large drum manufacturer after the war ended. WFL was a competitor with Ludwig and Ludwig. Conn combined their two drum brands into one in the early 1950s, forming Leedy & Ludwig, and then decided to quit the drum business altogether. In 1955, William and his son Bill Jr. were able to buy the Ludwig trademark back from Conn, and over the next few years their company and its products transitioned from the WFL brand to being called "Ludwig" again.

Despite initial success, Ludwig's global breakthrough would occur February 9, 1964, when The Beatles made their historic American TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show.[8][9] The Ludwig logo, displayed on the front of Ringo Starr's bass drum, could be seen by the television audience of about seventy-three million people.[1][5][9] As it happens, Starr chose that brand upon joining the band simply because he liked the oyster pearl black color of the drum kit he chose.

[Ringo Starr] put our name on the front of his bass drum head ... [because] he was so proud that he had an imported drum set from America, especially from a famous company like Ludwig, that at the time of purchase he insisted on having the Ludwig name painted on the front of the head!

— William Ludwig's grandson[5]

The publicity resulted in Ludwig's sales doubling quickly to $13 million, which prompted production to increase to a 24/7 production as the company became the foremost drum manufacturer in North America for twenty years.[10]

Ludwig acquired the "Musser Mallet Company", a manufacturer of xylophones, marimbas and vibraphones, in 1965.[4] Ludwig was a strong presence in the marching drum market. During the 1970s, Ludwig's "Challenger" line of snare drums offered sophisticated tuning and strong build quality. Ludwig drums were used by many leading drum and bugle corps.

On 4 November 1981, William F Ludwig II sold the business to the Selmer Company (now Conn-Selmer). Selmer closed the Damen Avenue factory in the ensuing years and moved the drum production business to Monroe, North Carolina, in 1984.[4][5][11] In 2002, Ludwig merged with Conn-Selmer, becoming a brand of Conn-Selmer, Inc.[12]

The Musser manufacturing facility remained in LaGrange, Illinois, until 2013, and was then moved to Elkhart, Indiana.[13]

A replica of Ringo Starr's Ludwig drum kit served as a basis for a drum controller in the special edition bundle of the video game, The Beatles: Rock Band.

Notable Artists

Some of the musicians that currently or previously played Ludwigs include:[14][15]

the legendary drummer Ringo Starr using Ludwig



  1. ^ a b c "The 1960s" at Vintage Ludwig Drums
  2. ^ ""The Story Behind Ringo's Drums" by Charlie West". Archived from the original on 2019-07-27. Retrieved 2014-11-13.
  3. ^ "Ludwig-Musser". Conn-Selmer, Inc. Retrieved 2022-03-16.
  4. ^ a b c "Ludwig". Our Brands. Conn-Selmer, Inc. Archived from the original on 2016-08-27. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  5. ^ a b c d e "The origins of Ludwig drums" on The Chicago Reader
  6. ^ a b "Ludwig on Conn-Selmer website". Archived from the original on 2014-11-20. Retrieved 2014-11-13.
  7. ^ a b "Makers Alphabetically". Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  8. ^ "The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964" on Ed Sullivan website
  9. ^ a b "The Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan Show" on The Beatles Bible
  10. ^ O'Reilly, Terry. "Bookmarks 2016". Under the Influence. CBC News. Retrieved 27 August 2016.
  11. ^ Selmer's History, 7 Dec 2011
  12. ^ About: 2000-2009 on Ludwig website
  13. ^ "Musser". Our Brands. Conn-Selmer. Archived from the original on 2017-10-05. Retrieved 2015-12-21.
  14. ^ Artists on Ludwig website
  15. ^ "A Century of the most famous names" on Ludwig website Archived 2014-11-21 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Carmine Appice, an exclusive interview", Glide Magazine, 8 Jul 2013
  17. ^ Drum set up on John Bonham website
  18. ^ "10 Ways To Sound Like John Bonham" by John Natellion Drum Magazine, Nov 2008
  19. ^ "Bill Bruford". Retrieved 2017-02-10.