Fletcher Henderson’s Bass Drum Kit

Fletcher Henderson’s Bass Drum Kit

(2006-01-03) Donated by Charlie Benton

Fletcher Henderson (1898–1952) was one of the most influential pianists, band leaders, and arrangers in the history of jazz. He was the most commercially successful African-American musician during the 1920s, especially as a leader of his own orchestra in both recording and live performances. His arrangements provided the basis for what was to become known as “swing” music in regard to instrumentation, form, and compositional principles between soloists, sections, and the overall ensemble.

Active primarily in New York when not touring, his band featured such notable musicians as Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Don Redman, and Fletcher’s brother, Horace. In 1939, Henderson ceased operation of his own band and joined Benny Goodman’s big band as pianist and chief arranger. This was the first time a black musician was hired to perform with a white band.

This Bass Drum Kit was purchased from Fletcher’s brother, Horace Henderson, who played piano as well as arranged for Fletcher’s band. It includes a 14 x 28 1920s-era Ludwig & Ludwig bass drum with interior lighting and a mountain-with-lake scene painted on the front calfskin head. It features a 14-inch Chinese cymbal, a 1924 Ludwig & Ludwig bass drum pedal with cymbal striker attachment, and several accessories, including castanets, woodblocks, a snare drum stand, and miscellaneous sticks, brushes, and mallets.

It was played by Kaiser Marshall, who was Henderson’s drummer during the early 1920s, and possibly by later drummers in Henderson’s band. The Chinese tom-tom in the photograph is not original to the set, but is matched to it for display purposes. This tom (1996-01-05) was donated by Terry Clarke.