A Tribute to William F. Ludwig II

On March 22, 2008, William F. Ludwig II (age 91), passed away after years of declining health. Son of William F. Ludwig Sr. who founded the Ludwig Drum Company, Bill Ludwig had made many contributions to the marching activity in his own right. To pay tribute, Halftime Magazine and Dennis DeLucia share a few personal memories about Bill Ludwig II’s life and legacy.

In the 1970s, Fred Sanford was creating a new percussion art form on the West Coast with Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps. Sanford had also been instrumental in designing the “TDR” snare drum for Slingerland.

Bill Ludwig, his design engineer; Al LeMert, a member/staff with Vanguard; and their education director Karl Dustman approached me in 1974. They had seen the Hawthorne Muchachos, the corps that I had taught since 1970, liked what they saw and offered me the opportunity to join their family as a marching percussion clinician/endorsee.

They created the now-famous red “Vistalite” drums with clear acrylic shells for the corps. It was my first relationship with a drum company, and I am eternally grateful to Bill and the Ludwig Company for what they did for me and for the entire drum corps movement.

In the mid-70s, Ludwig and Slingerland dominated the “marching” percussion market. Bill Ludwig II believed strongly in the value of drum and bugle corps and rudimental drumming.

Ludwig and his father had been instrumental in creating and maintaining the National Association of Rudimental Drummers (NARD), a loose organization of military band, drum corps and fife drummers. This group organized the list of 13 rudiments and the expanded list of 26 rudiments. These were THE bible until the mid-80s when the Percussive Arts Society put a committee together to update the list to 40—a list that still includes the original 26!

Bill was one of the earliest and most important supporters of Drum Corps International, making new drums, early “marching” bells, and xylophones, carriers, drumheads and accessories—all to fit the needs of the exploding drum corps movement. He and/or his representatives attended many shows and handed out many trophies and awards. He was also the first to utilize corps percussion arrangers/instructors in ads, thereby exposing the marching arts to a broad-based music clientele and public.

I have always maintained a warm spot in my heart for Bill and the Ludwig Drum Company. They started the clinic movement and elevated it to a professional level with a full-time “Education Department” run by Karl Dustman. Their “International Percussion Symposiums” were forerunners of the PASIC conventions in their thoroughness and appeal. I had the honor of being the marching specialist at five of these annual gatherings in which students, teachers and pros could attend and study with the great Ludwig roster of jazz, rock, classical and marching players and teachers.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Ludwig, and thank you for everything.