Pearl Drums - a short history

Published: 24th May 2011
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Post war Japan underwent many changes, one of which was the influence of American jazz music, creating a new generation of musicians. Katsumi Yanagisawa started Pearl in a small factory in a Tokyo suburb in April 1946. Production grew and by 1953 pearl were producing drumkits, marching and orchestral drums,hardware and accessories for the domestic market in Japan, and the company continued to grow, now having 30 employees. Katsumis son Mitsuo joined the company in 1957 and he began to export Pearl drums to other countries including the USA in order to meet the growing worldwide demand of "rock and roll" instruments. By 1961 pearl had to move to a larger factory. By 1966, Pearl realeased its first professional drumkit, the Pearl President series. It was a hit with top Japanese drummers, and with input from leading American players such as Art Blakey, these drums gained popularity across the globe.

The 1970s saw further growth, with Pearl producing its wood/fiberglass kit, and also an acrylic shelled kit, "The Crystal Beat". This new generation of products caught the imagination of many top drummers and Pearl welcomed players such as Louis Bellson, Cozy Cole, Peter Criss and Shelly Manne to its roster. Its first all maple kit, the Giant Step, was released in 1976, and achieved universal acclaim, furthering Pearls reputation as a serious contender in the drum world.

By the 1980s, Pearl had introduced a cheaper range, "Maxwin by Pearl", in order to make drums that were affordable to the masses...indeed many of todays drummers learnt to play on a Maxwin kit and remember them fondly. The other kit that had huge impact was the Pearl Export series which went on to become the worlds best selling drumkit, indeed Pearl had produced 1,000,000 Export kits by 1995. Offering Power toms and sturdy hardware plus a wide choice of finishes and add-on drums, this was the kit that many young drummers aspired to. After an amazing run of almost three decades the Export series was replaced with the Vision series. Pearls professional series kits, such as the maple MLX and birch BLX also continued to sell in huge numbers. Pearl by now were one of the biggest and most popular drum manufacturers of all time. In recent years, Pearl have continued to strive to build great quality instruments and their state of the art factory has some of the most advanced drum making machinery in the world. Using a system of extreme heat and high pressure molds (over 1000PSI), their S.S.T Superior Shell Technology ensures shells that are 100% perfectly round and extremely strong. Pearl have also experimented with shells of varying thickness, depending on the drums diameter, and the highly acclaimed Reference series drums are the result of this. A range of signature snare drums were also released, with models designed by Chad Smith, Ian Paice and Joey Jordison amongst others. By now, the marketing slogan for the company was "the best reason to play drums".

Aside from Drumkits and hardware, Pearl have also made big inroads into the world of marching percussion. In the USA, top drum corps such as the Blue Knights and Santa Clara Vanguard have been sucessfully competing with Pearl marching drums, whilst in the pipeband world champion drummers including Jim Kilpatrick, Eric Ward and Tyler Fry have won world championships using the Pearl FFXP and TDP series drums. Pearl drums are now used by more top corps than any other brand. Pearl Percussion have also become heavily involved in Latin and ethnic percussion instruments, offering a range of high quality congas, bongos etc, helped by input from players such as Horacio Hernandez, Marc Quinones and Bobby Allende.

Pearl Drums are a global success story, attracting players from all musical genres. Their product range continues to grow along with their popularity, and Nottingham Drum and Guitar Centre are proud to be main dealers for Pearl drums and percussion.

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