Words from the Honorary President

“It was another great weekend at the National Drum Fair, in my home town Birmingham and it was nice to see some new  faces. This is the 11th year and the fair continues to attract more stalls and visitors alike.
As always there were some interesting drum sets of a very high standard on display.
And if you wanted that special part you have been looking for years you will more than likely find it among the stalls  this weekend, that’s for sure.
I visited the show on Sunday and was fortunate to see Clark Tracey playing with his trio, which was really fantastic and also Pete Cater gave a great master class on technique.
I had a good wander round the stalls and meet people I only get to see at the fair.
A a good time was had by all and the “A” team did a great job as always. Yes, I am talking about Garry, Simon and Matt.”

Carl Palmer

Blog from Pete Cater

Following on from the last installment I’m pleased to say that the Script video (‘Millionaires’) has been released and you can see my two seconds of glory on Youtube and add to the 2,200,000 hits as of the time of writing.Oddly the phone hasn’t rung once as a consequence but Claudia who cuts my hair (more frequently than you might imagine!) was most impressed.

More vintage pedal fun and games; following on from my recently acquired 70s Speed King I got bitten by the bug to pick up a Gretsch Floating Action. These pedals are not anywhere near as plentiful as Speed Kings but an appeal on Facebook brought about the right result. My good friend Gary Willcox (great jazz drummer too!) spotted the post and came up trumps. He even agreed to deliver it to a gig I was doing for the Way Out West jazz collective in Richmond. With no adjustment I put the pedal on the bass drum hoop and waited for the gig to start.

Amazingly this simple, old fashioned piece of kit gave me all the power I could wish for and I’ve found my bass drum foot facility has actually improved, and that I’m able to play things I’d previously only thought about playing, with absolutely no effort at all. Sometimes the latest, shiniest, most expensive piece of equipment is not necessarily the best option.

Like all city dwelling drummers the opportunity for me to work out on real drums can be a bit of a challenge. Either you compromise by using pads or end up dipping your hand in your pocket to hire rehearsal space. This I tend to do when there’s a really big gig to prepare for but for day-to-day practice that can start to get a little expensive. Mindful of this I’m currently working on developing a couple of ideas whereby it would theoretically be possible to play live drums (real heads, not mesh) but reducing the decibels by as much as 90 percent. I’m not going to give too much away at this juncture in case it turns into a big hit and ends up being my pension!

More gigs with Vasilis Xenopolous’s new quintet; the usual rapturous reception at the Eagle in Rochester on July 14th, with Ealing Jazz festival on 24th, Croydon on 28th and then two days in the studio to commit this music to tape. (OK, I know it isn’t tape any more but it just sounds right). After looking at a few options we plumped for Kool World studios in Luton, which in the last week of July was anything but cool. More like being in a sauna if anything. Anyway, having spent a little time post sessions listening back over what we had done, I had that rare feeling of near total satisfaction with what I had recorded. It’s with out a doubt some of the very best small group jazz I’ve had the pleasure of capturing in the studio. The album is due out at the year end and will be entitled ‘Wind Machine’, (No juvenile gags please!) The sessions were made all the more pleasurable by the deployment of my 1958 transition badge c-o-b Super Ludwig snare. Since acquisition it had been sitting at home being occasionally admired, and I decided the time had come for it to see some serious action. I had such a blast playing it that it’s been out on a few special occasions since.

The next outing for the Super Ludwig turned out to be the Freddie Gee camp at Sparsholt College, Winchester. The FG event is the longest running and most successful of its kind and it’s always a great pleasure to be invited to go and share skills and information with a room full of enthusiastic drummers. This year I’ll was teaching alongside my great friend Steve White, together with Craig Blundell and Gregg Bissonette.

My day as guest tutor was divided into four groups with a broad range of ages and experience. I was mostly talking about jazz, improvisation, and creativity. However, much excitement arose from my use of a squeaky dog ball to help illustrate part of my approach to stick grip. Want to know more? Coming to the free seminar at this year’s National Drum Fair and I’ll tell you everything.

In the evening at drum camp I did a short clinic for all the attendees as well as my fellow tutors. It was a real buzz to perform in front of three such heavyweights as Steve, Gregg and Craig, and no, I wasn’t nervous! Thanks again to George Frederick for inviting me to participate in this great event.

September highlights include a concert with my big band at Millfield School in Somerset and of course the UK Drum Fair itself.

See you all there.





From the Vice President…

The London Centre of Contemporary Music is without a doubt the most gratifying teaching post I’ve ever held, my fellow drum tutors Rich Brook, Bryan McLellan and Will Taylor are great players with a wealth of experience to draw upon. Bryan and Will also run our drumline, The Beefeaters, and the guys were involved in the opening ceremony for the recent all German UEFA Champions League final at Wembley stadium.

May always marks the end of the academic year for my degree students. The issuing of the big band chart for their sight reading exam has caused more than a little trepidation it would seem. Personally I think they’re all going to nail it but I’ll confirm that next time.

One of the most interesting aspects of working at LCCM is the drum forum. Two or three times a year we get a name player in and we have a panel discussion, a little bit like ‘Question Time’ but all about drums. Our most recent visitor was Johnny Quinn from Snow Patrol who shared insights about how his band developed from playing tiny venues to tiny audiences, to selling out arenas. Johnny’s observations about taking care of the business, management, publishing end of things was particularly illuminating and not a single stroke was played (or discussed for that matter) the entire evening.

I’ve always maintained that when I’m teaching that I get a lesson as well, and some of my best ideas have been stimulated by a question from a student. Students can inspire in other ways too, as one of the guys turned up with a Ludwig Speed King that he had bought off eBay. I’d quite forgotten the unique feel and action of the Speed King and as I cut my drumming teeth using one I thought it would be nice to own one again. Impatient as always I couldn’t possibly hold out until the National Drum Fair in September so a quick trip round the corner to Drumshack in Battersea was in order where an appropriate investment was soon made. After using modern pedal designs for years the Speed King feels hugely different by comparison, but it’s whetted my appetite for vintage pedals and a Gretsch floating action is next on my wish list.

Time was that virtually all enquiries for gigs came by telephone. In these days of social media that’s not always the case and a couple of weeks ago I logged on one morning to pick up a Facebook message from a friend of mine who books a lot of session work, asking to see if I was available for a pop video shoot later that same week.­­

There’s no denying the fact that I turned 50 earlier this year so you wouldn’t imagine that I’d be terribly near the top of the pecking order for pop videos would you? Well, it would appear not in this case.

As is so often the case it was all a bit last minute but that’s the business sometimes. You need to be able to make quick decisions and arrange your life to accommodate the ever changing gig landscape!

Upon confirmation I learned that the video was with The Script and the premise is that a three piece band (us) playing in a very old fashioned social club (the fabulous time capsule that is the Effra Social in Brixton) suddenly morph into The Script. I suspect  that it may turn out to be a commercial for a popular alcoholic beverage but we’ll see.

Having arrived at 10am as requested we then embarked upon a protracted period of hanging about and drinking coffee. I’ve spent a lot of time around the film and television industry of recent years and this is pretty much standard practice. Finally the second assistant director came looking for me (a drummer himself funnily enough, but committed the sin of pronouncing Tama as ‘Tay-mar’ in his broad Australian accent.

The Script were set up on stage and drummer Glen was just using snare, bass drum, ride cymbal and hi hat so they wanted me to replicate his set up exactly. Not a problem and with the addition of a ‘deadhead’ on the snare and some silent cymbals we were all set to start miming to The Script song ‘Millionaires’.

“Just keep the Beat” the director said but I was having none of it. Ever the professional I had done a drum transcription of the record and had notated every drum fill and cymbal crash; and my stealthy ‘cheat sheet’ was hidden just to the right of my bass drum pedal. Our vocalist was well up to speed with the lyrics as well so the director was knocked out and got far more than he had anticipated.

How it survives the final edit remains to be seen. With all these things there’s a degree of risk that it will end up on the cutting room floor (along with my one line of dialogue in the recently released Steve Coogan turkey ‘The Look of Love’). All in all a fun day’s work, oh and thanks Lambeth Council for the parking ticket. Us drummers have to unload our cars somewhere!

Folkestone in Kent seems like an unlikely hotbed of support for British jazz musicians but you’d be surprised. Every Thursday at the Tower theatre is packed to the rafters and it’s always a pleasure to play there. Last week was a particular highlight as the promoter Derick had assembled an all-star band consisting of Alan Barnes on sax, Steve Waterman on trumpet, Ted Beament on piano and the incomparable Dave Green on bass. One of those gigs that leaves you thinking

“Now THAT’S why I learned to play”.

Also it’s always good to see former London drum stalwarts Jimmy Tagford and Teddy Pope in attendance.

I’m back in Folkestone on June 20th with Tony Kofi. Come and see us if you’re in that part of the world.

Final gig for the month of May later today. It’s one I’m looking forward to with the great Greek saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos. With this new project we are re-examining some classic big band repertoire (e.g. Basie, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Thad Jones) but doing so in a quartet environment. Nigel Price (guitar) and Bill Mudge (Hammond organ) complete the group. Sometimes we expand to a quartet with the addition of the great Steve Fishwick on trumpet. I’ll be telling you more about this in future editions as we head into the studio in a couple of months time but for now, keep swinging and I’ll see you soon.

Pete Cater

Johnny Craviotto

Every year we have been graciously presented with a stunning Craviotto snare courtesy of Mr Johnny Craviotto himself! each year we’ve  received a beautiful drum as our star raffle prize! these snare drums are simply exceptional in build quality, sound and stunning looks…Graham Lightfoot pictured here with his little gem was taken a couple of years ago, I’m sure he’ll cherish and enjoy the drum for years to come!

A very big thank you must go to Johnny for supporting our show for all these years!

Graham Lightfoot


Ken Hickey

As some of you may already know Ken Hickey has decided to step down from the committee after over 10 happy years working tirelessly for the NDF show, Ken feels it’s time to take a breather due to his other music commitments but wishes everyone on the committee continued success.

Ken being a founding member of the NDF had a passion and drive for the show doing an excellent job as M.C and his invaluable knowledge on all the vintage drums that have passed through the doors over the years!

The committee would like to offer Ken the very best wishes for all his time and work bringing with it a big smile for everyone ! and he promises to pop into the show from time to time and check we’re still doing a good job!

Ken would like to thank everyone who has supported the show over the years and from us best of  luck for the future!



Blog from the Chairman

Welcome to the new look UK National Drum Fair. With our new website, it is now easier to keep in touch with the NDF. More interactive with Twitter and Facebook, so instantly you can see what’s happen here at the NDF. If you go to the Exhibitors page you can see who will be at this years Fair and if you want to exhibit, it’s now easier. Just go the page and follow the links. Already we have sold almost thirty of the fifty or so available stall spaces, including several new ones and most of the regular favourites.

Many of you may have noticed that Ken Hickey is not on our new site. After many years on the committee, one of our originals, Ken has decided to retire from the NDF. We like to thank him for many years and tireless hours on the committee and being there from the start, I think you all would like to express gratitude to Ken and wish him well for the future.

The 2012 tenth Anniversary U.K. National Drum Fair was a resounding success, with almost seven hundred Drummers and Percussionists attending over the two day event. We all know it will be difficult to top it but the committee are working very hard to do just that.

Last year we had a Big Band and this year we will be having a small jazz group as well as some suprise guests. We are now recognised as the largest Vintage and Custom Drum Show in Europe and hope that you will join us for a fantastic weekend of Drumming fun. Don’t take my word for it, come and enjoy it with us, we would love to see you.


Garry Allcock