There was something special about Ringo's Jazz Festival.
The Jazz Festival snare drum that came with his first Ludwig kit became Ringo's "go to" snare during his career with the Beatles. From may of 1963, Ringo used it with all five of his drum Ludwig kits, in studio, on tour, in films and in publicity photos. Take a close look at photographs, movies or videos of the Beatles and you will always see him using his '63 Jazz Festival model snare drum. Think about the long list of songs that this iconic snare was used on and the number of amazing sounds he was able to create with it. Priceless! Another interesting point of fact is that finding one just like Ringo's is virtually impossible.
-- Gary Astridge, in Classic Drummer Magazine 2016
By the end of 2016, Gary Astridge had been involved in a number of projects as a Beatle era drum historian. This work enabled him to carefully hand inspect and document all of Ringo's Beatle era instruments including his "Holy Grail" 1963 Ludwig Jazz Festival. This snare had been used almost exclusively on Beatle recordings and performances. Through his work at Ringo's Grammy Museum exhibit, Gary met Steve Bryant who was covering the event for The Classic Drummer Hall of Fame. Soon the two would begin early planning for the creation of a unique and historically accurate tribute to the most important drum of the 20th Century. These early collaborations would lead to more research and the production of a proof-of-concept prototype.
The first challenge was finding someone to build a vintage 1960s 3-ply shell with a scarf joint and reinforcing rings. While attending drum shows as a guest speaker, Astridge met Bernie Stone of Stone Custom Drums in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Bernie understood drums and shell building at a very high level and was up to the challenge. So, after a long weekend in his shop and hours of hard work, two 1960s-correct, prototype shells were completed.
Two of Ringo's close associates were informed of the initial idea. After positive audience response to the first prototype at the 2017 Chicago Drum Show, a multi-media presentation was forwarded to them for review and comment. The hope was for a thumbs up that might lead to a meeting with Ringo’s legal team. Amazingly, it was presented directly to Ringo and authorization was granted.
Assembling enough high quality "Ringo Spec" 1960s Ludwig hardware to build 15 perfect drums would be a challenge. The search began and the necessary Jazz Fests were secured. As a follow up to the Starr Festival project, plans are in place to recondition these donor shells into player condition instruments so they can once again make music.
Now that the project was green lighted, Gary reached out to the Ludwig Drum Company. Upon viewing the same multi-media presentation that had been approved, they were on board and a blueprint was immediately begun. Coincidentally, Uli Salazar, Ludwig’s Marketing and Artist Relations Manager had just visited Mazzucchelli, the original Oyster Black Pearl wrap manufacturer in Italy.
With Ludwig's support, the production of period-correct Ludwig shells began using the same 1960s shell forms and drill presses used to produce the original '63 Jazz Fests. The Astridge team continued collecting and re-chroming harvested 60s hardware and producing accessories for the project.
Date stamped April 18, 2018, exactly fifty-five years after the original, the Starr Festival incorporates the same unique design characteristics that helped make Ringo Starr's 1963 Ludwig Jazz Festival so rare.
The unique placement of strainer, butt plate, badge and muffler on the drum's equally unusual 51/2-inch by 14-inch, 3-ply, mahogany/poplar/mahogany shell with scarf joint and reinforcing rings, are the same as Ringo's. The Starr Festival and Jazz Festival also share 1960's Ludwig 8-lug chrome-over-brass hoops and bowtie lugs along with red felt baseball bat muffler.
The drum's wide-mouth snare gates on the resonant hoop accommodate the drum's 18-strand script logo snare wires. An interior mounted pre-serial number keystone badge and Weather Master Orchestra Batter and Orchestra Snare heads are also a match to the original.
The Starr Festival's Oyster Black Pearl wrap is the best-of-the-best available, with any variance from the original due to the use of today's safer and more environmentally friendly materials.
What makes these instruments so unique is that every individual part and design characteristic has been scrutinized for correctness. Long lost features such as Ludwig's white resocoat interiors and overlapping scarf joints have been resurrected for this project. "Ringo Spec" '63 bearing edges and snare beds were replicated and Ludwig's original drilling machines were used to drill the holes in fifteen-of-a-kind shells which were made with authentic Ludwig 1960s shell molds to period-correct specifications.
Starr Festivals are delivered with Weather Master batter and snare heads produced on the original machinery from original materials.
The sale of each Starr Festival benefits Sir Richard and Barbara Starkey's Lotus Foundation charity.
Each Starr Festival is hand signed by Ringo Starr and benefits his and his wife Barbara's charity, the Lotus Foundation.
The instrument is identified with an outer Starr Festival vent-hole badge as well as an engraved inner badge. Both are installed using a period correct brass grommet with proper outer flange design. Additionally, the drum is stamped with a replica of the original April 18, 1963 date stamp and the actual April 18, 2018 release date.