Friday, March 29, 2013

World-renowned Walberg's of Worcester

By Chet Williamson

 Imagine jazz drumming without the hi-hat. Did you know it was invented in Worcester? It was created by Bernard “Bernie” Walberg, a one-time trombonist who made it his life’s work to help other musicians by inventing devices to deal with their mechanical issues. His company, Walberg & Auge, has been called “the biggest unknown name in the history of twentieth-century American percussion.”

The legend of the hi-hat dates back to the mid-1920s. As Harry Cangany and Rick Van Horn tell it in their book, The Great American Drums: And the Companies That Made Them, “Walberg, president of the company, created the first hi-hat by modifying a low-boy. (A low-boy was a pedal-operated mechanism that brought two cymbals together. The mechanism sat low to the ground, hence the name.)

The low-boy

“Walberg fitted a low-boy with a long tube to elevate the cymbals, and the modern hi-hat was born. Every company bought the Walberg hi-hats – generally in nickel plating with variations only in the footboard. The typical name for Walberg products was Perfection, so the Perfection Hi-hat was shown in a number of catalogs.”

Downtown Worcester at the turn of the 20th century

Of course, every creation is met with others who also claimed to have invented such an item. Hugo Pinksterboer in The Cymbal Book said, “Things were looking up when the low-hat, low-sock, or low-boy was introduced. According to legend, this device was conceived around 1925 by drummer Vic Berton. The low-sock, as it was produced by the Massachusetts company Walberg & Auge, showed remarkable similarity to the hi-hat, yet it was only 15 inches high.”

Percussionist Vic Berton

Geoff Nichols, Miki Slingsby and Tony Iacon in The Drum Book ask: “Who actually developed the hi-hat? Probably a lot of folks. 

Jo Jones, in a Modern Drummer interview in 1984 said, ‘It was through necessity that I went and got a pipe. I couldn’t go down there and play the sock cymbal on the floor …. So I had a great big stand up drum (stand). I had a cymbal holder that I made from a coat hanger and put that on there. That’s how the sock cymbal came to be.
Papa Jo Jones

“Whether Papa Jo invented the hi-hat is uncertain, but once it reached the manufacturing stage, the transition from low-boy was rapid. Somewhere in the mid-thirties, the hi-hat gained favor in the drumming community and the low boy was relegated to history." 

By far the favorite hi-hat stand in this era was thee Walberg & Auge model #502, also known as the original Krupa model Slingerland Hi-hat. The #502 remained popular well into the late '50s, when drum manufacturers began making their own hi-hat stands, pedals and hardware.”

Drum making in Worcester reaches back before the Civil War when Isaac Fiske manufactured band instruments for the U.S. Army. According a 1947 article in the Worcester Telegram, Fiske sold the business in the 1880s to C.G. Conn of Elkhart Indiana. “Two repairmen, A. L. Auge and J.R.S. Taylor continued to repair instruments after Conn discontinued the local plant in 1898. Taylor later sold out and Bernard E. Walberg took a half interest in 1903.”  

Walberg was born in Sweden April 19, 1877. He is the son of Eric and Augusta (Tengdelius) Walberg. He came to this country when he was five and was educated in public schools. According to the Telegram, “After only a few years of schooling he went to work as an apprentice at an organ factory. Impelled by an early interest in music, he began to spend his spare time studying the trombone.

“For years he was a professional musician, playing trombone in orchestras and bands, among them Worcester’s Battery B. Band, the Chicago Marine Band, and Liberatti’s Band at Ashbury Park, N.J. He was a pit musician in the original ‘Poli’s Front Street Theater, which later became known as the Plaza. While playing at the theater he entered the manufacturing business by making cuckoos – hollow wooden whistles which simulated the call of the cuckoo bird.”

In the book, History of Worcester and its People by Charles Nutt, he stated that Walberg bought a half interest in the business of Taylor & Auge, of which A.L. Auge was then sole proprietor, October 1, 1903. “The place of business was at the time in the Crompton building, No. 13 Mechanic Street. No help was employed and the business was confined to repairing and dealing in musical instruments. After Mr. Walberg entered the firm, the manufacture of drums and other instruments was begun.”

The neighborhood where Walberg & Auge was first located 
The business was later moved to the Bigelow Building at 86 Mechanic Street. It occupied two and a half floors and employed 16 people. When Auge died in 1910, Walberg became sole proprietor, but kept the name Walberg & Auge.

W&A worker assembling a bass drum
 Nutt stated that, “a number of inventions and improvements on drums and appliances for which letters patent have been granted and instrumental in building up the business, which is now the largest of its kind in the East.”

1920s advertisement
As mentioned, Walberg had an inventive streak, which led to the development of many musical innovations. According to the Telegram, among them, “were the first carry – all bass drum – large drums which split in the middle to serve as carrying cases for the smaller drums in the musician’s drum set. His development of the folding foot pedal for the big bass drum led to the introduction of the ‘drummer’s throne,’ a high, three-legged seat that played an important part in bringing drummers up from their comparative orchestra obscurity and into the limelight in which they have basked in recent years.
Early Walberg drum kit 
“During the era of the silent movies, in which the theater drummer had to make all the sounds, he worked busily, inventing horns, whistles, and bird and animal imitations. Pioneering in the field, he made scores of such devices on a production basis to entertain the nation, inventing sound effects that simulated everything from the wailing of a baby or the roaring of a lion to the sibilant thunder of surf pounding on the shore.”

In the opinion of authors, Harry Cangany and Rick Van Horn, the really important W&A product was “the shell-mount tom-tom holder that eventually came to be used by all the companies. Prior to the late 1930s most tom-tom had ‘link’ holders that connected to brass drum hoops, to rails mounted on the shell of the bass drum, or to the consoles.

“Some time in the late 1930s a New York Slingerland dealer named Bill Mather designed a new type of mount, and Walberg built it. At first only Slingerland had the Mather mount, which they dubbed the Ray McKinley Shell Mount Holder. But Walberg eventually sold it to all the other companies, who one by one either copied it or switched to an updated holder. Gretsch was the last company to stop using the shell-mount system.”

Ray McKinley
When Walberg died on July 21, 1958, the manufacturer left the firm to the 35 employees of his company.  “The will, filed yesterday in the Registry of Probate," stated in the Telegram, "left the business including the real estate to Clarence Wahlberg, nephew, and Andrew E. Soderberg as trustees under an agreement of trust dated April 1937. The trust agreement, according to Atty. Russell W. Anderson, provides that the business is to be turned over to the employees. It is now being operated temporarily by Worcester County Trust Co. as executor and trustee of the Walberg estate. The value of the business is undetermined although Anderson called it lucrative.”

Clarence Walberg
Clarence Walberg was born in Worcester and after graduating from South High School in 1921 went to work for his uncle at Walberg & Auge. He helped to run the company until it was finally sold in 1975. 

Cangany and Van Horn recall his managerial style: “Ben Strauss of Rogers [drum company] remembers that Clarence had his office near an elevator. When Ben would call Clarence to order stands, Clarence would yell down the shaft to his chief engineer, ‘Ben’s on the phone. How many Buck Rogers stands do we have?’ Because W&A sold hardware to everyone, it was a constant battle for each company to get what it needed. Rogers let Walberg make the first year’s production of Swiv-o-Matic hi-hats, but moved the production in-house for the obvious ‘constant battle’ reason.”

The authors also state that, “the catalogs of almost every manufacturer featured products built by this Worcester Massachusetts company, but most of us never put together the clues. In reality, no American company made all of its hardware. Lug casings, pedal parts, stands, etc., were ‘farmed out.’ Walberg & Auge, W&A, or just Walberg, as it is sometimes known, was a music store that became a manufacturer. Drums were made before 1910, but that eventually gave way to hardware manufacturing with only occasional drum output.”

In a feature titled, City is Center for Drum Making 1960, Worcester Evening Gazette writer Joseph H. Gauthier interviewed Clarence Walberg who was heading to the Music Industry Show in Chicago.

“Few people know that Worcester is the center of the drum-making business,” Walberg said. “There isn’t a drummer of any worth in this country who isn’t using our drums. Chances are he bought them from one of our distributors, who had them made especially for him at the plant.”

Gauthier reported that by the 1960s, Walberg & Auge was also supplying more schools with rhythm instruments than any other manufacturer. “In addition to its national reputation as a maker of drums, the company is also known for its castanets, tom-toms, cymbals, rhythm sticks, rhythm bells, song bells name-the-tone bars, and other orchestra and band instruments. Its school business is also nationwide, mainly through its own mail order department. It is also a retail store,” he said.

World-renowned drummer Frank Capp, who has recorded with everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to the Beach Boys, had a long relationship with the Worcester drum company.

“My uncle, who used to work in Walberg and Auge,” he said. “I actually had two uncles that worked there, but my uncle George brought home a pair of drumsticks for me. I was probably five or six.”

The impact of both parties on the world of jazz cannot be overestimated. Walberg was no ordinary drum shop and Capp was an extraordinary talent from his first downbeat.

In a recent interview with the WPI Jazz Lab, Capp noted that he became good friends with Charles Walberg. In fact, in the 1970s the two friends traveled cross country together. See: WPI interview listed in resources below.

Neighborhood location of W&A before urban renewal 

After nearly 60 years in its location at 86 Mechanics Street in downtown Worcester the company was forced to move. In a July 11, 1967 issue of the Telegram, under the headline of  New site of Walberg & Auge Company in Auburn, it was reported that, “Walberg & Auge, Worcester’s only manufacturer of musical instruments, is moving into this new plant at the corner of Route 20 and New Millbury Street in Auburn this month. The company has to move out of its Worcester plant at 86 Mechanics Street after 64 years because the Worcester Redevelopment Authority has taken the existing building. The company, which employs 32 persons, will have more room in the new plant, according to Clarence E. Walberg, trustee and chief executive of the firm.” 

In an interview with Louis Salome of the Worcester Evening Gazette, it was reported that, “although the company is being forced to move because the Worcester Redevelopment Authority is taking the existing building, the move is expected to benefit the company in many ways.

Clarence Walberg said the new building will combine all phases of manufacturing, assembly, storage, and retail operation on one floor. He also said efficiency should be increased markedly, because more space will be available and each department will fit better into the over-all picture. Problems such as parking and loading will be solved.” 
Classic Walberg kit of the period

Although the move painted a rosy picture, not all was well with the company. Salome reported that W&A was also beset by employment problems. “We just can’t get the help,” Walberg asserted, “because we can’t pay the price workers can get elsewhere at bigger plants.”

1970s Walberg kit
Clarence Walberg sold the company to Granger Norwood in 1975 and retired to Ormond Beach, Florida where he died on Nov. 14, 1989.  

In 1978, Norwood moved the company back to Worcester to 49 Union Street. He said his decision to return to the city was made after the announcement of the $14.9 million civic center was approved.  “I think a great deal is going to happen in downtown Worcester and that we can benefit from it all.”

At the time, Norwood said that W&A was grossing up to $500,000 per year. Sixty percent came from the manufacturing of instruments, 30 from retail and 10 from rentals and repairs.

By 1979, the local company with a national reputation was done. In January 29th of that year, Frank E. Magiera, in the Telegram reported that, Walberg & Auge Co., had been taken over by Mechanics Bank as a result of default according to Marvin S. Silver, the bank’s lawyer.

“The company,” Magiera stated, “has been closed since Dec. 24 when the bank took possession. Silver said the bank has seized the company’s inventory, equipment and machinery. He said the officers and directors of the company had concluded that the operation was financially unsound.

“Granger W. Norwood, a principal of Walberg & Auge, said the disposition of the company is in the process of negotiation. He said the company was considering several alternatives.”

This is a work in progress. Send comments to: 
Thank you. 


Video Clips

Gene Krupa (scene opens with Worcester trumpeter Don Fagerquist)

Millbury born Nick Fatool

Max Roach

Papa Jo Jones 

Louie Bellson

Buddy Rich

Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich

The Cymbal Book by Hugo Pinksterboer

Guide to Vintage Drums by John Aldridge

The Drum Book by Geoff Nichols, Miki Slingsby and Tony Iacon

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Worcester Reclamation of Artie Drelinger

By Chet Williamson

The jazz history books and encyclopedias have saxophonist Art Drelinger born in any other place but here.

For instance, the listing in, Who’s Who of Jazz by John Chilton states that Drelinger was “born in Gloucester, MA on August 20, 1916.”

The date is correct, but the horn player is a native son whose birth certificate states that he is in fact from Worcester.

Also, Drelinger was a member of Associated Musicians of Greater New York’s Local 802. He became one as far back as 1937. When he died the organization’s newsletter read: “Born in Worcester, Mass., Mr. Drelinger began his career as a musician at age 14. During the big band era, he played with Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker and many other jazz legends. He later was a member of the CBS staff orchestra for 35 years, doing such shows as Ed Sullivan and Carol Burnett. He was widely respected as a fine musician and continued to play until he was 85.”

Downtown Worcester, circa 1940s

Drelinger died in 2001 in Del Ray Beach, FL. He was 86. Shortly after his passing, Worcester Telegram & Gazette reporter Scott McLennan sorted out some of the confusion of Drelinger life, while honoring his memory.

Saxophonist Drelinger, far left, Columbia studios, 1947 (Gottlieb)

McLennan contacted Drelinger’s brother, Harold or “Hal,” a local drummer and charter member of the Local 143, musician’s union. He also quoted a feature in Sounds, the Worcester Musicians Association's newsletter. It stated that, Art Drelinger left Worcester “as a teen-ager in the 1930s, first moving to Boston, then to New York City. His talents were quickly spotted by Adrian Rollini, who featured the young Drelinger in a swing band that played a 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. gig seven days a week.

Adrian Rollini

According to Chilton, Rollini was a bass sax and vibes player who in the mid-1930s organized his own club, Adrian’s Tap Room at the Hotel President in New York

He also notes that Drelinger worked at that venue in 1936, but “also worked with Red McKenzie, and Wingy Manone at the Famous Door in New York.”

Drelinger’s time in town may not have been long, but his accomplishments were duly noted and served as an inspiration to many local musicians who stayed in Worcester.

Wingy Manone

Drelinger on tenor with bowtie

"Artie was a name, name musician," drummer George Melikian told McLennan.  The one-time business agent of the Worcester musician's union local, Melikian also said, "These guys studied music, took classes and played all different kinds of shows. There are not a lot today who do all that."

From the 1915 Worcester Directory

Drelinger was interviewed by The Los Angeles Times in 1990. Writer Perry C. Riddle asked him about his childhood. “My folks were very poor,” he said. “When I was about 12, some people took an interest in me, bought me a saxophone and gave me lessons. When I was 16, I moved to Boston, 40 miles away. My parents knew I was close by and it was just one less mouth to feed. I was old for my age, kinda hip as far as taking care of myself. I got a job playing a little nightclub.

“When I was almost 17, I went to New York and checked into a little room on 47th Street. The only window was in the roof. The toilet was in the hall. My first job was in a place called Adrian's Tap Room, 10 o'clock till 4 in the morning, seven days a week; and we got a sandwich at night. Very little money, believe me. When you're a kid that age, it doesn't matter whether you eat good food; you just want to play music. You have that drive to play. ‘If I don't make it, I'll die.’ That's the kind of enthusiasm I've always had.

Hotel President, home of Adrian Tap Room

“We used to eat on 11th Avenue, The Professor's, where guys on a panic used to go. A panicker was a musician who was waiting around for a job. Two little meatballs and a piece of bread, and it was the greatest for a quarter. I started playing jazz joints and getting club dates, whatever I could do.”

In the late 1930s, Drelinger spent a good deal of time on the road, barnstorming from town to town in a variety of bands. In the Times interview, he shared his memories of the road.

“We were supposed to work in Columbus, Ohio, on a Friday night, in the wintertime,” he said. “We're all broke, all young. We get there Friday, there's no date, the date's Saturday night. We have no place to sleep. We sleep in the railroad station, freezing cold. Everybody's got no money. That's being on the road.

“Traveling in beat-up cars; having flat tires in the snow, no money, but loving every minute of playing. If you enjoy it enough, you'll take all the pain. If you don't enjoy it, you get out. I enjoyed it all.”

At the time of the interview, Drelinger was 74 years-old and living in Studio City, CA. Riddle noted that the saxophonist “went on to play with the Benny Goodman and Paul Whiteman orchestras. He had a long run with the CBS Orchestra in New York and made one nervous appearance under the baton of Arturo Toscanini. He concluded his professional career playing with television studio orchestras in Los Angeles.” 

Benny Goodman
Giving details of his biographical account, Drelinger said, “I played with Benny Goodman for about eight months, about 1938, '39. Then I played with Paul Whiteman for two years. Whiteman was a wonderful guy. We recorded "Rhapsody in Blue." I loved every minute of it. I was 19, maybe 20. From Whiteman I went to CBS.

“I was 30 years at Columbia Broadcasting, on staff. I recorded with Charlie Parker, Louie Armstrong -- all the famous records. On the Sullivan show, I played 1,650 one-hour shows in 23 years; and on the Gleason [show] 15 years. We did all the "Honeymooners."

“I had one show that was on 25 seconds a day. We had a little jazz band. There were six of us, and we did a Spic 'n' Span jingle following the Jack Smith show. That was live; it was radio. Five times a week, 25 seconds a day. That's all we did for a whole week's salary, $135. In those days that was a lot of bread. That was 1944, '45.”

By the time he was in his seventies, Drelinger had doubled on a section full instruments, including flute, clarinet and bassoon and remained an active musician.

“I'm going to play as much as I can,” he said at the time. “When people stop calling me; that'll be my cue that I have retired from music. I don't think of any other thing that I could have done in my lifetime that I would have enjoyed more. It's sad to see your life go old, but if you've had a happy life, it's not that bad. “If you enjoy it enough, you'll take all the pain. If you don't enjoy it, you get out.”

Drelinger in the studio
Arthur Drelinger

DOB: August 20, 1916 (Worcester)
DOD: August 16, 2001 (Del Ray Beach, FL)

Parents: Morris and Lena (Lavine)

Playing experience: Arian Rollini, Red MacKenzie, Wingy Manone, Eddie Cantor, Louie Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, Sy Oliver, Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman, Frank Sinatra, Joe Lippman, Jack Teagarden, Jerry Gray, Raymond Scott, Bunny Berigan, Jack Jenny, Carl Kress, Sarah Vaughan, Will Bradley, Doc Cheatham, Benny Carter, Lucky Thompson, Pee Wee Erwin, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Johnny Hartman, and Raymond Scott.

Raymond Scott and his toy piano

Highlights: Played on Louie Armstrong’s recordings of “C’est Si Bon” and “La Vie en Rose,” “After You’ve Gone” with Paul Whiteman’s Sax Soctett, “Everything I Have is Yours,” sung by Billy Eckstine, “Dedicated to You” by Sarah Vaughan, “A Fine Romance” by Billie Holiday, the album Charlie Parker with Strings, and solos on Bunny Berigan’s recording of “I’m an Old Cowhand.” 

Television shows: Arthur Godfrey, Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnett, and staff musician at CBS.

Jackie Gleason
 Video Clips

Louis Armstrong

“C’est Si Bon”
“La Vie En Rose”

Doris Day – “No Moon At All”

Billy Eckstine -- “Everything I Have is Yours”

Billie Holiday

“My Sweet Hunk ‘O Trash” (w/Louis Armstrong)

“No or Never”

“There is No Greater Love”

“You Can’t Loose A Broken Heart”

Charlie Parker – “April in Paris

Artie Shaw – “Show Me the Way to Go Home”

Artie Shaw

Sarah Vaughan – “Nearness of You”

This is a work in progress. Send all comments to: