After brief intermission, beat goes on for vintage drums

By Jim Kuhlmann | February 28, 2023

Jim Kuhlman was reunited with his 1950 Slingerland Deluxe Radioking Black Diamond drum set five years after deciding to sell it. He won’t make that mistake again. Courtesy photo

Once upon a time there was a fourth grader who took piano lessons for four years and, like most fourth-graders, did not practice much. A great-uncle loaned him a set of drums to try out. 


In fifth grade this kid bought his own trap set on layaway at Bennett’s Music Store on East Douglas in downtown Wichita on (he was working at Maul Drug store). This was a Slingerland Deluxe Radioking Black Diamond Pearl trap set: a snare, bass, floor tom-tom, small tom-tom, high hat and 14-inch and 18-inch cymbals — the envy of any 11-year-old-to-be-drummer in 1950.

He taught himself how to play drums by listening to Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich on 45 RPM vinyl records.

He made the band at Robinson Jr. High (those piano lessons paid off as he could read music). In the mid ’50s, he was in the East High orchestra and marching band, playing in lots of assemblies and concerts, and served as drum corps leader and pep band director. He won state percussion first-place awards twice, played various gigs in the East High Blue Aces “Hangar” and, of course, the battle of the drums in the Hangar.

In the late ’50s he was in the KU marching band for one season, played in several combos in Lawrence and at the Sigma Chi House in Rock Chalk two times. Grad school provided little time for drumming. Later, he joined the Shrine marching band and provided cadence for the “foot patrol” upon return to Wichita.

Kids and grandkids always wanted to hear dad/grandpa play rhythms, solos and “battle of the drums” on the Black Diamond Pearl trap set, which was always set up in the family room. When the grandkids were old enough, he tried to give them the drum set but the parents refused the racket in their house.

So, when he and his wife, Jane, sold their home in Whitetail in 2018 to move to Larksfield Place, the Slingerland trap set was going to be in the estate sale. After a phone call to Midwest Drum and Percussion on East Douglas concerning the going price, Midwest said they would sell it on consignment. In October 2018, he said goodbye to his now vintage trap set of 68 years.

In January of this year, Meg Beck, music therapist/coordinator at Larksfield, called him and said she wanted to buy a drum set for the Larksfield band. Would he meet her at Midwest Drum as an adviser?

And, unknown to them, there was his “Slingerland Black Diamond Pearl” trap, which they were selling for 10 times what he paid. Needless to say, it was emotional. They were his drums, the ones he banged on for 68 years!

And now they are back home, at no cost (thank you, Midwest Drums), being beaten by the young drummer boy — this writer, as you probably guessed — who never outgrew them.


Contact Jim Kuhlman