1973. Los Angeles.
Tom Beckmen who was experienced in manufacturing and production took the Camco drum company to it's final home in Los Angeles. The flourishing music business and studio scene would prove to be a good match for the types of drums Camco would be making.
For the first time, a new source for the raw shells was secured. No longer using Jasper shells, the LA iteration of Camco used shells from Keller. The shells were made to a similar spec as past versions with 6 plies of maple and 6 ply reinforcing rings as well as them being slightly undersized. However the shells from Keller have an overall "cleaner" appearance than the ones from Jasper. They are very smooth and the maple is typically very blond in color. LA Camco drums all feature clear maple interiors as they went away from using white paint inside on wrapped drums.
LA Camco drums had an even more pared down selection of finish options. Four "natural" finishes, four lacquers, and four wraps were offered according to the catalog. From talking to endorsers of the time, the LA shop had a custom shop vibe and were making unusual things that their artists would ask for. We see other finishes that are not catalogued as well as sizes here and there. (Eddie Tuduri had 22" deep bass drums made for example). Bottom line, just as with other eras of Camco, the catalog is not scripture.
The bearing edges used at this time featured a fully rounded back cut which created even more of a "tympani" effect when coupled with the undersized shells. Drum heads float freely and allow the to drums sing out with a full, round tone. LA session drummers such as Jeff Porcaro gravitated to the sound.
LA Camco closed their doors for good in 1977 when Mr. Beckmen received the offer to be the head of the Roland corporation's U.S. division. The way the Camco company's assets were split at this point redefined the modern drum industry. Hoshino, the parent company of Tama purchased the name "Camco" and the rights to use it on drums and drum related products. The tooling for the Camco pedals, lugs, fittings, mounts, legs, etc was not purchased by Hoshino. Instead, Don Lombardi of Drum Workshop purchased these assets which set the stage for the DW drum company. While DW could not use the name Camco, they had the rights to produce the distinctive "turret" lugs.
Shortly thereafter, Hoshino made several drum lines using the Camco name, and some of those used USA made maple shells (regular and renaissance series) while the later ones used Japanese ones. Elvin Jones was a prominent endorser but the drums never caught on in the marketplace. The bright spot for Tama was their version of the Camco pedal which was a solid seller (and was recently reissued.) This is ironic because the DW 5000 pedal was an even bigger success and was based directly on the Camco model 5000 pedal. In fact the runaway success of DW's 5000 single and later double pedals spurred on their steadily growing drum building operation.
The earliest DW drum kits have the same six-ply shells and many of them have the same floor tom mounts and bass drum spurs as LA Camco. Most likely they were using up the existing stock they inherited. By the later 1980's DW switch to a Keller shell of their own design- five ply (with three ply rings).
Hoshino holds the Camco name to this day and DW is going strong. It is unlikely the Camco name will ever be reunited with the aristocrat/turret lug.
*Regarding serial number date stamps in Los Angeles Camco drums:
We earlier mentioned that Camco didn't use date stamps or serial numbers with the exception of the LA era. During the Los Angeles period, many though not all of the shells can be found to have serial numbers inside. They’re either 2, 3 or 4 digit numbers which are stamped or handwritten on the top or at the bottom on the reinforcement rings. Those numbers were first assumed to be random and for many years Camco owners hadn't thought much of them.
As we said, some LA drums have no numbers at all. Additionally, some drum kits have the same number on every shell while other sets have only one or two shells with numbers. To further muddy the waters, we have also occasionally seen sets with mixed numbers.
Recent research taught us that there is a pattern - namely that the numbers appear to be chronological. This idea started from a quote in the Rogers book (page 90) in which LA endorser Craig Krampf mentions the following regarding his LA kit: "Inside every drum of the set there was a number 181, that meant this was the 181st set made. I still have that set."
To build upon this theory, LA Camco owners were recently asked on one of the leading vintage drum forums to post pictures of any numbers inside their Los Angeles Camco shells.
By collecting data from as many owners of LA Camco drums as we could, we've learned about the types of stamps used at different points in production. It seems logical that the system used was simply sequential and started at a very low number. The lowest serial number stamps on an LA kit we have found to date is kit number 10. The following are the different types of serial number stamps and their corresponding number groupings as currently known.
We've identified five distinct styles of serial number stamps and as far as we can tell they are chronological.:
Large script stamp (#10 to #171) -The two-digit and low three-digit serial numbers (until #171) are all stamped with black ink and have a rather large script. These early serial number drums seem to have the earlier Philips or the large flat lug mounting screws.
Small script stamp (#192 to #500) - The next style of serial numbers that were found are also stamped in black or blue ink but are significantly smaller in font size. The numbers we know of are between 194 and 500 and also have the earlier flat lug-screws.
Paper tag (#594, #600 and #638) - Numbers 594, 600 and 638 are printed on small paper tags and these are the only examples found so far.
Red marker writing (#729 to #994) - From 729 to 994, a thick red marker was used to write the numbers inside. On those drums, the later aluminum lug screws appear.
Pencil/small marker (#1004 to #1489) - The final style of serial numbers also encompasses the most drums of any of the prior styles. This group from serial number 1004 to 1489 have their number written by hand with a smaller black marker or pencil. A nice detail is that these ones all seem to be written by the same person in a rather feminine handwriting and feature a very distinctive curly number "2" and a universal number "7."
These numbers are far from giving us an exact manufacturing date but it is fair to assume that the smaller the numbers are, the earlier the drum was assembled and visa versa. What these numbers tell us is that the number of drums produced during the Los Angeles period is probably very limited. (The last known number is 1489.) The small production output supports the theory that the LA Camco drum factory was akin to a custom drum shop with a small and skilled workforce. Every visitor of this website is encouraged to send in their numbers so the database gets bigger and more precise.