Saturday, May 28, 2011
THE PRO-MARK JOE RAYNOR DRUMSTICK
The late Joe Raynor was THE drum instructor in Houston from the 1960's until the early 2000's, as well as a noted jazz, big band and popular music drummer for some pretty famous artists over a long career. I met him as an 11 year old beginning student, and although he had me using Pro-Mark 5a sticks, I couldn't help but notice his distinctive sticks, which had different sized tips and shafts on each end. Joe, being a master percussionist, could use those different stick sizes to great dynamic and dramatic effect.
I took lessons from Joe for many years during my teens, and then later in my twenties during law school Joe began teaching at a Brook Mays not too far from downtown in between the massive teaching he also did for the various schools he worked with. It was easy to slip in there late in the afternoon for a double length lesson, since I could record the lesson and work on it endlessly when at home. From the time I began with Joe, he recorded homework assignments on tape for you to learn. Rudimentary exercises. Counting. All kinds of stuff.
So back to these drumsticks. I'm not certain if he invented these. He never made that claim to me, or to any of my many friends who took lessons from him from the 1960's to the 2000's. My good friend El Bar has the actual Rogers White Marine Pearl double bass drum kit that Joe used in the 70's when I was taking lessons from him.
I had the good fortune to get to babysit that kit for about four years whilst El Bar was traveling and buying a ranch/farm (we call it a "place" here in Texas) and moving to his place in the deep piney woods of East Texas.
I've dealt in used drum kits since I started drumming, and I'm very good at restoration and cleaning, which the *years worth of dust* on the Rogers kit had. Soon, it was gleaming again, and enjoyed having it set up in my drum room outfitted with cymbals I've used since junior high school.
So it was also cool to be playing that kit with a set of genuine Joe Raynor sticks. Here's the rest of the drumstick story below.
When I started lessons with Joe, he worked out of Herb Brochstein's Music store in Houston. Herb had started the Pro-Mark drumstick company some years before, and soon became the largest (I'm pretty sure of this) drum stick maker in the world. Brochstein's Music closed as Pro-Mark skyrocketed in the early 70's, but Herb (also a stellar drummer), his store and his drum stick company are legendary in their own rights.
Herb's a great guy. I'm not his buddy or anything, but all the times I've seen him over the years he greets me fondly and shakes my hand although I'm pretty sure he doesn't know who I am. He's a nice fellow and has always treated all the drummers I know in Houston very well.
So in 1970 Herb's growing Pro-Mark drumstick company makes the Joe Raynor stick, which is labeled as such. I bought several pair of those when taking lessons from Joe and still have one intact drumstick from 1971 where the large (glued on) stick tip has not come off.
Over the years, I've mostly played with 5a's and 5b's, until making the switch to Vater drumsticks back in the early 2000's. I still use Pro-Mark sticks all the time, but I've grown fond of one particular Vater stick that is lightweight and yet beefy and a wee bit bigger than a 5a.
The Raynor stick at it's thickest is close (I have not measured) to that of the Pro-Mark 7a stick, and the length I think is also the same. The "regular" tip end and shaft of the Raynor stick is real similar to a 7a, but the stick butt tapers to form an end to which a larger tip is glued (unfortunate because if this tip was milled from the dowel blank it would hang on better).
Interestingly, I have not had the problem of the stick butt tip coming off on the second set of Raynor sticks that I stumbled into about twenty years after I first began lessons with Joe and saw his unique drumsticks.
The Houston DRUM*GUITAR*KEYBOARD Shop was shutting down, and the owner Keith Karnaky was selling everything. So Keith was escorting me through the massive parts bin he had accumulated over the years and I was getting all the available Collarlock and Tempus drum hardware I could find, as well as select replacement parts for other snares like Rogers and Ludwig and Slingerland. Basically, I was buying spare parts for every drum I had at bargain prices.
So as Keith was leading me through his various parts areas behind the counter (well organized as I recall), I came across a bucket of drumsticks that were priced at $2 a pair and spied a familiar butt end stick tip, a double ended Raynor stick.
These sticks were made sometime in the 80's or very early 90's, a "reissue of sorts" if you will, and there were about six pair. So I bought all of them, of course. These sticks were marked "Pro-Mark /W/".
I don't know what the "/W/" designation meant. These sticks are still in great shape, many years later, and I'm glad I found them. I used them for electronic drumming and also on more quiet gigs, rehearsals and musical passages where a softer touch is required, as they are significantly thinner than the several different types of drumsticks I might reach for at any normal rehearsal or performance.
So a couple of years ago I wrote the customer service department of Pro-Mark and asked if they still had the pattern or blank for this stick and if so what would it cost me to get a private run of these sticks. I knew enough well-heeled former Joe Raynor students that would be interested in buying into a one time Raynor stick order that I figured we could pull it off.
To my dismay, the customer service rep indicated that the pattern or blank or whatever they use in the drumstick industry had been destroyed and there were no plans to revisit the Raynor or /W/ stick design.
So there is another solution. Recently, a very talented lawyer friend of mine whose hobby is SERIOUS WOODWORKING of all sorts began making drumsticks for his daughter's boyfriend out of all sorts of exotic and regular drumstick woods. No kidding. This friend basically built his own luxury home that's probably 5000 square feet over the course of a year more or less by himself. In his "spare time". And when I say custom home, I mean, custom home. Finest of woods. Finest of workmanship. Innovative design and state of the art materials.
In his spare time, he built this fine home over the course of a year.
He first built a four car garage with a huge garage apartment above it. This was his work and storage area for the beginning stages of building his house, and he basically has a wood shop in his garage that puts many professional shops to shame with his extensive tools and gear.
He has some sort of router or mill or something that is CAD controlled and he can take a drumstick and basically make a pattern from it, if I understand what he's doing.
He then sometimes makes dowels himself, or buys them and makes drumsticks on his gizmos, finishing them by hand.
In any event, the sticks are extremely well made and some are heavy and some are light and all are just works of art unto themselves. So I'll be visiting him soon and taking some Raynor sticks and a few kinds and sizes of sticks and watching him craft me some custom sticks out of probably some very interesting woods.
Posted by THE FISHING MUSICIAN at 12:19 AM