The Ludwig Drum Company was founded in 1909 by William F. Ludwig and Theobald Ludwig in Chicago. The company started with a concept for the design and manufacturing of a functional bass drum pedal. In the era of silent film where musical performances were live, Ludwig specialized in sound effects to service that market. At this time, the company was known as Ludwig and Ludwig.
Drum making soon followed with the development of snare drums and a revolutionary design of Balanced Action tuning timpani in 1916. In 1917, Ludwig was contracted to build rope drums to support World War I. During that time, Theobald Ludwig passed away and William Ludwig continued on his own designing new products.
Revolutionary new designs and innovative products continued to be released. The Black Beauty Snare Drum, still made today, was designed in the pre-depression era between 1926-1930. As films became available with a recorded track, and the results of the Depression were felt, Ludwig sold his company to C.G. Conn, which also owned Leedy Drums. William Ludwig retained his role with the company and moved the operations to Elkhart, Indiana.
In 1936, William left C.G. Conn to start his own company. By 1937, this new company was known as W.F.L. and was a competitor to the Ludwig and Leedy Company owned by C.G. Conn. In 1937 William’s son, Bill Ludwig Jr., began assisting his father with the new company. The first significant product design was a revolution to the bass drum pedal known as the “Speed King”.
In 1955, C.G. Conn decided to focus on their core business of band instruments. They sold the Ludwig name back to William Ludwig and he changed his company’s name to the Ludwig Drum Company. Ludwig continued growing the product offering adding marching drums, concert drums, timpani, snare drums, and drum sets.
On February 9, 1964, Ringo Starr and The Beatles changed everything for the Ludwig Drum Company when they performed live on the Ed Sullivan Show in front of millions. Ringo’s Black Oyster Pearl 4 piece drum set prominently displayed the Ludwig name for all to see.
From that point, the company continued to expand. The Musser Mallet Company was acquired by Ludwig in 1965 creating a “Total Percussion” company that included mallet instruments and drums. In 1973, William Ludwig Sr. passed away and Bill Ludwig Jr. took over as President. In 1981, at 65 years of age, Bill sold the company to the Selmer Company. The Ludwig Factory in Chicago was relocated to Monroe, North Carolina in 1984, where it resides today. Bill Ludwig Jr., who changed his name to Bill Ludwig II, became referred to as “The Chief” and stayed active in the business even in retirement. William F. Ludwig II passed away in March of 2008 at the age of 91.