Ludwig & Paiste: A marriage made in heaven... until it wasn't! (1953- 1972*)

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Ludwig & Paiste: A marriage made in heaven... until it wasn't! (1957- 1972*)


Ludwig officially listed Paiste cymbals under the Ludwig name in their catalogs starting in 1957 (Previously, Ludwig began importing Paiste Gongs into the U.S. around 1953).
However, there are several accounts that the relationship started much earlier than that: there is proof that William Ludwig Sr. had a relationship with Michail Paiste before WWII. Robert Paiste recalls in an interview that his father "already had business contacts with Ludwig Sr. while we were in Estonia" (1930’s). Also, In the early post-war period (1945/46?) Robert also states in the same interview: “the Ludwig family sent care packages which at that time could not be paid for with money”.

1953: prologue, Ludwig began importing Paiste Gongs

We have a few adverts and catalog listings showing Ludwig was already importing Paiste gongs by about 1953/54. As far as we know, this would have been the first deal that was made between Bill Sr. and Michael Paiste. The gongs would have been produced and shipped from the German factory since the Swiss factory did not exist yet. It must be said that Michail was responsible for building the business relationship with the Ludwig family that would change the company forever!

1956: The beginning

In or around 1956, Bill Ludwig Sr. was visiting his childhood home in Nenderoth Germany, afterward he attended the Frankfurt music fair where met with Michail Paiste, he purchased some samples (Ns12 Stambuls) and brought them back to the U.S, Bill Ludwig Jr. found them too thick for the US market, but the price was extremely attractive so he ordered more of them.
Ludwig made a contract with Paiste that these cymbals would be stamped with the Ludwig name (the Ludwig “3-star”) creating exclusivity among American drum companies, they planned to sell them with their drum outfits. Ludwig ordered 20,000 cymbals per year for several years ('57 to '64) and received nothing but a good comments about them.

It cannot be emphasized enough the importance of this business relationship; Europe was still recovering from WWII, many countries were still under rationing laws for many materials including gasoline and food. Paiste was able to grow exponentially with the huge increase in production volume and sales to Ludwig. It is speculated that this increase in revenue allowed Paiste to build the Swiss factory and ramp up production very quickly. It is known that Robert moved there around 1956 to setup his own factory (mainly get away from the possibility of another war, this time with the Soviets!). We think he was able to hire new employees and buy the required machines to mass produce the Ludwig “3-star”, at the same time he was searching for a source of B20 and experimenting with/developing the rolling process so he could make world class B20 cymbals, we don’t think this would’ve happened so quickly without Ludwig's business!

1963: Michail M. Paiste passes away

1917, A brief history: Michail Toomas Paiste (Michail "M's" father) returns to his native country: Estonia, and re-opens his business in the city of Tallinn, Estonia
During this time, Michail M. Paiste (1907 - 1963) is attending military school in St. Petersburg, he is separated from the family for several years. During this time he had been able to travel to such exotic places as China and Japan, this has exposed him to exotic cultures, music as well as the cymbals and gongs of Asia.
After Michail's return to the family around 1924, he begins to help his Father design and manufacture cymbals for concert and marching bands.
"Michail M." takes over the business completely in 1928 (his Father passes in 1930), his objective is to improve on his Father's cymbal design and production. Seeking to meet the rapidly evolving demands of “modern music” and the emerging drum set, Michail M. begins to develop his own special concept for Turkish style cymbals, It's during this time that he also develops the first gongs.
The resulting instruments receive awards and international recognition as they begin to be exported to Europe, the USA and overseas.
Note: As early as 1932 there is the possibility of contact and a relationship with the Ludwig drum co, there is a good possibility that Michail sold or at least had sent samples of his gongs to Bill Sr.
About 1948, Michail M. set up his factory in Burg-Dithmarschen also, the first catalogs of record are produced (1950). According to the 1964 catalog: in 1951 they moved to Schacht-Audorf outside the city of Rendsburg (this is the current location of the current German factory). For the third time, Michail M. begins to produce cymbals and gongs. (Michail would spend the rest of his life here living with his wife Lilia in a small house next door and running the factory until his passing in 1963).

1964: Pierre Favre joins Paiste

At the 1964 Paiste drummer meeting in Frankfurt, Pierre met the Paiste brothers (Michail had passed away the year before) who invited him to visit their factory in Nottwil. Since Pierre has always been interested in cymbals, he was most enthusiastic about accepting their invitation. The Paiste brothers were so impressed with his keen interest and attentive attitude, they offered him a position on their staff to take care of the most important task: cymbal development, quality control and to establish an education/drummer service dept.
Pierre is a very important figure in the relationship as he worked with Ludwig along with Robert on the weights and specifications for each individual cymbal and each line sold to Ludwig, you can see him in several of the pictures below.

1964: Ludwig and the Formula 602

In late '63 to early ‘64 during one of Bill Ludwig Jr’s visits to London, Ivor Arbiter (English distributor for Paiste since 1962) suggested he try the “first line” Paiste cymbals; the formula 602. Bill Jr. ordered seventy five 602’s mostly to show at the 1964 Chicago music convention that summer. When Avedis Zildjian saw the display, he flew into a rage and immediately cut off Ludwig from distributing his cymbals (Ludwig had sold mainly Zildjian cymbals starting from their first catalog in 1912)!

  • Avedis Zildjian had a complete monopoly on north America and most of the western world, now for the first time, there was a serious challenger that was making world class B20 cymbals that could compete directly with Avedis' cymbals on his home turf, this was a harbinger of things to come!

The Paiste brothers (Robert and Toomas) were also at the music convention and assured Bill Jr. that they would stand by him. They worked out a contract, giving Ludwig exclusive distribution for all of North America and Mexico and in return Ludwig ordered 2,000 Formula 602 cymbals per month (24,000 per year!). When the brothers received the initial order, they brought it to their bank in Switzerland and secured a credit line to finance a larger expansion of the factory and modernize a lot of their equipment. It looks like the first 602s were sold in the U.S. by Ludwig started about a year later in mid 1965.
Key in getting the partnership off the ground was Robert Yeager, co-owner of the Pro drum shop in Hollywood California. The Professional Drum Shop was founded in 1959 by Bob and Chuck Molinari, they were one of Ludwig's largest retailers, Bob also acted as technical adviser or “cymbal expert” to Ludwig while working with Paiste. Both Bob and Bill Jr. felt the Paiste cymbals were too heavy, they took a trip to Paiste to "reset the standards of thickness" throughout the 602 line. Bob also worked with Pierre Favré and hand picked 602's for both Ludwig and his own shop (see pictures in next segment below).
We also think that this is when Paiste finalized or standardized the design of the formula 602 line: there are many examples before this period where the cymbals had a different stamp ("E over trade"), different shaped bells, different lathing, weights and even different names like "thin ride", "thin ride crash" and "medium ride crash".

1965: Ludwig & co. visits Paiste

An official visit to the factory occurred in late February or early March of '65 (this was most likely not the 1st. time). If you notice early in the "a visit to Switzerland" story it references the Frankfurt Music Fair which took place at the end of Feb. We believe this visit was to setup the deal to distribute Formula 602's by Ludwig in north America (along with setting the "standards of thickness"), it is also believed they worked on the "new" Ludwig Standard cymbals (setting the weights for each type of cymbal as well) This trip also included Bob Yeager who acted as the technical advisor for Ludwig.

1965: The Ludwig Standard

Around 1965, the Ludwig Standard series were added to the Ludwig catalog, these can be classified as an upscale entry-level line (again, they were rebranded Stambuls). They were basically the original "3-star" cymbal with the same mid 60's updates that were applied to the Stambuls, in turn, they were also applied to the Standard (smaller bell and different lathing). Very late in their production run the Standards were switched to B8, probably in '71 judging from the ink stamps and lack of serial numbers (the author owns one). The Ludwig Standards last appearance comes in the 1975 Ludwig catalog in limited size options, these are most assuredly leftover stock. We have examples of preserial NS12 Ludwig Standards that were restamped with post '71 ink stamping as Stambuls and sold off after the deal with Ludwig collapsed!

1966: Formula 602 Joe Morello Set

In Late 1965 or early '66, Joe Morello was approached by Bill Ludwig to endorse Paiste. Since Joe played and endorsed Ludwig Drums, he was the obvious choice for a signature cymbal set baring his name.
Paiste catalog: "In personal collaboration with Joe Morello, this beautiful melodically coordinated set was created". A custom set of Formula 602 cymbals made to Joe's specification (the 1st. artist model!) comprising of 14" sound edge hi hats, 17", 18" and 20" sizes.
Visual cues show much finer lathing and possibly different hammering compared to the standard 602's

1967: Ludwig & co. visits Paiste

Another visit around 1967 or early 1968: it could be the introduction of the Stanople, Giant beats and or the Seven sound set were discussed at this meeting. They could have also planned the upcoming "Paiste day at pro drum" and subsequent tour of the U.S.

1967: The Ludwig Stanople

The Stanople was a low-priced cymbal ideal for the beginner or student drummer that was carried by Ludwig as a cheaper alternative to the Ludwig Standard (relabeled Stambul). Robert Paiste states in an interview that the Stanople was a rebranded NS12 Dixie sold to Ludwig for North American distribution.

Ludwig promo material: '67/'68

1967: Ludwig carries 602 concert cymbals

1968: Paiste day at pro drum

"Bob Yeager and Chuck Molinari of the pro drum shop in Hollywood held a European style drummers meeting and the red velvet club in Hollywood, CA. The meeting was attended by several hundred including some of the west coast greats of the percussion world. Robert, Thomas and Pierre discussed cymbals in detail and exchanged many ideas with the drummers of the jazz, rock, recording and TV/motion picture industry.
In each city visited, the Paiste group spent every evening with drummers in theaters and clubs where they work. Pierre Favré, who was one of Europe's finest. Jazz drummers was a big hit with his many new American drummer friends. The tour proved to be very worthwhile for everyone concerned. Robert and Toomas along with Pierre left the states with a renewed insight into the specific cymbal needs of American drummers and percussionists.

1968: Paiste tour of the U.S.

It is believed the tour kicked off with the above meeting in Hollywood and then moved across the country: "In an effort to learn first-hand the needs and demands of today's American drummers at percussionists, Robert and Thomas Paiste along with their cymbal expert, Pierre Favré, completed a coast to coast tour of ten Major US cities. The tour started in Chicago at the NAMM trade show, where leading dealers from the US and Canada met for five days."

1969: Giant beat, Seven sound set

1972/73? The END

To understand the ending, we need to go back to February 9th. 1964 (the Beatles and the Ed Sullivan show): This seminal moment forever changed the music industry in the U.S, overnight, thousands and thousands of kids wanted to play the drums and begged their parents for a Ludwig drum set! This massive demand meant Ludwig's factory was working multiple shifts producing drum sets, along with these sets, many were sold with Paiste cymbals. It is speculated that young, inexperienced (with poor technique), hard hitting drummers started breaking a lot of these cymbals, especially the 602's which were designed as a jazz cymbal, to make matters worse, they were made thinner for the American market, a recipe for disaster!

It is understood that Ludwig started to receive returns of many broken cymbals (especially 602's). Ludwig informed Paiste of the issue and after inspection they stated that the drummers were hitting the cymbals too hard. Ludwig states that they had compiled a total of about 4,000, broken cymbals and Paiste refused to replace these.
Robert's response to this claim: "Our cymbals broke no more and no less in America than everywhere else, American dealers have told us that. Of course, we exchanged the broken cymbals. But on the other hand, this fact was very much exploited by the competition to damage and break us. It is very easy to talk something like this up and insanely hard to get away from it again."

Also according to Ludwig, Paiste offered a 10% discount on all future purchases, right after the this deal Bill Ludwig says Paiste raised their prices 10%!
Robert's response: "The thing with the so called discounts, that's not true either, for a certain period we had given them discounts for advertising and promotion. When prices were raised, everyone raised their prices because the material became expensive."
Ludwig stopped placing orders with Paiste and they basically gave away the rest of the cymbal stock they had with the drums: Bill Ludwig Jr. claims they lost about a million dollars replacing cracked Standards, Stanoples and 602's!.
Judging from the catalogs, Ludwig still had a full selection and offered of all the current cymbal lines in the '73 catalog, considering this catalog would have been created, compiled and printed in 1972 or even partially in '71, we believe the break happened during that year or in very early '73. There is secondary proof in that there a VERY few examples of B8 Ludwig cymbals (Standards and Stanoples), they would've switched to B8 around 1971. Also, we have not seen a B8 Ludwig cymbal with a serial number, that could reinforce the possibility they stopped production sometime in '72 or even late '71.
Last but not least, Ludwig never sold or listed 2002's in their catalogs, another indicator that the split happened somewhere around 1972 or possibly even earlier!
Robert Paiste said that Ludwig cancelled their contract without notice, this created great hardship in the company from losing such a large customer, Robert talks about it in a 2006 interview: "that was a hard time, about one and a half to two years, we bridged one year in order to keep the team. It takes a long time for someone to learn how to make cymbals, we had the agreement with our people that we had to do other things: we built switch cabinets for the signage factory, we built snow chains and we overhauled carburetors for the Swiss military. Then it picked up again, then it was good again."

The Ludwig Standards last appearance comes in the 1975 Ludwig catalog (there isn't a '74 catalog that we can find) in limited size options as these cymbals are most assuredly leftover stock. We have examples of preserial NS12 Ludwig Standards that were re-stamped with post '71 ink as Stambuls, this means Paiste still had substantial stock in their vault that never sold or shipped to Ludwig, they were forced to relabel and sell off after the deal with Ludwig collapsed.


This relationship changed Paiste forever, most if not all for the better. Paiste was now a renown international company with a solid foothold in north America, they were a force to be reckoned with!
The 2002 was already in production, it would completely dominate and change the sound rock music (pop music too) forever, leaving a lasting legacy for this company. After the initial pain and financial hardship, we think Paiste came out benefiting from this relationship with the worlds largest drum maker (at that time).

Sources: Robert Paiste 2006 interview, Bill Ludwig's book; "the making of a drum company", pictures courtesy of the Pro Drum shop in Hollywood, CA. Catalogs and advertising research: Todd Little, concept, creation, transposing, editing and research: Dan Garza
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