Canadian Music Trade - February / March 2020 | Page 17

Supplier Spotlight WFLIII Drums By Andrew King F ive years ago, William F. Ludwig III found himself in a unique predicament. Fresh from a move to a new house in a new city, he was unpacking boxes and contemplating his next career move. That’s when he happened upon a photograph of his grandfather, William Ludwig Sr., surrounded by dozens of drum shells with a smile on his face. On the back, in his father’s handwriting, was a simple note: “Senior starting over.” William Sr. started the Ludwig Drum Company with his brother in 1909 and sold the business in the late ‘20s. He initially stayed on to oversee operations for its new owners, C.G. Conn; however, in the mid- ‘30s, he decided to leave and start a new company of his own, dubbed The WFL Drum Company. “That inspired me and pushed me to do something I’d been thinking about doing,” says Ludwig III – better known to his friends as B3. “I thought, ‘If he could do it, I could do it.’” To complete the history lesson, B3’s grandfather and father bought the Ludwig trademark back from Conn in 1955 and ushered the brand into a new era of success – one perhaps best encapsulated by the logo being seen by the largest TV audience in his- tory (at the time) when Ringo Starr and The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964; subsequently, B3 was born into the world’s best-known drum dynasty. “I grew up in this business,” he says proudly. “I was just going through photos of my father and I in front of a drum shop in Puerto Rico from the early ‘60s. As a kid, I’d work in the factory on weekends, opening mail and whatnot. I eventually worked in every department of the company, from building drums to travelling with our sales- people and learning about our dealers.” B3 and his father, William Ludwig II, sold the business again in the early ‘80s and parted company with the new owners short- ly thereafter. B3 took various jobs outside of the music business before deciding to get back into drum manufacturing with that ser- WILLIAM F. LUDWIG III endipitous push from his late grandfather. WFLIII Drums was incorporated in 2014, initially producing aluminum-shell snares before adding wooden models to the mix. In 2018, having found a good supplier of maple and poplar, the company started producing full three-ply kits that premiered at The 2019 NAMM Show. “My whole starting point is the sound,” B3 tells CMT after a strong showing at NAMM 2020 a year later. “I know what a good drum should sound like. People that play the kits recognize the classic sound from the first stroke of the drum. I’m confident we’ve got the shell and the sound; now we’re moving forward to grow our dealer base.” Currently, that involves a lot of travel and face-to-face relationship-building with retailers and their customers. When WFLIII Drums welcomes a new dealer partner, B3 typically likes to travel for a “WFLIII Drums Day” where he can meet people in the store, have pictures taken, and show off his products. “We had one where a fellow bought a kit, so I told him to pull his car up and we started loading it in. At one point he stopped and said, ‘I can’t believe Bill Ludwig is loading my car!’ But that’s how good rela- tionships start – right at the ground level.” In late 2019, he came up to Drumland in Vaughan, ON, for such an event and has been enjoying a fruitful relationship with owner John “JD” Di Ciommo and his team ever since. “He’s really gotten behind the brand and given us a big push, which is exactly the kind of partnership I’m looking for at this stage,” Ludwig says. While there, he also met a talented 13-year-old drummer, Matteo Vena, who he ultimately welcomed on as an endorser, put- ting Vena’s name alongside heavy hitters like longtime Johnny Winter timekeeper Bobby T and Nashville session giant Scott William- son (Blake Shelton, Brooks & Dunn) on the WFLIII Drums roster. “An endorsement is a two-way street,” Ludwig says about his approach to artist rela- tions. “You’re basically an ambassador of the company and helping to promote the brand every chance you get. It’s great having the big names, but if I see potential with someone’s playing and their approach and attitude towards life, I’m willing to give them a shot.” As with most of the company’s activities and initiatives at this point, it’s about firmly establishing the brand and building its profile with dealers and drummers the world over. A big part of that is the company’s revamped website at, which includes a cool Drum Builder feature where people can experiment with different drums, sizes, materials, hardware, and finishes to customize their dream kit. Beyond that, it’s about putting in the face time and developing strong relation- ships. “We definitely got everyone talking at NAMM this year,” Ludwig says proudly, in large part thanks to WFLIII Drums’ next-generation lugs and loud new finishes that look more in line with sportscars than instruments. What’s more, “Everybody on the roster is cranking up for their summer tours, so it’s a really exciting time. We’re going to keep looking for the next Ringo and keep working on the road to get the exposure we need.” While he knows that will take a lot of time and work, he also knows he has a solid foundation to build it on: great-looking, great-sounding drums spawned from a lifetime in the business. As the company’s slogan suggests, WFLIII Drums offers “the sound of generations” for today’s players. Andrew King is the Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Music Trade. CANADIAN MUSIC TRADE 17