Although Warren “Baby” Dodds is often credited with being the first trap kit drummer, a version of the kick pedal made its first appearance in the 1800s, sixty years before Dodds stepped behind any drumkit.
Nineteenth century woodwind maker Cornelius Ward patented a foot pedal for use on a Lithophone around 1850. The pedal was eventually put into use by Victorian era bands like the Till Family (pictured below) who literally named their group “The Till Family Rock Band”, named for the stones they used as notes on their Lithophone like instrument.
An 1896 photograph shows Edward “Dee Dee” Chandler seated with a kick drum and snare set up. At the time Chandler was playing with the John Robichaux Orchestra, one of many Creole brass bands that would develop a new style of music—that would eventually come to be known as Jazz. Around 1894 Chandler invented a wooden pedal, such that he could play the bass drum with his foot while playing the snare drum with his sticks. This style of playing would later become known as “double drumming” in the New Orleans Jazz scene. The bass drum appears to have an overhanging (or swinging) beater attached to the rim of the type that is operated by a foot pedal as shown in the illustration in the Carl Fischer catalogue.
Many pedals from the late 1800s right up to 1910 were made of wood and were quite awkward to operate like the 1900 version of a kick pedal (below). By 1908 William F. Ludwig’s brother in law sees a market to mass produce bass drum pedals and in 1910 the Ludwig & Ludwig company is formed to meet that need. Pictured is one of the company’s very first efforts of the solid shaft or direct drive pedal (below).
The appearance of a double kick pedal came in 1924 with the advent of the heel operated Frisco double bass drum pedal. The roaring twenties also saw the invention of a few very short lived but unique pedals.
During the thirties and forties the evolution of the pedal seemed to level off. Aside from the 1937 creation of the Ludwig Speed King, the kick pedal remains virtually unchanged until the fifties when the Sonor drum company came up with its first cam driven by a leather strap called the Rasant. Alternately the same decade brought forth the first chain driven pedal called the Trixon Speedmaster. The seventies recharge an idea previously attempted fifty years earlier as the Sleishman, Zalmer Power Drive Shaftesbury twin pedals hit the market. Steve Gadd experiments with the Zalmer line of double kick pedals. The eighties and nineties bring about the popularity of double bass playing. During this time companies like Pearl, Tama, DW and Axis all release their own brand of twin pedal setups.
Electronic drums are also born during the decade of decadence and Roland is the first to mass market the inverted KD 7 kick pedal. The new millennium has seen an influx of new thinking and design when it comes to kick pedals. The Duallist now enables a drummer to play three beaters (however the design clearly utilizes the heel design of the 1924 Frisco). The year 2006 saw the move to yet another drive design with Gibraltars most recent effort called the Catapult Linear Motion pedal. Will there be a day when a drummer can utilize a sextuplet pedal set up all at once? Who knows, only time will tell.
Sean Mitchell is a drummer/artist, songwriter and the creator of Drum Geek.