Hayman Drums Review

Vintage View – Hayman

Reproduced by kind permission of MikeDolbear.com

As far as we Brits are concerned, Hayman drums deservedly fit the bill of being classics at least as much as any other instruments available here during the late sixties and early seventies - not least because it’s 42 years since they emerged.

They were the brainchild of Ivor Arbiter who besides being the first to actually bring guitars into Britain in quantity in the fifties, was also the first to import Ludwig and Gretsch drums during the `Beat Boom''. He it was who in the sixties cleverly identified a gap in the market for a loud drum set, at a time when drummers needed it - we were seldom mic’d-up outside of the studio.

Tony Oxley
Tony Oxley on his Hayman

Ivor had not much earlier acquired John E Dallas and the original plan was to fit metal liners inside rather ordinary Carlton drum shells. These shells were made from three plies of mahogany  equipped with traditional glue rings and indeed a few of these were made, and as an early endorser I actually owned one. Ultimately they changed the shells to birch, kept the glue rings and wisely discarded the metal inserts, which were weighty, expensive and, in my experience, ever so slightly dangerous, and instead chose to thickly spray the drum''s insides. Eureka! Loud and extremely cutting drums had arrived! Of course Hayman weren’t the first to use this ploy - Ludwig, Rogers and Gretsch had all done it before. However Ivor’s five layers of interior paint called ‘Vibrasonic’ [borrowed from one of Fender’s amplifiers] were unique.

Originally the drums were named George Hayman after one of the guys in Dallas-Arbiter''s Shoeburyness factory (whose surname, to confuse things further was actually Haymon). This was possibly in an homage to George Way who made the legendary Camcos because, in further homage to that famous American marque the set''s nutboxes were also made circular. This was exceedingly unusual in the UK at a time as we were used to ‘bullet-shaped’ casings which were cast. In the very beginning the original Hayman nutboxes were turned from brass on a lathe like George Way’s and the drums were very heavy (later they found it was cheaper to cast them). Anyway, the evocative ‘George’ name was eventually shortened to the more identifiable Hayman - possibly as a ‘cool’ reference to the way drummers of the time greeted one another.

Tom Holder
The Tom Holder

The drums had a mixture of features which, prior to 1968/9 were only seen on expensive American products. Triple-flange hoops, which gave a more open sound and were new to European drums as were non-telescopic spurs, adjustable swiveling shell-mount cymbal arms, and an elegant sufficiency of tension screws and Remo heads.

Dallas-Arbiter designed their very own cumbersome tom holder too. It might well have looked good on the drawing board, but in reality was something of a nightmare. A flat, curved and slotted rail for horizontal tom placement was jacked-up a little above the bass shell and to this was attached the body of the cast tom holder itself which was fitted with not one, but two ratchets. So by judicious use of both you could actually have exceedingly limited height adjustment. A solid radial-toothed block was fixed to the tom itself which mated with a ratchet (with a solid rod in the centre) on the holder to maintain its playing angle, and very large capstan nuts locked tom to holder and holder to bass drum rail. These capstans had an annoying tendency to crush your fingers against the drum and were neither particularly stable nor did they wear well. But, at the time it was the best around and, believe it or not, with all its shortcomings was actually copied by Rimmel, an East German drum company. Hayman spurs were modeled on Ludwig-type outrigger designs, but with large, cast circular holder blocks which matched the nutboxes and were also used to locate the floor tom legs. Hayman''s `lightning-bolt'' bass drum tensioners were the first I''d seen designed ergonomically to ease operation since they were shaped to accommodate the thumbs better.

HardwareIn those days drum companies didn’t just make drums, they also made pedals and stands as well. The Dallas-Arbiter company made pretty good double-braced, tripod-based stands and pedals called Speedamatic, which were actually a lot more substantial and sophisticated than the greater majority of their competition. From various drum forums I know they''re still seeing service on drum sets well over than forty years after their conception. The snare stand was the first in Britain to use a basket-holding mechanism while the wide, industrial-fibre-belted bass pedal and double-springed hi hat

were particularly good with easily adjustable springs. They were more rugged than just about everything else around, although the extremely chunky, scalloped cast screws which arrested all the adjustable bits left something to be desired.

Initially the Hayman snare drums all had 5.5” deep wooden shells in common with the rest of the drums, but a year or so later aluminium-shelled versions were produced too which were loosely modeled along the lines of Ludwig's 400, though in appearance their shells were much more like Gretsch's. I know they didn't make too many metal drums so they have to be worth collecting.

Hayman snare drums had ten tensioners per head and boasted a simple, but effective American-style on/off strainer attached to 22 strand snares. They also had an American style swiveling damper like Ludwig's with an arm shaped like a baseball bat.

The Hayman Iceberg
The Haymnan Iceberg

Size-wise Hayman sets originally came with 22, 20 or 18" bass drums and 12, 13, 14 and 16" toms; but eventually 24, 26 and even 28" basses appeared. The jazzers of the time went for the 18 x 12”, 12 x 8” and 14 x 14” Recording outfit, while the rockers went for the larger-sized Showman kits.

As I said, the secret of the Hayman sound wasn’t in the shells but the coating on the inside. It was indeed rather grandly called Vibrasonic but was simply five sprayed-on coats of ordinary domestic white polyurethane paint (originally with an unfortunate tendency to craze). What it did was harden and polish the inner surface of the drum and allow the sound to bounce around inside, not be absorbed by the wood and give more crack. Hayman drums didn''t exactly sound warm, but, for the mostly un-amplified drummers of the time this wasn’t a priority. They cut through even the loudest of music. It helped if you played all your off-beats as rimshots too.

The original Haymans were only available in three brushed metallic finishes: Solid Silver, Gold Ingot and Midnight Blue (Regal Red, Matt Black, Natural Pine and the holy grail, the see-through Iceberg were all introduced later), the first five of which I was reliably told by Gerry Evans came from a place in Edmonton and were also used to cover refrigerators. These were metallised so if (when?) they peeled at the edges there was a danger of cutting the same fingers which had been badly bruised by the tom holder.

In August 1969 when they were first introduced a five drum `Showman'' set without stands would have cost £265.32, though nowadays you''d be rather lucky to pick one up for that price in good condition.

Bob Henrit's Jellybean Hayman
Bob Henrits Jellybean Hayman

There was actually a second generation of Haymans commissioned by Ivor Arbiter and his son John, which were launched in 1985 and came from Taiwan. Ostensibly they were the same as their predecessors, although with 9 ply mahogany shells without glue rings. They had the same circular nutboxes, identical paintwork inside to give more or less the same brash sound, but with a vastly superior ''generic'' tom holder and the more regular (and available) solid-coloured plastic coverings. Unfortunately it was just about a decade after their real heyday and drums, their amplifying systems, the music, playing technique and even the guys who played them had moved on. So even at £550 complete with stands they weren''t successful.

History would appear to be repeating itself and there is news of a resurrection of the Hayman marque due out later in 2010 and no doubt www.mikedolbear.com will bring news of it as and when it’s available .


...and finally Bob''s Hayman monster from his Argent days.

"We were green with envy when a friend of ours took delivery of a brand new gold Hayman kit which put our well used gear to shame. Soon though i noticed he was having problems with his fingers which he was reluctant to discuss. It turned out they were being crushed by the tom holder every time he set his kit up. He solved the problem by giving his young brother a couple of quid to set the kit up at gigs. A Hayman kit and a drum roadie - big time or what. Great article. Thanks for the memories."

rollingthunder, 5 October 2010

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