John Grey And Rose Morris Company Ltd In Drum Kit History

By | September 20, 2011

John Grey and Sons London Limited, originally manufactured watches and steel pens and only distributed musical instruments wholesale, became well known for the manufacture of fine banjos, guitars and drums. In 1928, the company was bought by Rose, Morris who carried on manufacturing drums under the name John Grey.

The British John Grey company grew out of Henry Solomon Sons, which was established around 1832. Solomon imported pens and watches from Germany, and later cheap violins. From 1862, Solomon’s son in law Barnet Samuel bought into the business and developed musical instruments. Barnet Samuel Sons, based in Finsbury, just east of the city of London, developed their instrument imports and began to manufacture their own harmoniums, pianos, and other instruments in London. Around 1905, Barnet Samuel, a Jew who perceived antisemitism as an impediment to growth, formed a company with an English sounding name John Grey Sons for the import and manufacture of banjos, drums, and so on. In 1933, John Grey became part of Rose Morris Company Ltd, based in east London.

Rose Morris carried on manufacturing drums under the names John Grey, Autocrat, Broadway, Shaftesbury, and Clansman military drums, as well as the less well remembered Dulcet, Savana, and New England. During the 30, John GreyRose Morris produced Leedy copy drums like everyone else in the UK. Later in the decade, Autocrat was the name reserved for the top lines. Consoles and spray finishes indicate a liaison with the Beverley drum company, while the new art deco lug was the same as that seen on Carlton drums of the period. It was all quite incestuous in the years just before World War II when the dance band industry flourished. After the war, the John Grey name was gradually pushed into the background, with the catchier Autocrat and Broadway lines signaling pro and semipro respectively. By the mid 60, the Autocrat range had double headed torn toms and eight lugs on snare drums, bass drums, and floor toms, with five on the small torn. Bass drum depths were quoted as 17 and 15 inches actually 15 and 12, but including the bass drum hoops, a common European practice at the time. The Supreme kit had four drums and three Premier Super Zyn cymbals. The Modern outfit had three drums and three plain Zyns.

Budget Broadway brand drums had six lugs on the snare and bass, eight on the floor torn, and single or double headed toms. The four drum Broadway kit was the Super. In keeping with the times, the Autocrats had die cast hoops while the Broadways had flanged steel hoops. All the British drum companies suffered from their old dance band image once the Beatles revolution was underway, and John Grey more than most. Name players simply did not play Autocrats, although the drums were no better nor worse than their competitors. However, one ad did appear featuring Sonny Payne with Count Basie. Who knows how they pulled that one? n the late 60, Rose Morris marketed kits using their own initials, RM, as a brand. The drums still had die cast Premier style rims, flush base stands, new flame finishes, ball and socket torn holder, foldout spurs, “sleek new tension fittings”, and a direct center pull hi hat with flush base. The finishes were pretty snazzy, including Crystal, Ruby, Sapphire and Opal Flames, Champagne and Red Glitters. Rose Morris also produced Headmaster plastic heads. In the early to mid 70, Rose Morris was still producing new drums in both wood and fashionable Acrylic, now called somewhat desperately Shaftesbury. The drums were accompanied by an amazing, futuristic hardware system, Power drive, which included a double bass drum pedal. New plain metallic wrap finishes Nordic Bronze, Pagan Red, and Arctic Steel followed in the successful footsteps of Hayman. None of it was any use. As with Ajax and Beverley, Shaftesbury drums were pretty cool but the world had changed. If the famous American brands were struggling against the Japanese tide, what chance did the Brits have?