by Harry Cangney
When I walked into the South Bend, Indiana, drum studio of veteran drummer/teacher/collector Eddie Knight, I picked up more sensory input than I could process. On the walls were autographed pictures of past guests and former students. While I looked them over, Eddie talked about having dinner with Gene Krupa, and then he pulled out a pristine 1929 Leedy Broadway Dual snare in white marine pearl, and an equally impressive early-’30s Broadway Standard in rainbow pearl.
Let me digress about these drums a moment. The Leedy Broadway Dual would have been among the last drums overseen by Ulysses G. Leedy, just before he sold the company to Conn. This was the beginning of the box lug, which was the first separate-tension lug with full swivel capabilities. The drum had a solid walnut shell, satin brass-plated lugs, and refurbished brass hoops. The Dual strainer was original, and the drum had wire snares on top and gut on the bottom. The Broadway Standard was a knockout from across the room. While the hoops and strainer had been refurbished, the solid shell was untouched and the colors were vibrant.
To the right side of the room was Knight’s teaching kit, a Camco Oaklawn in gold moire finish with two 18“ bass drums. Eddie was pictured as an endorser in George Way and Camco catalogs, and I can’t tell you how many Eddie Knight stickers I’ve seen on vintage drumsets and snares.
I went to visit Knight after a friend from England wrote to me about him. Eddie is a famous drum teacher in Indiana and is as active as ever, teaching six days a week in addition to gigging in the evening—and this has gone on for over fifty years. When I got there, he told me about Mr. Leedy’s personal catalogs, which he owned.
Knight has boxes of pristine catalogs. Some I had never seen, like one from around 1904. He also has catalogs with leather-bound covers and Ulysses G. Leedy’s name stamped in gold. These would have been used at trade shows and at music stores.
As a young man, Knight was given a nickname by George Way: Be-Bop. Way and Knight were good friends for years, and the affection still shows, even more than forty years after Way’s passing. Many personal items were given to Knight by Way’s widow, Elsie. These include Smithsonian-quality catalogs, pictures, and pieces I saw reproduced in Leedy catalogs. The original images are framed on the walls of Eddie’s studio.
Knight has four Camco, Illinois, drumsets in boxes, along with a white marine pearl Rogers Dynasonic. On the wall is a framed Zildjian cymbal that survived a terrible fire during a performance by Ringling Brothers in 1944, which caused more than 150 fatalities. Near the cymbal is a framed picture of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, signed by Ellington and drummer Sonny Greer. I walked into Eddie’s studio in awe, and I walked out knowing I had just met a living legend of American drum lore.