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Vintage View - Juggs Drums

In a previous life I wrote about Juggs in something I succinctly called ‘The A to Z of Drums’ stating that: “Juggs were made to a Miami distributor’s specifications which somehow found their way to Europe from time to time. There were [I was told at the time] two different sets which were unique in that one was made in Taiwan while a more expensive version was allegedly the first serious set to be made in Korea.”

Those distributors were called Tropical Music and since they were based in Florida it not only made it very easy to sell them to ‘Mom and Pop’ music shops on the continental United States,  they could also easily export them to many of the countries of South America which appeared to be then, as now, their core business. Tropical Music started in 1975 and dealt with Central and South America, The Caribbean, West Indies, The Bahamas, and the US and British Virgin Islands - which is a pretty fair chunk of that sizzling side of the world.

Perhaps I should clarify just what a mom and pop operation is. It’s close to what we in the UK would refer to a General Music shop although in the US it invariably is run by the mother and father of the family and often their kids (like Louie Bellson) have a hand in helping-out to earn pocket money. These shops would not be particularly ambitious but would know their clientele intimately so wouldn’t be likely to buy-in high-end instruments without a definite order. Instead they’d stock affordable, bread-and-butter products which no one expected to last for ever – so the punters weren’t ‘up-in-arms’ when they didn’t.  

According to my long list of reviews for International Musician & Recording World, which runs from  mid-1975 to mid-1992, I reviewed Juggs for the magazine in June 1988 and even though I’ve searched high and low for it through the back issues I cant find that particular article. But, since it’s on the list then  I certainly wrote about Juggs in the eighties, it’s a safe bet that someone was bringing the drums into the UK and Europe at the time.

I suggest we get the double-entendres out of the way and quickly gloss over the fact that it was a massive selling point to be able to describe the drums as “a nice set of Juggs”. Juggs in America is a slang word for an attractive part of the female anatomy. And, when spelled with those two G’s that word  has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with china receptacles for putting liquids in on the dinner table! Tropical understandably made no apologies for the name which was without a shadow of a doubt used deliberately and very successfully. And, since the people who were most likely to buy them were youngsters who much preferred that slightly risqué name to those on other equally-affordable drumsets they could buy locally, like Westminster, CB or various other Taiwanese ‘stencil sets’ – it goes to prove Tropical had definitely got it right. To most young kids it was actually a huge nudge, nudge, wink, wink plus point as far as buying was concerned. Even parents bought into the game albeit with their tongues lodged firmly in their cheeks! Naturally I’m not recommending anybody under 18 should do this but when I was researching this piece and put Juggs into a search engine I found for some reason it wasn’t easy to leave that part of my investigation to get back to writing this article!

So having dwelled for long enough on that smutty subject to get to the point I saw Juggs being made in 1987 when I was on a fact-finding mission to Taiwan when KHS were building them along with Linko and various other marques in their huge Taipei factory. 

As you can easily see from the wood showing inside in the flyer photo, the shells were made from Luan/Philippine mahogany  arranged in 9-plies. The ‘Starsearcher 2800 series’ set came with what they described as a 22 x 14” base (sp) drum with 16 of their own (decidedly non-generic) lugs, pressed-steel claw-hooks and cast t-handles - and as you’d expect in a set from the ROC at this time, metal bass drum hoops. The double tom holder had ratchet ‘L-arms’ and fitted into a single cast receiver block set in the top of the bass drum. The spurs were the disappearing type, held in cast blocks and with rubber feet which may well have had a spike inside them. 

The ‘Power Tom’ shells were also made from 9-plies of mahogany and measured 12 x 12” and 13 x 13” with pressed steel triple-flanged hoops and six square-headed tensioners per head.

The floor tom was the usual 16 x 16 although with six tensioners per head like the smaller drums. Interestingly the leg blocks for the three double-bent steel rod legs, which were the same as the mounted tom receiver blocks, were set much closer to the centre of the drum than usual. 

The snare drum wasn’t as cheap and cheerful as others available at the time from Taiwan in that it had 10 double-ended tensioners and a 6.5” deep steel shell with two converse beds set close together and triple-flange hoops like the toms. (Last but not least, the toms and the snare drum all had under batter-head operating dampers.)

As far as the hardware was concerned it was considerably sturdier than most with double-braced legs, wide-bored tubes, cast height arrest blocks, substantial wedge-shaped feet and a basket stand to hold the snare drum in position via a circular splined capstan nut - and with a cast ratchet to maintain the playing angle. There wasn’t anything remarkable about the  hi hat but like the rest of the stands it was a no-nonsense unit with a flexible strap and no spring adjustment but it would certainly stand still when you hit it.

The Smooth/Flo bass drum foot pedal was chain driven with twin posts and  a large circular beater boss and a single expansion spring - a lot like a Gretsch ‘Floating Action’ pedal.

There were two cymbal stands available, a straight three-section version, or a telescopic boom type with a cast ratchet tilter at the cymbal end and another at the top of the down tube where the adjustable boom was fixed.  BTW I’ve seen two different sorts of stands with Juggs 2800 sets, some with single and some with double-braced tripod bases.

All the drums were fitted with see-through, black dot CS heads which I’m guessing were some of the first to be made by Remo Asia. The Juggs five-sided badge said the infamous name, Percussion and Miami and was made from metal and held in place with an air-hole grommet with sun rays spreading out from it. It was actually quite attractive and didn’t look like anything else that was around at the time. I’ve seen the sets covered in silver, white, and black plastic and I’m guessing you could also get them in red and that electric blue. I’m afraid I have no information on the Korean set which I suspect (if it was ever introduced) was meant to be lacquered. 

Tropical don’t seem to sell Juggs drums any more although they certainly do still have a percussion line with that name. Their new drums appear to be called ‘Kobra’, a slightly less interesting name than their forebears.

So if you find a set, how much is it worth I hear you asking? Well it was Jeff Davenport aka Drum Tuning Workshop who got me started on this piece by asking me what I knew about them. He’d just bought a Starsearcher 2800 set which he really liked the sound of and kindly sent me some of the pics for this month’s Vintage Views.  Jeff told me his set cost him £80, albeit without a snare drum. However if you’re quick there’s a white Juggs Starsearcher set with a snare drum and Pearl cymbals on E-bay for £75.

Bob Henrit

May 2015

Just found a set of these in Jerome, ID. Had never heard of them; the non-drummer selling them thought they were Yamaha because of one or two of the heads. I thought it looked like Mahogany, so thanks for the confirmation. Mine are the MIK's, minus snare and hardware. They're white (wrapped). Came with a nicely preserved set of 15" "Nuvader" (West German) hats and a vintage Slingerland hi-hat stand. Obviously not high-end stuff, but they're in good enough shape that I think I got my money's worth. Definitely reminds me of my teen years in the '80's. Dumb name for the drums, though.
Lance Wells, 24 August 2015

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