Pat Blythe – Boom boom tsst – Part 3….Come Ride with Me….and music

…..and the cymbal saga continues. Here’s an interesting little tidbit. Ever heard of the bock-a-da-bock? Me either. Say it really fast though and it begins to sound familiar. Now Google it and there’s a whole history behind this fascinating little number…..introducing the hand cymbal commonly known as the Bock-A-Da-Bock.

Originally designed by Billy Gladstone, one of the most significant and finest percussionists of his time, Gladstone was continually inventing, building and perfecting instruments. “Gladstone’s ‘Device for Operating Cymbals’ comprised a pair of spring-loaded scissor tongs bearing two small, heavy cymbals facing each other; when the player squeezed the tongs, the cymbals closed together. A range of interesting sounds were made possible as the player held the device in one hand, opening and closing the cymbals whilst striking them with a stick held in their other hand. Its creator having received a patent, the ‘Ludwig Gladstone Cymbal’ appeared in the drum company’s 1927 catalogue.” (Drums in the Twenties)

The Bock-A-Da-Bock

An idiophone made up of two metal discs, the bock-a-da-bock was the product of the Ludwig Drum Company. Two small cymbals mounted on sprung tongs and held by the drummer, it was sometimes used to substitute an entire drum kit. It could be played with a stick held in one hand with the other had controlled the grip. “On a number of important jazz records in 1927 and ‘28 drummers used their hand cymbals alongside drums, often picking up the instrument to take a featured novelty break or solo chorus, before resuming on the tubs.” (Drums in the Twenties)

Thousands of drummers purchased them in the thousands, sparking a wave of copycats as other manufacturers wanted to cash in on the hand cymbal craze. While some followed Gladstone’s and Ludwig’s idea, others produced their own versions with some interesting names. The Squash Cymbals (clappers on a fire-tong); Sting Cymbals (designed to clamp to the bass drum); Hand Sock Cymbals (basically Gladstone’s design) and finally, Bock-A-Da-Bock Rhythm Cymbals (two cymbals of different sizes and played like castanets). It’s this last name that seemed to stick, and to this day all hand cymbals are called Bock-A-Da-Bocks, an onomatopoeic moniker coined by Mark Fisher, whose drummer was Jack ‘Peacock’ Kelly, a Ludwig endorsee and “hand-cymbal poster boy”.

Billy Gladstone

The hand-sock or bock-a-da-bock craze seems to have gasped its last in 1929. These early designs were limiting drummers who really needed both hands to play their kits, and the hand-sock required one of those hands. With ongoing advances in design, the evolution continued and a new type of “sock” cymbal could be controlled by a foot pedal. The hi-hat had arrived!

Come along for the Ride

Diving down one of my rabbit holes, I stumbled upon a 2019 a dissertation written by Colleen B. Clark for her degree in Doctor of Musical Arts. Called THE EVOLUTION OF THE RIDE CYMBAL PATTERN FROM 1917-1941: AN HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL ANALYSIS, the purpose of this study is to provide a historiographical and musical analysis examining the jazz ride cymbal pattern, from its inception on woodblock, small accessory cymbals, hand cymbal mechanisms and brushes through what becomes known as the modern-day ride cymbal pattern.”  Wow…..over 100 pages, including a bibliography, just on the Ride! For those drummers who are deep into the history and understanding of this instrument, here’s the link

A world of Ride cymbals

In the meantime, to “ride” is to “ride along with the music” which describes the Ride cymbal’s sustain after it’s struck. Able to execute any function or rhythm the Hi-Hat does (with the exception of the open/close sound), the sound of a Ride cymbal is dependent on what it is hit with (type of stick or mallet) and where it’s hit. Wood creates a smoother, more muted sound whereas a nylon-tipped drumstick creates more of a “ping”. A drum mallet would produce a fuller sound, especially when striking the bow. The bell, the bulge or cup in the middle, creates a bright, clear sound. Also, the larger the bell, the less accuracy is required to repeatedly strike the bell in fast patterns, the louder and brighter the tone.

Flat Ride – look ma, no bell….

A Flat Ride, originally developed by Paiste, is completely flat, has no bell which makes the cymbal quieter than its sibling with the bell. The Flat Ride produces a tighter, drier more controlled stick sound some consider more suitable for jazz. The Flat Ride is used by Charlie Watts, Roy Haynes (one of the first to use the flat ride), Jo Jones and Paul Wertico (to name a few).

The Ride “r”evolution

According to Colleen Clark’s dissertation her chapter Roots of the Pattern, she discusses how many African rhythms are dependent on the bell pattern. She goes on to say, It shows how the adaptation of the African rhythms are important to the drum set and how it ended up becoming a stereotypical practice for drummers to take different parts of the African ensemble and put it on the drum set. This directly correlates to how the jazz ride cymbal pattern was influenced by its African roots.”

Who was the first drummer to incorporate the Ride as the “timekeeper”? Again, as in the usage evolution of many musical instruments, there is always more than one story. Baby Dodds is first up. Many drummers would use a short buzz or press roll on the backbeats (2 & 4) but Dodds changed it up. He used longer press rolls, lasting until the following beat, creating a smoother time feel, that, according to various articles, he developed into the jazz ride pattern.

Clockwise from upper left – Papa “Jo” Jones, Kaiser Marshall, Roy Haynes, Kenny Clarke & Baby Dodds

Kenny Clarke, known as the patriarch of modern jazz drumming, is also a contender for being “the first”.  “Marking time on the ride cymbal with his right hand — previously, jazz drummers employed the bass drum with the right foot — gave his left hand and feet the freedom and sonic space to play thundering accents (“dropping bombs”) at irregular intervals.”

Duke Ellington’s drummer Sonny Greer, was deeply inspired by “that great drummer, Kaiser Marshall, and when quizzed on the identity of the originator of the jazz ride cymbal pattern, stated his belief that, “I think it was Kaiser Marshall when he was with Fletcher Henderson’s band.” 

 “Papa” Jo Jones, known for omitting the bass drum on each beat, also played the ride rhythm on the hi-hat while it was continuously opening and closing, rather than keeping it closed. This inspired jazz drummers to use a cymbal for timekeeping, which ultimately led to what is now called the Ride Cymbal. Jones was also the first to use brushes on drums.

Riders of the…..clockwise top left: Bill Cobham, Roger Taylor, Paul Wertico, Charlie Watts, Ed Cassidy & Ringo Starr

Today’s Ride averages 20” in diameter, although anything from 18”-22” is considered standard. From bell, to bow to rim, it provides the drummer or percussionist with a number of sound choices. Flat or cupped, lightly tapped to keep time, using a mallet to expand the sound, or literally whacking it with a heavy duty drumstick for a resounding crash effect…..from jazz to hard rock, no drummer or drum kit is complete without their Ride.

The Bock-A-Da-Bock

The first to use the hand cymbal was one of New York’s leading drummers, Kaiser Marshall. The following piece was recorded only a month after Gladstone’s patent was awarded so one assumes Marshall was a using the genuine Gladstone Hand Sock Cymbal.

White Man Stomp – Fletcher Henderson (drummer Kaiser Marshall on the Gladstone Hand Sock Cymbal)

Sugar Food Strut – Louis Armstrong  (Zutty Singleton on the Bock-A-Da-Bock)

Ride Cymbal featured:

Now He Sings, Now He Sobs – Chick Corea

(Roy Haynes on the Flat Ride)

Riders of the Storm – The Doors

I Will – Dean Martin

My Heart Belongs to Daddy – Dizzy Gillespie

A Legal Matter – The Who

I Feel Fine – The Beatles

Softly to Me – Love

Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulders) – Beach Boys

In My Life – The Beatles

Edwin Birdsong – Cola Bottle Baby

This week’s podcast is Part Two of the conversation I had with Tom Wilson. More bantering, more laughs…..and his Neil Young stories……



Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.


“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto.


Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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