AVEDIS - THE BEGINNING
After three Centuries of manufacture in Turkey, in 1929 the secret Zildjian cymbal formula passed on again to the oldest living Zildjian male heir, American immigrant Avedis Zildjian III. Avedis was born in 1889 in Samatya, not far from Constantinople and emigrated to America in 1909. Avedis was a bright and cosmopolitan man who was fluent in five languages and posessed a natural flair for business. While working as a candy store owner, Avedis met and married Alice "Sally" Goodale, an attractive and intelligent Yankee from Dorchester, MA and in 1921, they had a son, Armand. Two years later another son, Robert was born.
Then in 1927, destiny came calling in form of a letter from his father's brother, Aram, telling Avedis that it was now his turn to take over the ancient family art of cymbal making. But rather than return to Turkey where the Zildjian family had crafted cymbals since 1623, Avedis convinced Aram to move the company to the U.S. With Aram's guidance, Avedis opened the new cymbal factory at 39 Fayette Street in the Norfolk Downs section of Quincy, MA in 1929.
Initially, some professional drummers had a hard time accepting a cymbal that did not come from Turkey. Not one to give up easily, Avedis hit the road and started meeting with drummers to assess their needs. He went to Harlem, NY and took in the ambiance of the after hours jazz clubs, staying up all night and getting first hand knowledge of the sounds required by the drummers of the era. These insights led Avedis to begin making different type of cymbals and began decades of innovation that forever changed popular music.
AVEDIS - THE COLLABORATOR
Avedis quickly came to know all the professional drummers of the day. He became very friendly with Ray Baduc, who played with Bob Crosby. He also knew Chick Webb and Papa Jo Jones. But it was Gene Krupa with whom he had the closest working relationship. Krupa asked Zildjian to develop a thinner cymbal, which led to creation of the Paper Thin cymbal. Krupa then helped to promote the use of special-purpose cymbals. This guidance and these innovations had a big impact on the Zildjian Company and aided American acceptance of the company's products.
Many other Zildjian innovations were born from Avedis' collaborations with drummers such as the Splash, Ride, Crash and Sizzle cymbals. However, it was the HiHat, or Sock cymbal that helped change the character of American music by changing the way drummer's kept time. Before the HiHat, most drummer used press rolls on the snare drum or cowbells, woodblocks, and other percussion to move the beat along. The great collaborators of the HiHat were Chick Webb, Papa Jo Jones and later Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson.
AVEDIS - THE INNOVATOR
As demand for different types of cymbals grew, Avedis Zildjian responded with instruments which fit the music of the era. While many imitators sprung up, Zildjian led the way by offering different weight and size options, along with deeper cups and varying thicknesses. By the end of the 1930s, Paper Thin was the most popular weight because of its brightness and quick decay.
But in the 1940s, music saw a shift from large orchestras to smaller jazz combos, leading to new styles of drumming. Smaller rooms required smaller bands which forced drummers in quintets, quartets and trios to do more on the drumset. This music began to adapt as well and drummers became liberated from having to play a certain way. Zildjian continued to adapt its product to accomodate the new style, responding with larger cymbals called Bounces or Rides.
By 1950, Zildjian was employing 15 workers and outputting close to 70,000 cymbals a year. The growing popularity of "modern jazz" aided in the bump as drums began to take steps forward on its own and drummers expanded their sound palettes. Experimentation with cymbals led to new sounds. Smaller top HiHats over a larger bottom and Ride cymbals with nails in them, known as Sizzle cymbals emerged through artists like Max Roach, Shelly Manne and Louie Bellson.
Meanwhile, a new sound and style of music was beginning to emerge: Rock & Roll. This hybrid of musical styles inspired by R&B, Country, Gospel and the Blues marked a new period in cymbal design for Avedis Zildjian. Like the previous decades of musical evolution, the Zildjian business was built on evolving the product line to match the music of the period. The louder music of Rock & Roll demanded cymbals that could be heard over heavily amplified guitars and vocals, so Zildjian responded by developing medium and medium-heavy weighted cymbals with deeper cups to cut through the roar with defined clarity. By the late 1960s, Rock cymbals and New Beat HiHats became avaialbe to drummers looking for a bigger sound.
AVEDIS - THE LEGACY
The Zildjian Company, along with music the of 60s and 70s continued to grow and prosper. Avedis Zildjian III remained involved in the day-to-day running of the company until he died in 1979 at the age of 90. Three years prior, Avedis officially named his oldest son, Armand as President, marking the 12th generation Zildjian at the helm of this legendary cymbal making business. "I learned alot from my father," said Armand Zildjian. "He was a very decisive and astute businessman and a born leader. Yet he was also a very modest man with a warm side. He loved telling stories about his experiences and talking about how much the world had changed since he was a boy living in Constantinople. He was a powerful presence, but that's what it took to put cymbals where they are today."
The percussion industry has changed a great deal since Avedis Zildjian began making cymbals in 1929. But his countless innovations and pioneering production techniques earned him an indisputable place as one of the most influential musical instrument manufacturers of the 20th century. His unflagging passion for his craft helped forever alter modern music as we know it.
Today, we honor Avedis Zildjian III with this special collection of cymbals that were inspired by the sound and feel that Avedis created. However, the real tribute to Avedis Zildjian's life and innovations can be heard on the countless popular albums and songs that have influenced generations.