Hayman Drums started production in late 1968 when drum entrepreneur, Ivor Arbiter struck a deal with long standing drum makers, John E. Dallas & Sons, to take over their historic Carlton line of drums.
Dallas was established in London in 1875 and by the 1920’s they were selling drums actually made by Premier under the Jedson brand. Carlton Drums were launched in November 1935 and by the 1950’s the three kit lines produced were the top line Carlton range, the semi-pro President drums and the entry level Gigsters as well as the Gaelic marching drums.
By the late 60’s, Carlton Drums were suffering from a perception of being a “dance-band” kit and according to Ivor Arbiter were “losing a fortune”. Ivor no longer had the UK Ludwig dealership rights and wanted to turn the Carlton factory into a modern drum making facility and manufacture British drums similar to the older Ludwigs.
Arbiter had learned a great deal from his experiences importing and marketing Trixon and Ludwig drums in 1960’s and wanted to produce a British drum that sounded as good as the American kits of the time. His first experiment was with shell linings and discussed the idea with Paiste cymbals and even came up with a prototype kit lined with brass. However, by his own admission, they sounded awful and realised that all they needed was a hard lining to coat the inside of the shell.
One of the Carlton employees, a shell maker called George Haymon developed the “Vibrasonic” lining – five coats of polyurethane, far superior to Ludwig’s white “Resocote” and came about to improve the resonance and projection of the drums. At the time, George Haymon had been with Carlton since the early days and Ivor thought he had a great name, almost like an American drum teacher and built up a great mystique about Mr Haymon, early publicity even credited George as being the developer of the drums themselves! What Ivor actually did to get the drums right was to enlist the talents of Gerry Waller, formerly at Premier and Gerry Evans who eventually was instrumental in the success story that is Pearl Drums.
The round, turret lugs were inspired by the distinctive look of the George Way kits (later Camco Drums) of the 50’s and early 60’s although few in the UK were familiar with George Way’s drum kits. Additionally, they were a lot easier to make and were originally made by hand, later lugs were cast and were considerably lighter. The shells were thin 3 ply mahogany with reinforcement rings in the early days before changing to birch shells, both sprayed with the unblemished “Vibrasonic” lining. Hayman produced a range of hardware including the infamous tom holders, whilst great works of engineering and extremely strong, they were not hugely popular and were often replaced by Premier or Ludwig mounts.
The original kits were ready in April 1968 and the first were delivered to stores the following September. They were marketed as “George Hayman” with the round, brass badges and bass drum logo heads sporting this legend. This was later shortened to Hayman, almost certainly in keeping with the swinging 60’s feel! The drums were officially launched in February 1969 and exhibited at the London trade show in August 1969. The first test of Hayman’s projection qualities was successfully completed when Alf Bigden performed at Caesar’s Palace in Luton, a 1500 seat theatre, backing Shirley Bassey, playing an un-mic’d Hayman kit.
Hayman Drums took the drum market by storm, with their fresh, modern look and attracted a number of high profile endorsers in a short time. Jazz players Tony Oxley, Phil Seamen, Ronnie Stephenson, Ron Bowden, Johnny Richardson and “Animal” himself; Ronnie Verrell played Hayman and from the rock fraternity: Jon Hiseman, John Marshall, Mitch Mitchell, Nico McBrain, Simon Kirke, Brian “Blinky” Davidson, Richard Bailey, Rob Townsend and Aynsley Dunbar all played Hayman and the legendary John Bonham took delivery of a midnight blue Hayman kit in the late 60’s.
Sadly, the Arbiter/Dallas relationship did not last and shortly after Ivor left to develop the Arbiter Autotune range, production abruptly ceased in 1975. Lou Dias of Supreme Drums in London took the last of the kits along with much of the hardware inventory left at the factory and provided an invaluable source of spares for Hayman aficionados, both old and new for many years. The Hayman brand was relaunched in 1985 by Ivor and his son, John, utilising generic Taiwanese shells with the old Hayman lugs, but this reincarnation was short lived and Arbiter eventually went on to introduce the Arbiter ATS system drums.