Drumsmiths Vol. 1: George Way – Drums from way back whenZack Albetta
By Zack Albetta
George Way drums are built in Delta, Canada by Ronn Dunnett, who acquired the company name in 2008 and put it under the umbrella of his existing Dunnett brand. George Way was a drummer, drum builder, and inventor who was responsible for many innovations over his 50 years in the drum industry. Already famous for metal drums and steam-bent “mono-ply” wood drums, Dunnett is venturing into ply drums with the George Way line.
The George Way branch of Dunnett’s business is dominated by snare drums, all bearing the classic aesthetic of deep shells with eight double-ended lugs. Dunnett points out that the advent of ten-lug snares had more to do with marketing than with sound. “Six-lug drums and eight-lug drums sounded really good, and they went with 10 lugs because with two more lugs on it, now it’s the ‘pro model.’” George Way snare models, many named in homage to various points of interest in Way’s career, run the gamut of metal and wood—brass, bronze, steel, aluminum, maple, birch, cherry, rosewood and walnut.
He has recently released the first complete drumsets under the George Way name, “The Tuxedo Outfit”, his version of the Club Date kit. Originally coined by Ludwig, the term “Club Date” has come to refer generally to drums with one row of double-ended lugs around the middle of the shell.
Dunnett’s aesthetic philosophy is a blend of old and new. “There is certain technology I wanted to apply to solve some of the weaknesses [of the old vintage drums]. But at the same time, I really wanted to preserve the design aesthetic and how things looked. I wanted people to say ‘is this the new George Way or the old George Way?’”
Rather than attempt to define a signature sound in the drums he builds, Dunnett strives only for a high level of sound quality and character. He believes in the idea that each drum has a soul, and that no two, even two of the same size and model, can sound exactly alike. “Whatever makes that drum sound good to that person on that particular day is the essence of what a drum is. The idea of ‘this sound is defined by who made it and how many plies they used’…I don’t know if that’s true.” If Dunnett can imagine a drum he has built sounding good in a certain musical context, he sells it. If not, it doesn’t leave the shop (unless he takes his name off it and gives it away, promising to deny he ever built it). He’d rather put out fewer drums, knowing he can stand behind every single one. “Whatever I do, I think, ‘What would George think of this?’ and I let that be my guide. I think he would have been really happy to see his name carried on in a way people like and respect.”
View the full line of George Way drums and read the complete history here.