CongaDr+ Tony's Conga Adventures: Vintage Banded Valje Congas, very old set

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

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Vintage Banded Valje Congas, very old set

Now here is one vintage set of Valje Congas, to say the least. This is one of the first sets made by the legendary drum maker Tom Flores. 

In all the years Ive been working with these instruments, touching over 50 set of Valje Congas...

I have only personally seen one other Valje Conga that was older than this beautiful set, which must have been one of Tom's first oak creations.

Here is a very old set made of Mahogany.. and with the walnut one-off I saw.. it looks like he was experimenting with woods, finally choosing the quarter sawn Oak we know and love.

Who knows, the sound of this set may have influenced him to choose oak.. or perhaps the ease of working with the material, or its durability..

Its amazing to see his thought process through his art that remains with us today.

This reminds me of the memory his daughter told me, about the smell of saw dust in her fathers shop being one of the profound and durable memories she has of her famous father. That memory may have been entirely different, had he chose to work with walnut, or cherry..

Back in 2000, I took a quick snapshot of what I believe to be one of Tom's first drums, a walnut banded quinto with very distinct, but crudely welded Valje hardware not nearly as refigned as this set.

The hardware may have been crude, but it was all Tom Flores. It also had near diamond sideplates, if you can imagine the sideplate looking symmetrical, with the same pattern as seen on the lower half of the sideplates he eventually used, repeated on the top half, if you follow me.. Not an exact diamond, but distinctly similar to what Maestro Flores ended up using, as seen here.

I can see the design improvement in going from his original semi-diamond design, to this sideplate.

It was clearly Tom's first, if not nearly a first go at making a drum with hardware. I could easily see Tom's hand in that work, even back then. It had bands exactly like this drum.. this aluminum stock, as bit more wide in dimension than, say, gon bops bands..  It was all Valje, probably born before the name.

The old cat who had this, what may have been the original Valje quinto in Walnut, was out at Mosswood Park in Oakland. And by only asking "where did you get this?", he said he bought it from a guy named Tom in LA who made it in his garage...

That snapshot, I simply have to find.. it was taken on one of the first cellphone cameras, all jpged.. its on a crashed computer that needs to have its data extracted.. But I will try to eventually post that pic, as this is certainly Latin drum history going on here...

You can see in this set, that the crowns are not the same gauge, with the conga being a big thinner.. I bet all of his drums after this set had the thicker crowns, all following this old quinto on the left. 

Amazingly, this old Oak set even had the original hand made stands... Quite a find.