The Beatles’ drop-T logo

Although it was never shown on The Beatles' original UK albums, The Beatles' famous 'drop-T' logo was a familiar sight throughout the group's early years.

It adorned Ringo Starr's drum kit from 1963, has since endured as The Beatles' official marque, and was registered as a trademark by Apple Corps in the 1990s. But how did it come about?

The Beatles' Drop-T logo, number oneIvor Arbiter was born in Balham, south London, in 1929. He repaired saxophones, worked as a part time drummer, and in the late 1950s opened the specialist music shop Drum City on Shaftesbury Avenue. It was the first drums-only store in London.

The store, modelled on the US idea of an outlet just for drums, became a popular destination for jazz drummers. He also opened Sound City, a guitar shop where The Beatles bought much of their equipment from 1963.

The drop-T logo came about almost by accident. In April 1963 Ringo and Brian Epstein entered Drum City to find a replacement for Starr's Premier kit.

I had a phone call from the shop to say that someone called Brian Epstein was there with a drummer. Here was this drummer, Ringo, Schmingo, whatever his name was. At that time I certainly hadn't heard of the Beatles. Every band was going to be big in those days!
Ivor Arbiter

At first they asked for an all-black kit, but Ringo changed his mind after seeing a swatch of Ludwig's new oyster black pearl finish on Arbiter's desk. When told that it was only available on Ludwig drums, his mind was made up. "That's what I want," he told Arbiter, who fortunately had a £238 Ludwig Downbeat kit with the finish in stock.

Epstein didn't want to pay for the drums, but Arbiter refused to let him have them for nothing. They negotiated, and eventually Arbiter agreed to trade the drums in return for his battered old Premier kit.

Arbiter told Epstein he wanted Ludwig's name to appear on the bass drum head, as he'd recently begun a distribution deal with the company. Epstein agreed, but asked for The Beatles' name on it too.

On the spot Arbiter designed the famous drop-T logo, hastily sketched onto a scrap of paper. The capital B and dropped T were to emphasise the word 'beat'. Drum City was paid £5 for arranging the artwork, which was painted onto the drum head by Eddie Stokes, a local sign writer.

On Sunday 12 May 1963 Ringo took delivery of his new Ludwig kit. The drums, along with new Paiste cymbals, were driven up by Drum City's Gerry Evans, who delivered them to the Alpha Television Studios in Birmingham, where The Beatles were appearing on Thank Your Lucky Stars.

The kit had a 20 inch bass drum, 12x8 tom-tom, 14x14 floor tom, and a non-standard Ludwig Jazz Festival wooden snare.

I took his old Premier drum kit from him and brought it back to the store. We renovated it in our workshop, and then sold it. I ripped off the bit of material from the bass drum head where he'd handwritten the Beatles' name and threw it away. It was a terrible drum kit. It wasn't old: he'd only had it six months or a year. But it was a brown finish, one of the worst finishes that Premier ever did... I don't know why he got it in the first place, really. No wonder he wanted to change it. Anyway, we cleaned it up and sold it off the same week - and very, very cheaply. It would most likely be a collector's item if we still had it today.
Gerry Evans
Beatles Gear, Andy Babiuk

By the end of 1963 the Ludwig sticker on the bass head was flaking away from all the carrying from show to show. It was taken back to Drum City, where Stokes repainted the Ludwig logo, slightly larger than before.

This original drum head was last seen in public at The Beatles' run of appearances at Paris' Olympia Theatre, which ended on 4 February 1964. Ringo Starr is rumoured to still own the original drum head, along with the Ludwig kit.

28 responses on “The Beatles’ drop-T logo

  1. brian

    Previously I would have guessed that Ringo or The Beatles as a whole came up with the “drop T” idea. Its was certainly a big improvement on the previous drumskin that had beetle bug antennas (antennae?) on top of the letter B.

  2. Kevin Michael

    In the days of Jesus, the cross used to crucify people was actually a ‘T’ shape, just like the T in the BeaTles’ logo. I wonder – is that part of the reasom for their success? Maybe the Fab Four are Our Lord’s chosen band! I wonder if Brian Epstein was a Christian at heart, and used this as a subconscious marketing ploy….

    1. mr. Sun king coming together

      Epstein was Jewish. It’s meaningless. Religion and the Beatles are linked enough without crazy theories. What next, Jesus sent codes in certain vinyls to tell the truth of Paul’s death? Religion and the Beatles mixed rarely, but not here

      1. Edgar Anciano

        Religion was a part of the Beatles growing up years. it was clear that they knew who God was , as evidence we can listen thru there music. But just because of christians brothers who persecute & judge them. they stumble in believing in jesus. John Lennon knew about this, that’s why he wrote “Imagine there’s no religion” & the religious people attack him again. they are stumbling block to John.
        Cause religion can not save us. But only a personal relationship with Jesus !!

    2. Bruno Madsen

      “Our Lord’s chosen band”? Thanks Kevin, I haven’t laughed so hard in quite a while… I think we can safely credit the Beatles themselves for their massive success – with a little help from their friends.

  3. Dave Golding

    I was the Manager/Drum Repairer at Drum City throughout this period and was actually involved in the whole business of supplying the kit, fitting the Spurs and the Rogers ‘Swivomatic’ Tom tom fitting (at a later date with Mel Evans) and arranging for Eddie Stokes to paint the ‘Beatles’ logo on the head, and to selling Ringo’s now Second Hand kit in store.

  4. stuartgardner

    I’ve always admired the use of the logo in the Anthology openings. The notion of The Beatles dwarfing the four men into virtual insignificance beneath an incomprehensible weight threatening to crush them is as neat a thumbnail of their epic as we could have, and the beautifully smooth animation communicates that idea perfectly.
    Thanks for an interesting read.

  5. Julien Clapperton

    Wow !!! Dave Golding on here. that is very good..
    your business card is still tucked inside one of Ringos toms, discovered during the peace and love exhibition of Ringos Ed Sullivan kit.
    Is Eddie Stokes still alive ?

  6. patsie

    I worked for Ivor Arbiter and his two brothers in the 60’s in their offices in Gerrard Street….they were wonderful to work for and I miss them and the swinging sixties still.

  7. Allen Higginbotham

    The REAL truth is that Erwin Ross Invented the 1st Beatles drop `T´Logo back in 1960 for the Beatles in Hamburg, way before Ivor Arbiter! there is a photo to prove that.Ross was a wellknown painter that did the Posters for the beatles concerts in Hamburg Germany before they ever went to London in 1963. Ross is known also for his Paintings of sexy girls on the Reaperbahn in Hamburg where the Beatles `grew up according to John Lennon

  8. Rasmus Bertil Høyer

    Would anyone of you who used to work for Ivor Arbiter back then in the 60’s remember something about him owning a metallic blue Jaguar E-type?

    I have such a car, and on the Green logbook it shows that the first owner was J&I Arbiter Ltd. London W1.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    Regards Ras

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