Charlie Watts now playing a flat ride donated by T Bruce Wittet?

Charlie Watts' cracked UFIP ride replaced by T Bruce Wittet's ride/Zildjian replicas

UFIP/Pro Cussion 18" flat ride, my cymbal goes to Zildjian then off to Charlie Watts

October 26, 2012: That’s exactly what may go down on the next Rolling Stones tour.Why me? Long story short, Charlie’s go-to is an ancient 18” UFIP Flat Ride made in Italy back in the day—possibly the late 1960s. The cymbal is made from B8 bronze alloy (92% copper and 8% tin). Story goes that Charlie and his roadie, the late “Chuch”, found it on the cheap—in a garbage pale or bin behind a store in Paris. Talk about one man’s trash is another’s treasure. Not that UFIP makes throwaways. But, truth be told, the Italian flat ride in B8 was a budget cymbal.

Charlie’s flat ride is sort of the opposite of what most Internet forum drummers seek. There’s no trash component, nothing particularly exotic in terms of overtones or timbre; and the lathing and hammering is emphatically modest. The important thing aside from the feel under Charlie’s stick is that the cymbal operates in a frequency window that is available to him in The Rolling Stones, meaning it cuts by virtue of pitch/tone rather than volume. It’s the perfect cymbal for Mr Watts. There’s one problem, however.

His old UFIP flat ride cracked.

And I own a rare, mirror image cymbal.

Why my cymbal? New York Stories

I promised it to Charlie over a decade ago when I interviewed him in his New York apartment suite, on assignment from Modern Drummer magazine. The occasion was the release of the Watts-Keltner Project, a rare spasm of electronica issuing from a duo known more for acoustic instruments.

Last weekend I caught the Montreal Drum Fest. My gig as journalist was covering backstage action. On the first day of the festival I was greeted in the artist lounge by Zildjian artist relations head, and longtime friend of Charlie’s, John DeChristopher. I’ve known John a good many years. We’ve traded stories at dinner many times at winter NAMM.

Bruce, I was just thinking about you. A few hours ago Charlie’s drum tech contacted me. Last night Charlie cracked that old 18” UFIP flat ride. I remember you had some inside knowledge about that cymbal. We’re about to create an 18” replica for Charlie—get as close as we can to his ride. But Charlie is hanging onto his and we’ve got nothing solid to go on. Charlie’s drum tech is going to get back to me with the exact weight and other specs but it’d sure be nice to have another UFIP flat in front of us to evaluate.”

That’s no problem,” I replied with a smile. “It’s the same one he’s had along, right? The B8? Yeah, I’m still holding onto it but I’ve all but given up the notion of getting it to him.”

I remember Charlie being amazed that I owned the same 18” UFIP B8 flat ride…except that mine was silk-screened Pro Cussion, the name of the American distributor back in the day. Thus, aside from mine being a stencil brand, it was, in fact, identical to Charlie’s. I told him the cymbal was his. And, in return, he promised to send me music. For the life of me I can’t remember artists or titles but I know it was jazz.

This was a fair trade. I’d paid under $5.00 US for mine, which was a music retailer garage sale item.

A replica next week!

John DeChristopher was elated. He gave me Zildjian’s Fed Ex account number and I readied the cymbal for delivery. This included inscribing a greeting on the underside with a Sharpie, in indelible reminder of our pact (whatever the terms were!). Zildjian agreed to forward my flat ride to Charlie in the same package as the replicas.

Zildjian knew they’d have to act quickly. A cracked B8 waits for no one. And the company was in the midst of making cymbals to show at PASIC, two weeks hence. To help Charlie, they’d need to produce “Watts replicas” in that slender time frame or get bogged down in PASIC trade.

My cymbal is in the capable hands of Paul Francis. With all respect to Paul, I kind of hope Charlie decides to use mine on tour although I’m sure the replicas will be spot-on.

It’d be nice to make good on my pledge. And it’d be thrilling to see/hear Charlie use it with The Rolling Stones.

Maybe I don’t get out enough….