Born in Denver, Colorado in 1927 to Walter and Nellie Light. Walter learned very early to play percussion from his father, a professional musician. By age 8 he was performing marimba concerts before family and friends. He learned to play well, as his family members were his toughest critics since many of them were professional musicians as well. Walter's father (Walter E. Light) taught him the intricacies of playing every type of percussion instrument from his earliest years.
By the time he was in high school, an era when versatility meant making a living, he was able to play virtually any job available. He played dance bands, substituted with the Denver Symphony and even played snare drums for burlesque shows. At the ripe old age of 16, Walter joined the Denver Symphony in the permanent position as Percussionist, where his father also played as the Tympanist. In 1952, after the death of his father, he took over that Tympanist position and remained there for the next 27 years.
Deeply disappointed with the tympani available to him in the post-war period, Walter was most impressed when he discovered the Dresden Style Tympani built in Germany before World War II. He decided to build a set for his own use, taught himself how to machine parts and build casting patterns.
He even built some of his own machinery. Other players were so impressed that they asked him to build sets for them. From that point in 1950, American Drum Manufacturing Co. was born. Today our company builds world-class, custom-built tympani. In our first 50 years we have supplied instruments to some of the most prestigious organizations and individuals throughout North America and the world.
Walter J. Light was a delightful, likeable man of many talents. He always had new ideas to improve and update the product. He was a remarkable Tympanist who had perfect pitch, and never needed the use of a tuning indicator. He passed away in 1979, but the company is still owned and operated by family members.