The Gon Bops legend began in early 1950's California. During that era, Mariano Bobadilla and Tom Flores were the most highly regarded conga builders in the percussion industry. Tom founded Valje Drums and crafted some of the most sought after Afro-Cuban instruments in the US, while Mariano founded Gon Bops, one of the oldest and most respected manufacturers of Latin instruments in the world.
Flores concentrated on small, handcrafted wooden stave selection, and moved his design away from the original Cuban shape of the instrument. He focused heavily on air drying the drum staves and scoring the interior to prevent cracking and allow flexibility. He was certainly at the forefront of the industry and his drums were quickly in demand by the best players in the world.
Bobadilla’s designs remained true to the classic Cuban shape. He was an innovator in the development of the drum hardware, and designed the first teardrop crown with rounded counter hoop, developed to protect the players’ hands. Other Gon Bops innovations were Taroles (wooden timbales), the first pre-mounted replacement heads for congas, chromatic tuned cowbells and numerous stands, adapters and other hardware.
In the early 1980's Flores sold the Valje name and shop to Haight Ashbury Music of San Francisco. Akbar Moghaddam, a drum repair tech at Haight Ashbury Music, moved to LA to learn how to make the drums directly from Tom. Within a year the entire operation was moved to San Francisco, where the second generation of Valje drums went into production. The drums were still built from Red Oak, the scoring of the staves continued, and the hardware remained the same.
Unfortunately, 2 years later a massive fire destroyed the Valje shop and its entire inventory of drums. As a result, Akbar launched his own Sol Percussion brand and continued building his highly-in-demand drums in San Francisco.
At the same time, Mariano Bobadilla was struggling financially with Gon Bops. He insisted on building all his drums in the USA. As a result, Gon Bops found it difficult to remain competitive with brands that shipped production overseas, and was finally forced to close its doors.
In 2001 Don Lombardi of DW Drums bought the Gon Bops brand. Don knew Bobadilla well, and often sought him out for R&D advice. To run his new acquisition, he brought Akbar from Sol Percussion to head-up Gon Bops.
Like the master builders before him, Akbar's overriding passion was the quality of the sound, and it is the sound of his drums that defines Gon Bops’ legend and reputation. It is a sound steeped in tradition, the result of all-wood construction of his congas and bongos and a no-compromise approach to raw materials and craftsmanship.
In 2010, Cymbal Maker Sabian, Inc. announced that it had purchased the inventory, intellectual property, patents and manufacturing equipment of Gon Bops from Drum Workshop, Inc.
"We're excited to begin a new chapter in Sabian and Gon Bops history," noted Andy Zildjian. "Gon Bops instruments are a perfect blend of vintage craftsmanship and innovative thinking. Since its founding in 1954, the company has pioneered several features and improvements that have forever changed Latin instruments. We are excited about not only expanding distribution, but continuing to focus on ground-breaking designs that represent clear improvements in meeting the needs of musicians. The pursuit of the best sound is what our craftsmen work for every day. We know the fit is perfect, above all, because sound matters.