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Bongos were already popular with Latin music,





however their popularity began to increase when the beatnik era came along. You could now find bongos in a smoke filled coffee house, on TV and in the movies.
 








 
Their popularity continued to increase over the years. It was now cool to play bongos.








 
Who can forget Lalo Schifrins famous theme song from the TV hit series Mission Impossible. There were albums with instructions how to play bongos.








There were actors and actresses playing bongos in movies including Say One For Me with Robert Wagner, Bell Book and Candle with Jack Lemmon and A Hole In the Head with Carolyn Jones. Valje bongos attracted many players including Jack Costanzo, Preston Epps and The Bongo Wolf (William Donald Ggollman). Lalo Schifrin also used his incredible talent to produce some amazing Latin music utilizing bongos and congas. His talent included many TV theme songs as well as movie scores.


In the 1950’s Tom Flores decided to make bongos because he believed at the time the market had little to offer. Non-tunable bongos used large tacks in order to secure the skins to the drum. Tom felt the tacks used were distractive and unappealing to the eye. He believed he could create non-tunable bongos with a professional look.

He realized these bongos were nice to look at. Unfortunately the combination of wing-nuts and thin metal offered very little tunablity. They were not practical for dedicated musicians. Tom wanted to offer professional musicians something far superior.
These non-tunable bongos were his first design. The sharp edge at the top of the shell was designed to simulate a metal ring. He placed a thin metal strap near the top of the shell in order to disguise multiple tacks need to secure the skins. He also placed a second strap near the bottom of the shell so the two straps would compliment one another. Tom created groves in the shell to cradle the metal straps. This allowed a sung fit so the straps could be held in place with one very small screw. This eliminated the need for multiple screws attempting to hold the straps in place. The screws were positioned where the two bongos meet one another. His design eliminated the appearance of any distractive tacks or screws. He also developed his own technique for mounting skins. The final results of his design produced nice sounding tack-head bongos with a professional look.
Always thinking of new concepts he developed these bongos with an extreme curve at the top. He called them comfort curve. There are comfort curve drums on the market today and it sounds like a new creative idea although Tom Flores already developed this concept in the 1950’s.
These drums were his first attempt with tunable bongos however they were quickly dismissed. He was not pleased with the results.
He soon developed this set. The sound was great. They were lightweight yet durable. He was still not satisfied. He believed the hooks made the drums look cheap.


He then designed the classic Valje hook which wrapped all the way around. By changing the hooks these became his famous standard Valje bongos. They were 6 ½ “x 8” made of black walnut and 6” long. Finally pleased he could now devote his time creating something different.
He also made this model with a ½” bottom band rather than his standard ¾”. They were designed for musicians who preferred thinner skins.


He then created these hookless bongos. He called them comfort fit because there were no hooks digging into the players legs. They were stream lined, lightweight, durable and had a great sound.
He then produced this model called deluxe bongos. They were 7 ½” x 8 ½” black walnut or red oak approximately 6 ¾ inches long. The metal hardware was thicker which allowed greater tuning for thicker skins.


In order to offer the players something different Tom produced these concert bongos. They were 7”x 8”made of red oak and 8 inches long. This allowed more projection with a deeper tone. Sometimes red, black or green paint was used inside the oak bongos.



Tom Flores had no desire in making congas. Just before the Mambo and Cha Cha became popular the players began to try and convince him to make Valje congas. They believed if he could make bongos this well imagine what he could do with congas. Tom was reluctant at first however the players were persistent and said to him “if you make them we will buy them”. They were well aware of his talent and creativity. They knew he would not stop until he made the best. Tom Flores finally gave in and began to design and create congas with the same determination and comment as his legendary Valje bongos. The drums must have a distinctive look an incredible sound and must be made to last. When the players had a chance to see and hear Valje congas for the first time they were not disappointed. They began to place their orders. If they could not afford to buy a full set they would purchase one Valje at a time and mix it with their existing set of drums. Some times only one or two were available for purchase due to the fact they sold rather quickly. With increasing popularity of the Mambo, Cha Cha and Latin jazz the popularity of Valje continued to grow.