When the guys at NSMD magazine heard about the restoration of my 3 Top Hat sets they requested an article about the whole process. This is the kind of things that vintage drum fans (like me) go crazy about. The article just came out. It was fun to write. I found myself in awe of the photos. These drums are over 70 years old and they’re gleaming the the day they left the factory. There’s some great history behind these old Top Hat sets. and some great historic photos.
Here’s a link to the article in Not So Modern Drummer Magazine.
The Ludwig and Ludwig 1940s Top Hat and Cane “Swing Sensation” model drum set is considered by most collectors to be the most sought after of all vintage drum sets. They were made for a very short period in the early to mid 1940s. It was the absolute top of the line in the entire drum industry at the time. It was the best money could buy. The exclusive Top Hat and Cane graphic added an additional touch that propelled the set to an even higher level of excellence and established this set’s legacy as the holy grail of all vintage drums. Very few were ever made and only about 15 of these sets are known to still exist.
I have had the un-common good luck to have owned 6 of these sets. I still have 3 of them. Over the last few years I have been doing complete and thorough restorations of each of the 3 sets. For the most part all of the drums were in great condition to begin with but I decided that these extraordinary sets deserved to be restored as close as possible to their original glory. It took about 3 years of tracking down parts, having parts made, shipping parts around the country to be polished and then just a lot of waiting. It was a huge project. Keeping track of so many identical parts coming and going all over the country tested the limits of my organizational skills. Here’s a few photos of the completed sets and some of the drums in progress. All 3 sets are currently for sale and on the “Donn’s Drum Vault” section of this website. You’ll see full descriptions and lot’s more photos. It was a huge amount of work but I’m so happy with the final result. Major kudos to all of the highly skilled drum craftsmen that helped me with this project.
My intention is to sell 2 of these sets. Whichever set remains I will keep in my permanent collection. Enjoy the photos feel free to comment. Please let me know what you think.
Ringo Starr Video Shoot 3/19
Ringo Starr is getting ready to go on tour with another Ringo Starr’s All Starr band. They’re coming to Seattle in July. I will definitely be there. His shows are always a blast. He was doing a video shoot yesterday up in the Hollywood hills. Here’s a shot of his drum kit. He has a new set of Ludwigs currently being made for the tour. I can’t tell you what the finish is other than it’s not a color I would expect from Ringo. I’ll put up a photo as soon as I get the OK.
My week started out looking like the most exciting thing I’d be doing this week was holing up in my office posting cymbals on my website. Monday afternoon I get a call from the legendary Simon Phillips. He says he’ll be in town tomorrow with Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi. He’s renting a kit for the show but the back line company doesn’t have any octal-bons. He want’s to know if I can find him some by the next day. I don’t have any or know anyone who does. This is where knowing virtually every drummer in the northwest comes in handy. After a few calls, texts and Facebook posts I have octa-bons coming out of my ears. My old friend Jeff Mills has a set and agrees to bring them down to the club. Simon hooks him up with some tickets and everybody’s happy.
About an hour later I get a call from Steve Smith. He tells me he’s coming to town with the Masters of Percussion with Zakir Hussain for a show at the Moore Theater on Thursday night. He says he’ll be coming in Wednesday and is planning on going to see Simon and Hiromi so we all arrange to meet up at Jazz Alley. Steve shares the Hiromi gig with Simon. If you’ve never seen Hiromi she is an amazing jazz piano player. Her music is very complex and the drum parts are nearly impossible. She always chooses the very best drummers and gives them plenty of room to move.
I was extremely fortunate to be able to watch Simon Phillips, one of the greatest drummers in the world, while sitting next to Steve Smith, another world great. Steve patiently coached me along explaining the complex time signatures and arrangements as they played. Not a bad wednesday night.
I hope to see Steve with the Masters of Percussion tonight. I have a rehearsal with my band but the second we finish I’m heading for the Moore to catch as much of the show as I can. Hopefully I’ll have some more news and pics to post tomorrow. Until then…
Ive been working on a major restoration of a Top Hat and Cane set for nearly a year now. When I got the set it was basically in pretty good shape but was definitely show signs of its 70+ years. The shells were grimy, the nickel hardware had lost all of it’s shine, a few pieces were missing and some new tom mounts had been put on the toms. Probably because this set is such an historic, iconic, beautiful and valuable set I got very inspired to really bring this set back to it’s original majestic condition. If you’ve ever seen a Top Hat and Cane set you’ll know what I mean. I was also inspired by the stories and photos I received about the original owner. I’ve been tracking down all of the missing parts and sending parts all over the country for polishing and restoring. If you look closely at the nickel hardware on the 11″ tom you’ll see it’s considerably shinier than the rest of the set. I had the hardware on the 11″ buffed with a buffing wheel. The rest was done by hand. Once I saw how much shinier the hardware done on a wheel was I broke down, stripped the remaining hardware off and sent it to be machine buffed. I will be writing an article for NSMD magazine detailing the entire restoration process as soon as it’s done. I’ll keep updating as things progress. With any luck it should all be done in about a month. Until then, here’s a few photos of the set in progress.
I saw Ginger Baker at Jazz Alley in Seattle last night with his band Jazz Confusion. A pretty amazing experience. It was a great show. I’m going to try to get back there tonight.
Ginger Baker is pretty grumpy. I had the good fortune to meet him before the show. He was so cranky it was endearing. I think it’s partly genuine crankiness and partly his very dry, dark english sense of humor. Half way through the emcee’s introduction Ginger barked at him in the mic “get off!!”, motioned abruptly, pointing the emcee off stage and just started playing. When he came back for an encore he said “you just want to see me die”. It was pretty funny but judging by his wheezing voice it was not entirely out of the question. He was like a cranky old grandpa who didn’t want to get off the couch after Thanksgiving dinner.
nd I agree with him 100%. Charlie Watts told me that in his opinion Ginger is the best rock drummer ever. I now understand what Charlie meant. There is actually a great similarity in the way Ginger and Charlie play the drums. Charlie is obviously much more restrained but both have this very stiff yet aloof, explorative approach (sorry that’s the best way I can describe it) that really knocks me out. They both come from very similar musical backgrounds. It makes sense.
Daniel Glass stopped by the shop yesterday. He was on his way to a gig with the Royal Crown Review swing band up in Bellingham. Daniel recently had a pretty major operation on his bass drum foot. He won’t be able to use it for several weeks. Not enough to stop a pro like Daniel. He’s rigged up his kit to play the kick drum with his other foot. All those years of coordination exercises pay off once again!! Daniel will be at the shop today for a clinic at 2:00 PM. It’s only $5.00. There’s still room. Come on down and see what this amazing drummer does. There’s a bunch of give aways from DW, Crescent cymbals, Evans and more. See you there!
Some of the greatest experiences and relationships in my professional life have revolved around the huge collection of Elvin’s Jones’s drum gear that I was so fortunate to acquire shortly after he passed. I’ve met so many people via these drums. My life would have turned out much differently had these drums never found there way into my life. The Time capsules article is below. Most of the collection is still available in Donn’s Drum Vault . ELVIN JONES DRUM COLLECTION .
Here’s the DRUM! Magazine Time Capsules article about Peter Criss’ Love Gun snare. I heard from lots of KISS fans after this article came out. Peter Criss inspired a whole generation of young drummers. I heard so many stories that went something like “I saw Peter play that drum with KISS back in 1977 and I decided right there I was going to be a drummer” It reminded me of my own personal story. Just switch “Kenney Jones”,The Faces” and “1972″ and you’ve got the story about how I got started playing. I actually tracked Kenney Jones down in England and called him on the phone (way before email) We spent 10 or 15 minutes talking on a few separate calls. He was really nice particularly given the fact that with the time difference I was calling at around 11:00PM!! He told me he still had all of his old Faces Ludwig and Premier drumsets. Oh well …it gives me something to dream about. Enjoy!!
On September 15th Kenny Aronoff came to town to help the Seattle Seahawks set a new world record for the loudest stadium on the planet. Kenny is one of the most powerful drummers ever so it made perfect sense to bring him in to help crank up the volume at Century Link Field. Kenny and the Seahawks Blue Thunder drum line whipped Seattle fans into a frenzy above and beyond the already insane levels they’re famous for. Kenny is a HUGE Indiana Colts fan so he literally had to “”take one for the team” by wearing a Seahawks jersey for the show. I think the fact that his beloved Colts beat the Seahawks on last Sunday helped him recover. Here’s a few pics and some video from the game. That’s me you see in the background with the cell phone camera in the “Jack and Diane” video. Go Hawks!!
Kenny Aronoff will be back in Seattle to attempt another world record for the most drummers playing drumsets simultaneously at the WOODSTICK BIG BEAT 2013 on Sunday November 24th.
SINGLE CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE.
Here’s my Drum! Magazine Time Capsules column from May of 2013 about Stan Lynch’s custom Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers drum set.
One of the highlights of my job has been getting to know so many of my favorite drummers. Not only is it exciting just to meet the drummers I grew up idolizing but I’ve found out that the better I understand a drummer on a personal level, the better I understand them as a drummer. I suddenly have a whole new lens to “view” thier playing through. It helps me relate to thier music on a much deeper level. Stan Lynch is an extremely enthusiastic guy. He gets still very excited music. It’s so cool to listen to him gush like a teenage fan after seeing his first rock concert. He’s one of the greatest musical minds of our time. This guy is trully a musical genius. Besides the amazing drum parts he delivered on so many Tom Petty records he’s also an amazing record producer. Listen to any of Don Henley’s albums. There’s some real serious musical brainpower up there.
I also got to talk to my good friend Joe Hibbs about this set. He was the artist relations guy at Tama back in the 80s. He could tell you a few stories!! He’s a great guy and one of the most beloved guys in the industry. Enjoy the article. You can see more about this set in DONN’S DRUM VAULT. Enjoy!
I wrote a DRUM! Magazine Time Capsules article about this set back in August/2013. This set was near and dear to me. Michael’s tech Gary Clark used to come into the music store where I used to work in here in Bellevue, WA back in the early 80s. (Does anyone remember Bandstand East? It was on the corner of NE8th and 116th where Whole Foods is now). He was always rounding up bits of hardware for this set they were customizing for Michael. Michael used it in a clinic Bandstand East presented with Carmine Appice back in about 1982(?) I never saw the set again until a collector friend offered it to me many years later and I jumped on it. Sadly I just heard that Gary Clark died a couple weeks ago. What an enjoyable guy!!
You can see more about this kit in Donn’s Drum Vault.
Here’s my DRUM! Magazine Time Capsules article from July/2013. I acquired several drums from Steve about 15 years ago. This one was so cool I had to hang on to it for awhile. You can see this and lot’s more of the drums I’ve squirreled away in Donn’s Drum Vault
Here’s the article I wrote in DRUM! magazine last June about Hal Blaine’s legendary “Timbale Kit”. Man, if I could have been in the room when he was creating some of the greatest music of all time on this set! The set is currently on display at the shop. It’s also available in Donn’s Drum Vault
Our 11th annual Woodstick Big Beat is happening Sunday November 24th at the Emerald Queen Showroom in Tacoma. At Woodstick we attempt to set a new world record for drummers playing drum sets simultaneously while we raise money to support keeping music in our schools. Any drummer can participate. We have a great line up of guest artists and over $10,000.00 in prizes. For complete information and to register CLICK HERE.
I’m having a blast writing my monthly TIME CAPSULES article for DRUM! Magazine. Check out this one about Keith Moon’s DRB Special snare. You can see more about this drum on our website at: Keith Moon Snare
I’ve been having a blast writing my monthly Time Capsules column for DRUM! magazine. Every issue I write a story about one of the famous drums or sets in my collection. It comes out every month. My column is always on the very last page. Here’s the first one that came out back in the April 2013 issue. Here’s the first one I wrote. It’s about Joey Kramer’s last DW Aerosmith drum set. To see more about this set on our website CLICK HERE. More to come.
Check out this amazing Radio King set I just picked up. I traded a green sparkle Ludwig set to a pretty major record producer in LA for it. The set is a 24,12,13,16 with a matching Radio King snare. Original Slingerland RK calf heads all around. Very minor fading and a little pitting on the lugs. Otherwise near original condition. I just posted it to the Donn’s Drum Vault webpage on this site. Here’s the link.
I just added some new photos of this set to the website. I got this amazing set several years ago but never had any decent photos of it. I suppose a $29,000 drum set deserves better!! Way back in 1967 a cocktail waitress in a casino in Atlantic City told Buddy that “her son loved his music and had all his records”. Buddy’s response was “Oh yeah? You want those drums? Take ‘em”. They passed through a few collectors until I got them in 2007. Check out the Buddy Rich 1967 Fibes Drum Seti n action.
Here’s a link to the set on the website.