Monday, May 5, 2014


I've decided to do some limited drumming over the next year, most recording with my friend Billy Ray and who knows what else. Usually, several times a year, someone from one of the many bands I used to play with will email about doing a sit-in gig with their band. There are more than one band I played with more than 25 years ago that are still going, and many more musicians who are grouped with other musicians that I played with over the years. For the most part, the Houston blues and original music folks I played with, as well as many of the cover band people, were so friendly and genuine that they got along really well. There were really some virtuoso talents there and in Austin, where I also have done quite a bit of playing over the years.

Back then in the 1980's, one of the kits I owned was a Tama Imperialstar kit. It wasn't their top of the line, sort of a mid-line kit. To this day I don't even know what the shells were made of, but they had a grey flecked paint on the inside, but different looking than great. It was a textured sort of look, as I recall.

I came into the Tama drums by accident. At the old and long defunct The Drum Shop on West Alabama in Houston, around 1984, I was in there one day buying a cymbal and they had an orphan set of Tama Imperialstar toms in sort of a white finish. I got them for a good price, and started using them with a Ludwig bass and floor tom for a Frankenstein kit. Ultimately, I got some matching Tama bass, snare and floor toms and had a pretty large Imperialstar kit. A lot of drummers were playing them in the 80's, and the drummer that most comes to mind was Stewart Copeland of The Police.

I've decided to pick up a couple of Imperialstar toms to build an inexpensive Bop kit for hauling around. I do like the sound of the old Imperialstar line, if for no other reason that I played a set for five or six years and must have come to like the sound. But I recall lots of compliments on how they sounded on gigs back then, particularly on gigs where they were not mic'd up for the PA system.

I plan to do some instrumental trio and quartet playing, doing all kinds of music I've not played much of in the last 35 years. In high school and early in college, I played in various jazz bands and combos. But I have not really done much of that kind of drumming and I think I'd like to branch out into something different for a while now.

A bop kit is more or less a smaller drum set, usually a 4 piece kit plus cymbals. The bass drums are small, being 18" standardly, with  often a 12" tom tom and a 14" floor tom. I don't know if the bop kit came about due to transportation issues in the Northeast part of the country or if its is sound better suited to smaller venues where jazz is often performed.

By contrast and long used labels, a jazz kit usually has a 20" bass drum with the same 12" and 14" toms. Both kits would use a (usually) smaller 14" snare. A rock kit usually has a 22" or larger (24", 26" and occasionally 28" as with Abe Laboriel Jr.)

So I want a lower volume kit that won't take up as much space in the car compared to a larger kit. 

I've got less than $40 into this deal for some drums in great condition with new heads of the style I use. An 18" bass drum, and it might be another brand, will be the next step. It might not be an Tama, but another brand. Depends on what kind of bargain on what I deem to be a bass drum that I can make sound good with the proper heads and tuning.

The good thing is, both the toms are black, which would go with many other kinds of finishes. Black is a common finish among the many makers and I've seen some good candidates in a preliminary look around on Ebay.

Ebay here I come.

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