I felt guilty when I took my birch/bubinga Starclassics on a 299-mile drive through the California desert one weekend to make a rehearsal with a brass band I play with. I packed everything up in their cases (solid black Humes & Berg Enduro cases) and got it all loaded in the back of my Ford F-150 pickup and hit the road for the four-hour haul to get out to Visalia. The day wasn't really hot, but when I finally got to my destination, my new Starclassics were cooked!
There was no physical damage, but I do know that heating wood and then cooling it off, if done too quickly and to the extreme will eventually make the wood go brittle and all kinds of bad things can happen. This is one of the reasons you buy a 'pro' drumset. As a stage technician/sound guy, I've set up drumsets on stages that were being built, and oddly enough, during the night all kinds of temperature changes happen. The regular day temperature just dropping 15 degrees as the sun goes down feels alot colder than it should. And then as the lighting guys get their stuff together, when they turn on their system, the stage temperature can rise to over a 100-degrees farenheit!
I know, you say, who's the idiot that would set-up a drum kit like that and leave it out in the elements? Well, contrary to popular belief, instruments that get rented for events aren't treated the best, This particular show I'm talking about was a Beach Boys concert and the backline amps and instruments (the drums) were all rented. When it arrived, I got to set up most of it, the afternoon before the show!
But back to my poor Starclassics, they handled the temperatures well, but I gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that I shouldn't abuse my new drums. At first I was searching for one of the many cheap shell packs of intermediate drums. And I was ready to pull the trigger on a budget kit when I found the kit above. It was originally just two rack toms (11x12, 12x13, 16x16 FT, and 16x22 bass drum) but I decided to stay in touch with my groovin' ways and I sold the 12x13 as soon as I got it. But the above kit is a Tama Granstar Custom from the late 80s. Like the earlier Tama Superstars, they are a heavy birch shell (designed to compete with Yamaha's all-birch Recording Custom line), with a lacquer finish (not a wrap). This one is in the very 80s lipstick red finish. The photo doesn't do it justice really, it's actually more pinkish than orange.
I remember seeing the Granstars and the Artstars back then and I fell in love with them, although I was playing a Yamaha Recording Custom kit then, and thought I was becoming a Yamaha player. But Tama's industrial design and those trapezoidial lugs I really dug. So when this kit showed up on eBay for $399 with free shipping, I pulled the trigger. They're a little beat up (the finish is nicked up on the bass drum, and I had to repair one of the hoops because some plies came loose from a crack), but now that it's up and running with new heads on it, this kit absolutely ROCKS. It does have a different sound from my beloved birch/bubinga drums, but not too different. I have the same type of heads on both kits so they roughly feel the same. Friends who have heard this kit are surprised how ringy and wide-open I have them tuned. They sound very jazzy despite the look.
I decided to get a new snare for it too, and after rummaging around at my local Sam Ash music store, the saleswoman there suggested I try this Tama 6.5x13 Artwood maple snare she just got in. I had never played a 13 snare before and I was amazed. It felt really good (not as hard as my 14 Stewart Copeland snare) and even when tuned down low, it retained it's upper-pitched punch. So I got it to go with this kit.
As a side note: I'm so excited about using 13" snares that I just ordered a Tama SLP 6.5x13 Sonic Steel snare, to see if I get the same results with a steel shell of the same size. It literally feels like a completely different animal to me and I'm digging it!
So this is the kit I will take traveling around in the back of my truck - maybe cased, maybe not. Considering their age and what they are, if I'm nice to them, I'm sure they'll live for another 25 years, provided I don't completely trash them on my upcoming California tour!
And this time, I have a white reflective canvas tarp to cover the stuff in the back of the truck, I figure I owe them that much!