All posts by Five Star

Celebrate International Drum Month with the Chicago Drum Show


The Chicago Drum show, the oldest, biggest and most original vintage drum show of its kind is coming May 17 & 18, 2014 to the Kane County Fair grounds. With over 30,000 square feet event space, it’s a great way to help celebrate May as International Drum Month!

For the past 24 years, drum historian, author, and drummer Rob Cook has hosted one of the best original drum events ever. It has drawn drummers and drum enthusiasts from all over the world to see vintage gear piled high, great deals, and good conversation.

The show bills itself as “the world’s largest and longest-running event of its kind… a swap-meet, a drum expo, and an entertainment event [featuring] new, used, vintage and custom drums, cymbals, and related accessories. ”

In the earlier days of the show when he was still alive, Mr. Ludwig himself made appearances every year. He always had such great stories to tell. Over the years we have met drum enthusiasts from all over the United States, Europe, and Japan. Major companies such as Ludwig, Sabian, Drum Workshop, Zildjian, Trick, and many others set up booths chock full of products for attendees to view and check out. The show has also attracted some of the smaller boutique drum companies that you often don’t see at bigger shows like NAMM or PASIC. Even YOU can be an exhibitor by bringing instruments to the consignment area staffed by experts in drum valuation and letting them sell gear for you!

Donny Osborne at the Chicago Drum Show
Donny Osborne at the Chicago Drum Show

For the uninitiated, the Vintage Drum Show is two full days of drums, drumming, with guest appearances from some of the best clinicians out there. The two days are filled with clinics, workshops, seminars, raffles, and master classes. On the bill this year are clinics and master classes by Chip Ritter, Jason Sutter, Stanton Moore, Curt Bisquera, and JoJo Mayer.

It started out twenty-four years ago with vintage drum dealers and has evolved into a drum expo with dozens of companies, large and small. Vendors bring together all aspects of drums and accessories, sometimes featuring one-of-a kind products and prototypes as well as the occasional product launch. There are usually 50 – 60 exhibiters ranging from private collectors and individual craftsmen to some of the leading drum and cymbal companies in the industry.

Every year more and more exhibitors and attendees are making the trip to Chicago to celebrate International Drum month and the craft of everything drum related. In fact next year’s 25th Anniversary of the Chicago Drum Show will also be an expanded 3-day event that you wont want to miss either (May 15, 16 & 17 2015)!

So, whether you are a drum geek or are just in looking for a great occasion to come out to Chicago (well St. Charles, IL actually), then be sure to stop by and see what the fanfare is all about. Some of the Five Star Drum Shop owners come to the show too, and we hope to see you there. For more information on the show, go to

Or, check out the show guide here.

– Liz and Terry Hawkins
Skins ‘n’ Tins Drum Shop
Champaign, IL

Terry Hawkins
Terry Hawkins

Ludwig Top Hat and Cane Drum Set Restoration Project

I’ve been working on restoring a 1941 Ludwig Top Hat and Cane “Swing Sensation” set for the last couple of years. Good things take time. This is definitely a good thing and DEFINITELY taking some time!

For those of you who are not familiar with this set the Ludwig Top Hat and Cane set was a special edition set available in 1940 and 41. It was basically the same as their regular “Swing Sensation” outfit but was unique in it’s art deco top,hat, gloves and cane pattern superimposed over the regular white marine pearl finish. It was the absolute pinnacle of the drum industry at the time. The best that money could buy. Very few were ever made and only about 15 of these sets are known to still exist today. By some strange twist of fate 6 of these sets have come my way. I sold one to U2 producer Daniel Lanois, one to Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones and one to actor Johnny Depp. I still own 3 of these sets. This set includes a 26″ bass, 11, 13 and 16″ toms and a 7×14 snare drum. The set actually began as 2 sets. I got the bass and snare from one party and the toms from another. Fortunately they all match perfectly. The toms came from the daughter of a mid-western drummer named Henry “Hank” Andrew Leja who had recently passed away. I purchased them from her about a year ago. Initially she was only able to locate the 13 and 16″ toms. I was thrilled when she contacted me earlier this summer and informed me she had found the missing 11″ tom. The bass and snare came from a store also in the mid-west that had had them in stock for many years.

Although all of the drums were in extremely nice condition for their age, each of them had had some sort of modification that needed to be restored to it’s original condition. All the drums needed a good cleaning and polishing. I sent the set to drum restoration artist Jack Lawton. He masterfully filled extra holes and buffed and polished the shells and hardware. It took a long time but he did an amazing job. You cab see in the photos how he finished the repaired holes with matching pieces of vintage wrap and in some cases artfully re-created the drilled through Top Hat pattern by hand. I just received the missing 11″ tom and sent it to Matt Sinyard of the Bonzo Drum Company to be restored.

You can also see in the original photo from the 1940s the hoops on the 11 and 16 toms are wood and the 13″ tom is metal. I had never seen a Top Hat set with wooden hoops. How or why this set ended up with a combination of wood and metal hoops is anyone’s guess. I figure it was just yet another Ludwig anomaly. They were probably out of metal hoops the day they finished the set and so they used whatever was available at the time. I plan to put wood hoops on all of the toms so they match. I’m still hunting for a pair of era correct 13″ wooden hoops and a set of nickel claws and rods. Anyone have some ?? I expect to have the 11″ tom restored before too long. That will be the final piece in restoring this set to it’s original magnificent condition. I will definitely post photos of the set once it’s complete. Watch for updates and please let me know if you can help me with any of the parts I still need. The set will be for sale once it’s complete. I don’t know the price yet. I’m going to wait until it’s complete before I even start thinking about that. Enjoy!!


I’ve 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:

– Donn Bennett
Donn Bennett Drum Studio

Elvin Jones’ 1990s Yamaha Maple Custom

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 have 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.

One of the many sets I acquired was this Yamaha Maple Custom. One of four identical sets Jones required for his globe-trotting itinerary — one each for East Coast, West Coast, Europe, and his home in New York. Jones began his relationship with Yamaha in the early 1990s and maintained it for the remainder of his life. 

The set consists of an 18″ × 18″ bass with “Elvin Jones Jazz Machine” logo head, 12″ × 8″, 13″ × 9″ toms, 16″ × 16″, 18″ × 18″ floor toms, and a 14″ x 5″ snare. “ELVIN JONES” is engraved in the badges on the snare, bass, and floor toms. The cymbals are all Zildjian K’s. The drums are finished in Jones’ signature gold sparkle “champagne” finish with all gold lugs. These were the drums he played from the mid-1990s until the day he passed.


You can see Elvin himself playing this kit in this video:


To celebrate these drums even more, Drum Magazine recently featured them in their Time Capsule section:


Download the PDF: Time Capsule: Elvin Jones’ 1990s Yamaha Maple Custom


This set and many other items from the Elvin Jones collection are still available. You can view the entire collection HERE.

And don’t forget to check out the other unique pieces of drum history that I’ve come across at

– Donn Bennett
Donn Bennett Drum Studio

…Because it’s Personal

In the movie “You’ve got mail” Tom Hanks’ character Joe Fox says: “It’s business. It wasn’t…personal”. To which Meg Ryan’s Kathleen Kennedy replies: “It’s *personal* to a lot of people. And what’s so wrong with being personal, anyway? Whatever else anything is, it ought to begin by being personal.”

I agree.

I’m not here to wax on about the evils of modern day, big box, music store customer service, and I have not been chosen to scream from the rooftops my opinions on how to fix such atrocities. I am simply here to tell any reader/drummer that I am proud to be a member of an organization that takes you and your drum habit personally.

Donn Bennett Drum Studio
Donn Bennett Drum Studio in Bellevue, WA

When you walk into any of the FIVE-STAR DRUM SHOPS, you’re going to feel right at home. After the initial friendly greeting, which you can usually get in most “music” stores (if you’re lucky), you will almost immediately notice a shift in focus. The staff won’t bombard you with whatever 20 pound bag of balsa wood sticks you can buy for $5, or what ride cymbal you should buy because “I use this in my band, and it rocks!” Exactly the opposite will happen. The focus will be on you. We want to know what you like: what drums, what cymbals, what sticks and why. Knowing your particular likes and dislikes will help us to get to know you on a personal level, so we can make educated suggestions when it comes to helping you get to where you want to be in your drumming journey. It seems simple enough, but if you have tried to buy drum gear in the last 5 years, you know that the “personal” touch is becoming more rare.

Get more than just “what you pay for”, get what you deserve. Five-star drum shops offer everyday discounts that go head-to-head with anybody. The difference is that we have customers, not consumers. Smart customers know that true value goes far beyond just simply the best price. True value is a combination of competitive pricing, broad selection, honest and knowledgeable purchase advice, and top- quality customer support before, during, and after the sale.

Stebal Drums
Stebal Drums in Willowick, OH

As a “drums only” network of stores and staff of professional drummers, we are able to devote 100% of our resources to everything drumming. There are no guitar strings, banjo heads, or harmonicas at a Five-star drum shop. We all know what it’s like to find that perfect snare drum, the just right crash cymbal, or to finally play the bass drum pedal that does exactly what you need. These are experiences that are unique to all drummers and we want you to share your experiences with us.

My personal little corner of the Five-star network is Drum World in Tulsa. We are celebrating our 24th year in business thanks to our growing number of new faces that are looking for something more than just an internet connection, and to our community of customer/friends we have had since the beginning. We strive for a total drumming experience utilizing lessons, drum clinics, repairs, workshops, free drum tuning, free drum head replacement, and our massive annual drum event and food drive, DRUM DAY! If you aren’t satisfied with the level of service and attention you are getting where you shop, I invite you to check out any of the Five-star drum shops to find people who are like-minded and take drumming as personally as you do.


You may know the name Sir Edmund Hillary. In 1953, he was the the first confirmed man to reach the summit of Mount Everest (29,029 ft). What you might not know is, that a year earlier in 1952, a Nepalese Sherpa named Tenzing Norgay ascended to 28,199 feet of Everest. So when Sir Hillary made it to the top, who did he have with him every step of the way? That’s right, good old Tenzing. He couldn’t have done it without him.

That’s really how I see the Five-Star network. We’ve been there, we know the ropes, and we can help. Every experienced staff member and teacher at a Five-star drum shop is dedicated to the art and love of drumming. That means that whether you’re a beginner or a pro, your questions and issues will get the right answers and solutions. We can help you have the gear you love and love the gear you have.

So if you’re one of the many drummers who is dissatisfied with your shopping experiences or the level of expertise in the answers to your questions, then we are the place for you.

I encourage you to find your Tenzing, find your Five-star drum shop. We want to help…because it’s personal.

-Mat Donaldson

Mat Donaldson

Mat Donaldson has been a part of the music industry for over 30 years as a professional drummer, drum tech, producer, writer and store owner. He opened Drum World (a Five-Star drum shop) in 1990….and he’s probably playing somewhere tonight.

Download this article as a PDF

A Look Inside

Check out some of these great images of the inside of some Five Star Drum Shops:

Shop Talk with Ian Prince at Ellis Drum Shop

Ian Prince has been supplying the backbone for top-notch Minneapolis indie bands for well over a decade. Possessing the perfect blend of play-for-the-song sensibility and face-melting technical prowess, Prince is an undeniable powerhouse on the drums. He plays each gig as if it were his last, digging into every stroke with stoic conviction while exuding unbridled passion for his craft.

He’s a drummers’ drummer — so naturally we at Ellis wanted to find out what makes him tick. From his childhood fascination with the Fab Four, to the hard-rocking Houston days, to his current pop/rock project, Story of the Sea, Prince tells all and drops more than a few nuggets of wisdom for would-be rock drummers along the way.

Ellis Drum Shop in St. Paul, Minnesota

Best of NAMM 2014


The NAMM show is the annual gathering of the music products industry. Dealers and manufacturers from around the globe gather in a pilgrimage to Southern California to see what’s new. As always, the January NAMM show is filled with the best and newest gear, and this January was no exception. In polling some of my Five Star brethren, here is a list of some of the new items that impressed us at NAMM:



Paul Francis and the folks at Zildjian introduced the new Kerope K line. These cymbals are warm and soft, and look and sound like some of the softest old K’s from the 50’s and 60’s. Delivery is due in April, so look for these at your favorite drum shop then.



Sabian delivered on their cymbal vote winners, and some cool new stick and cymbal bags. As trends are moving towards bigger, darker, and trashier cymbals, these cymbals all went there.



Yamaha has finally come out with their new Maple high end drums, the Absolute Maple Hybrids. Their heritage comes directly from the Phoenix philosophy of having the hardest wood (wenge) in the center, and then maple flowing out. These drums were beautiful. These drums come from the new Yamaha factory in China, and feature hook lugs and aluminum die cast hoops….. very cool.

Vic Firth


Our friends at Vic Fith have created a new series of bass drum beaters (VicKick), and they are pretty darn cool. There is an “old school” lambs wool beater, as well as a wood and hard felt beaters that allow for two distinct striking positions. You can get a flatter beater position and a more pointed one for two distinct sounds.



While many are trying to complicate gear, ProMark has simplified drumsticks. There took their 4 most common diameters and, by changing nothing but the tapper of the stick, made a more forward balanced model (for power) and a rebound model (for faster response). When you play them, you really get the difference, and why it makes sense.



As well as some very cool new snares, Pearl impressed us with their new “Spin Tight” lugs ($20 for 4). These tension rods expand on the inside and take a special key to work….. and they do work. If you’re a hard hitter and your rods loosen up on you, then this a cool fix.



As well as some great sounding drums, it’s no secret that DW makes some of the most beautiful drums around. Their new Neal Peart, Nick Mason, and Roger Taylor signature drums are just stunning. As a matter of fact, we were so enamored with their beauty that we forgot to actually play them!



Mapex changed a great deal of their drum line at NAMM, and one of their key features of their new Mars and Armory series drums (under $1,000) it makes tuning easier. By moving the contact point of the bearing edge more to the center of the drum, and making it wider, Mapex claims to allow a stronger and more centered pitch…… and from first hearings, we would agree.



It’s Tama’s 40th Anniversary, and they released (re-released??) a collection of their best snare drums of the past 40 years. Pretty darn cool stuff here…..



The family owned Japanese company made drums for years for larger company, but they are now on their own…. The drum are beautiful, the hardware very cool, and they are a company to watch on all fronts.

– Jim Rupp
Owner of Columbus Pro Percussion