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Carl Palmer's Billy Gladstone drum set

9/17/13 NOTE: I am very pleased to announce that we have facilitated the sale of this exceedingly rare and historically significant drum set and it now resides in what I consider to be the finest collection in the world today.  Steve






This is arguably one of the rarest and most significant drum sets in the world.


Billy Gladstone, master percussionist, inventor and drum builder, built only slightly more than 50 snare drums and only about 25 of those exist today. All are considered extremely rare and desirable collector's pieces and they are incredible instruments. We have been honored to have owned seven of these drums and in fact we still own two, and have sold the other five to very happy collectors.


However, in contrast to the number of snare drums, Billy built only 4 complete drum sets and only 2 of those exist intact: One of the four sets was destroyed in a fire; one had the bass drum destroyed in a flood and the remaining two toms are with one owner and the snare drum is with another owner;  the four piece silver sparkle drum set that Billy built for his star pupil, Saul Leslie Beimel is owned by Chet Falzerano, noted Gladstone expert, collector and author, and; the last set is the one we have for sale.


This set has been documented superbly over the years and I personally know three of the major figures involved in the ownership history of this drum set. In addition, I recently visited London where the set currently resides and have thoroughly inspected it to verify originality and this is unquestionably an original Billy Gladstone drum set.


This drum set consists of a 9x13 tom, 16x16 floor tom, 14x22 bass drum and 6x14 snare drum. All are wrapped in the original white marine pearl (WMP). The toms have wood hoops with white marine pearl inlays, as does the bass drum. The toms and bass drum were the drums used by Morey Feld when he was with Benny Goodman's orchestra. We believe that the drums were built for and purchased by Morey, and we know that Morey used them with the band since there is documentation from Billy referencing this point, and we have a photograph of Morey with Goodman and he is using these drums. The 6x14 snare drum is the Gladstone drum Billy built for the great Cozy Cole. The snare can be seen in several photos, including some photos of Gene Krupa behind Cozy's Leedy kit with this snare drum. Additionally, there is a drum battle video of Gene and Cozy and in the video Cozy is using this snare drum.


The historical significance of this set is incredible and the rarity makes it easily one of, if not the most desirable historic vintage drum set in the world today. The craftsmanship that Billy possessed is evident in his instruments. He took no shortcuts and everything was built to perfection. His work was meticulous. Sound quality was critically important as was practicality and innovations to make the drummer's job easier. Billy's ingenious three way tuning system for his snare drums is but one example, and it is his most famous innovation. Every detail of his drums was thought through with painstaking care. His strainer design was simple and effective. He created a unique internal muffling device as well. He also created invisible snare drum vent holes, one of which was adjustable, and these were hidden from site. One vent was under the strainer and one was hidden under a metal ring that supported a small shell mounted tool used for adjusting snares. Billy's snare drums were built to further facilitate his already incredible technique, and the design was truly years ahead of its time. Even today it is a masterpiece of innovation.


Building a few complete drum sets was a logical extension of Billy's snare drum building, but the drum set concept took a back seat to snare drums. Billy was primarily a snare drum builder and since he built these drums in his small apartment in New York City there was not much room to engage in building toms and bass drums on any large scale.


Billy's expertise as a snare drummer is well documented, with no less than the great Buddy Rich making the claim that his own snare drum roll was second to Billy's and that he felt Billy was the greatest drummer in the world as it related to rudiments and rolls. Billy was a true master and a superb showman as his many years at Radio City Music Hall prove. Billy's love was the snare drum, and that's where his focus was for drum building. As a result, the original Gladstone drum sets are exceedingly rare, and the opportunity presented with this set is truly a once in a lifetime event.




Tracing ownership of the set post-Benny Goodman begins with the late Charlie Donnelly. Charlie had this drum set in his possession in the 80s. I personally knew Charlie from back as far as 1974 and any of us who have even the slightest interest in vintage drums owe Charlie a debt of gratitude because he educated us before there were vintage drum books and long before the internet. To coin an old phrase, Charlie was school for any of us that longed for knowledge of vintage drums. His small shop in Newington, CT didn't look like much, but his knowledge was incredible and the drums, well, it was just unreal.


Charlie was well known to many of us and as a result, I and many other vintage enthusiasts would pester him endlessly with questions. One of Charlie's friends and students of vintage drums was Bun E. Carlos. Bun E. is well known as a member of Cheap Trick, and he is also an avid vintage drum collector. Bun E learned that Charlie had this Gladstone drum set and he acquired it from Charlie. When speaking with Bun E recently I asked him if he knew any more about the travels of the drum set post Goodman. Bun E was not completely certain, but he thought that post Goodman the entire kit may have been with Cozy Cole in NY where Cozy and Gene Krupa had a drum school for a period of time. Since Charlie is no longer with us there is no additional information he can add as to where the set was immediately prior to his acquisition of it. However, Chet Falzerano, noted author, Gladstone collector and owner of the only other complete Gladstone set, provided me with this additional information:


The set was sold to Morey Feld by Billy Gladstone when Morey was playing with Benny Goodman (reference page 54 of my book).  In a letter to Frank Phelan (also an original Gladstone owner), Gladstone wrote: I do not make any more complete outfits, made up only 4 sets and one of them I use myself. Benny Goodman's drummer Morey Feld owns a set in white pearl … From Feld the set passed to Jake Hanna (Jake related the story to me during an interview for the book). Jake used the set (intact) on the Merv Griffin show. Jake's memory was a little fuzzy after that, but he did know that the original snare (Feld's) went to Butch Miles. I contacted Butch Miles, but the snare was unfortunately stolen years ago. As you correctly noted, the toms and bass drum were sold by Donnelly to Bun E. How Donnelly got the set is unknown (Jake couldn't remember). Ted Reed once told me he went after Cosy Cole's snare drum when Cole died but his wife sold it to someone else presumably Donnelly, who paired it to the set.



Somewhere in the early 1980s Carl Palmer had made Charlie's acquaintance as well. Carl was interested in learning about vintage drums and he met Charlie in an interesting way. Carl was performing with ELP in Connecticut and he had never met Charlie and didn't even know who he was. Charlie showed up at sound check and asked if he could see Carl. Carl, being his typical gracious self, met Charlie and asked what he could do for him. Charlie had his son with him, who wanted to see Carl's stainless steel kit, and Carl obliged. Then Charlie said he had some vintage drums with him and wanted to show them to Carl. Carl bought a Leedy snare that day for about $250 and that began his relationship with Charlie. Carl came to know about Gladstone drums and asked Charlie to look for a set for him, not fully realizing what a monumental task this might be. As it happens, Charlie had sold the set to Bun E and as a result Charlie sent photos of the set to Carl and facilitated the introduction to Bun E. Carl purchased the set from Bun E in the mid 1980s and it has been in Carl's possession ever since.





Cozy Cole's Snare Drum: The 6x14 snare drum is fully original. This is a 3 way tuning drum. There is a Gretsch Gladstone strainer and the butt plate is also present, as is the correct internal muffler. The correct 3 way key and backing plate are both present. The interior of the shell is black lacquer which is correct. All parts are original. Snares wires are later replacements. The name plate is inscribed Cozy Cole .








9x13 Mounted Tom:


The 9x13 tom has wood hoops with WMP inlay and claw hooks used to secure the hoop. There is some inlay missing as shown. The wood hoops on this drum may be replacements since they are slightly higher and have wider inlay than those on the floor tom. In the Benny Goodman photo of the set you can clearly see that the original tom hoops on this drum were the same as the floor tom. This is an inconsequential issue given the rarity of this drum set. There are 3 small chrome plated round plates on the shell where a tom holder was attached at one time, however, on the interior of the shell there are no holes showing under this area. We have not removed the plates since we do not wish to disturb the current condition of the drum. Our opinion here is that at some point the original holes for the tom holder were plugged, and the interior repainted silver and as a result the plugs can not be seen from the inside. Upon my return to the US after seeing the set I spoke with Bun E. Carlos and he confirmed that these plates were present on the set when he bought it from Charlie Donnelly. Given the rarity of this drum set this issue is inconsequential. The correct internal tone control is present. On the exterior of the shell the correct Gladstone badge is present as is the correct vent. The condition of the shell and the chrome are excellent.






16x16 Floor Tom:


The 16x16 floor tom has wood hoops with inlay and they are secured with claw hooks. These are the original hoops and inlay. The inlay has darkened more than the wrap on the shell, and this is a common occurrence with wood hoop inlays. The original floor tom leg brackets are present. The legs themselves are later replacements. The Gladstone badge is correct. The original Gladstone vent is on the drum and there is also an additional vent hole in the shell that appears to be original. There is a Slingerland internal tone control mounted for the resonant head.  Once again, given the rarity of this drum set these issues are inconsequential.










14x22 Bass Drum:


The 14x22 bass drum has the correct original wood hoops with inlay. The inlay on the hoops has darkened more than the wrap on the shell. This is a very common issue with vintage bass drums in general. The hoop inlay material almost always darkens more than the wrap on the shell. The original Gladstone badge is present as well as the original Gladstone air vents. The two sets of bass drum spurs used on this drum were the disappearing style manufactured by Gretsch and these are present. The original spur brackets are included but the actual spur rods themselves are vintage replicas that are manufactured currently by Gretsch.


There are several small chrome plated round plates on the shell where a tom holder and various cymbal arm holders were attached at one time, however, on the interior of the shell there are no holes showing under these areas. We have not removed the plates since we do not wish to disturb the current condition of the drum. Our opinion here is that at some point the original holes for the tom holder and cymbal arm brackets were plugged, and the interior repainted silver and as a result the plugs can not be seen from the inside. Additionally, Carl Palmer had the interior professionally repainted silver once again. Upon my return to the US after seeing the set I spoke with Bun E. Carlos and he confirmed that these chrome plated round plates were present on the set when he bought it from Charlie Donnelly. Given the rarity of this drum set these issues are inconsequential.


In terms of identifying the brackets that were originally on the bass drum, the Benny Goodman ensemble photo (included farther below) serves as a reference. In the first bass drum photo below (top left), the triangular grouping of plates covers the area where the tom arm was attached to the bass drum. The two plates closest to this triangle are plates from a cymbal arm bracket. The single plate to the left of the Gladstone badge is a mystery since it does not appear to have been used as a holder. The Gladstone vent hole covers are shown on top of the bass drum with one near the batter side and one near the resonant side. The third bass drum photo (second row left) shows a shot of the two plates covering the second cymbal arm bracket mounts. This is the attachment that held the ride cymbal arm on the player's far right as seen in the Goodman photo. The fourth photo (second row right) shows two covered holes on the bottom of the bass drum in between the two sets of spurs. It is not known what these holes were for, and it is possible that they were intended to be used originally as open vent holes.









In addition to the information provided within this document there are other sources of reference for these drums as follows:


Village Voice (August 1988): This was an issue of this New York entertainment industry paper that was drum focused and had the great Chick Webb on the cover. In this edition there is a photo of Gene Krupa sitting behind Cozy Cole's Leedy drum set and the Cozy Cole Gladstone snare drum is shown in the photo. The original paper will be included with this sale.


Copy of the Gene Krupa book (Alfred publication #0747B) that also shows a photo of Gene Krupa playing Cozy's Gladstone snare drum.


A copy of a letter from Charlie Donnelly to Carl Palmer dated July 11th, 1988 attesting to the authenticity of the set and also indicating an appraised value as of that date.


Original photos and letter from Bun E. Carlos to Carl Palmer.


Copies of the feature article from the UK magazine, Rhythm from Aug 2005 and Sept 2005 covering the drum set in detail.


Letter of proof of ownership from current owner, Carl Palmer. 


Classic Drum Solos and Drum Battles (Hudson Music video. VHS and DVD). In this collection there is a drum battle between Gene Krupa and Cozy Cole. Cozy is playing his Gladstone snare drum in this drum battle.





This particular brokerage arrangement is somewhat unique given that the drum set is currently not in my possession, but rather is in secure storage in London. As a result, the process for interested parties is as follows:


- Interested parties will contact Steve Maxwell directly to discuss any other questions regarding the drums.

- If additional photos and/or information are requested Steve will obtain these from Carl Palmer and will forward them to the interested party.

- Serious, qualified prospects would be allowed the opportunity to view the set in person; however, the prospect would need to arrange a trip to London, at their own expense, to view the drums.

- Any additional details regarding method of payment will be discussed at the appropriate time.

- Shipping of the drums from London to the buyer's preferred destination is at the sole risk and sole expense of the buyer. Neither the current owner, nor Steve Maxwell Vintage and Custom Drums, assumes any responsibility for the transport of these items to the purchaser's chosen destination. 


The price is firm at $xxx,xxx.


Steve can be contacted by phone at 630-865-6849 or by email at








This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 25 January, 2012.
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