This kit has a remarkable history. Mel Torme was an excellent drummer as well as a world class vocalist. He loved Gene Krupa and always wanted to own drums that belonged to Gene. Mel’s opportunity came in the 70s. Mel had learned that one of Gene’s kits was available, even though most of Gene’s drums had been lost in a fire. The kit was used by Gene circa 1938. Mel was fortunate enough to acquire this kit, and when he did so, he approached Don Osborne Sr., then President of Slingerland, with an idea. Mel wanted to use the kit in his nightly show where he performed a tribute to Gene Krupa along with his drummer, Donny Osborne Jr. Mel wanted to use Gene’s kit but the shells were badly discolored and he felt the kit didn’t look as good as it should. As a result, he asked Don Osborne Sr. if Slingerland would restore the kit by using all of the hardware from Gene’s drums and mounting it on new Slingerland shells. Don agreed, and as a result, Mel used the kit nightly for more than 25 years and it was by far his favorite set. Mel discusses this kit in a 1976 interview with Les Tomkins in Great Britain. You can see the text of that interview HERE.
You can also access Les’s site HERE and I strongly encourage you to do so. He has a tremendous amount of information and interviews on dozens of jazz legends.
The drums and the throne are the originals from this kit. The cymbals and all other stands are not. The kit was acquired by me from Donny Osborne Jr. (Don Osborne’s son), who was Mel’s drummer for more than 25 years. Donny acquired the kit from Mel’s family after Mel passed away. The toms still have the original calf heads. The original “GK” calf logo head is not present. Donny recalls that he would tune the kit for Mel each night, and that after awhile, the idea of tuning the bass drum with calf heads became too cumbersome, so the heads on this drum were switched out to plastic at some point and the GK logo was replicated exactly for the plastic heads. The original calf heads remain on the toms, and the snare drum has plastic heads. This set was in my collection for many years and now resides in the collection of a customer of mine, whose collection of historically significant drum sets is the finest in the world.