Buddy Rich’s 1970s Slingerland Tonight Show Drum Set. $39,995.00

Buddy Rich’s 1970s Tonight Show Drum Set.

Wow! Sets like this one don’t show up everyday! This 1970s Slingerland set was owned and used by Buddy Rich from 1974 through 1977. The set was used initially for live performances and eventually stored at NBC studios for Rich to use on his his frequent appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The set includes 2 letters from the Slingerland Drum Company verifying that the set was used by Buddy Rich on the Tonight Show. Check out the videos of Rich playing this set on the Tonight Show below.

Here’s an excerpt from an article I just wrote about this set for my Time Capsules column in DRUM! Magazine.

“Sometime around 1975 this set of white marine pearl Slingerland drums was delivered to NBC Studios so Rich would have a Slingerland set whenever he appeared on the show. On the Tonight Show performances Rich plays a matching white marine pearl snare drum. The set now has a chrome snare. It is not clear at what point the snares were switched. The set is constructed of 3 ply shells with reinforcing rings and consists of a 24” x14” bass drum, two 16” x 16” floor toms, a 13” x 9” rack tom and a 14” x 5” chrome snare. It also includes the hardware and canister throne seen in the photo. Rich played this set on the Tonight Show up until 1977 when he left Slingerland to endorse Ludwig drums.  

At this point, West Coast Slingerland sales rep Phil Hulsey was dispatched to NBC to retrieve the set. The set was stored at Hulsey’s home until 1983 when Hulsey took the set to Mel Zelnick’s Drum shop to be sold. Fortunately for the modern drum collecting community, Zelnick had the foresight to ask Hulsey to write a note on Slingerland stationary confirming that Rich had indeed used this drum set on The Tonight Show. Hulsey wrote a second letter of authentication in 1985 when the set was resold.”

The set has had several owners since it was first sold in 1983. Between the letters from Slingerland, conversations with 3 of the previous owners and my own research I’ve been able to compile a reasonably concise history of the set. Here’s what I came up with.

The serial numbers on the set indicate the set was made in 1974. There are no mufflers on the 13×9 rack tom and one of the 16×16 floor toms. Slingerland drums from this era would come fitted with a muffler as standard equipment. Sets made for Rich did not have mufflers. The most identifiable element of this set is the bass drum head with Rich’s “BR” crest logo. Rich had many such logo heads each with slight variations. The specific logo head on this set can be seen in several videos between 1974 and 1977.  Rich signed the logo head in February of 1986 after a performance at Lewis-Palmer High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Several items in the videos do not match the set as it is today. In all of the videos Rich is playing a matching White Marine Pearl snare. The set now has a chrome snare. In the 1974 video we can see that the canister throne and the second floor tom are different than those on the set today. All of the hardware, with the exception of the 3 shell mounted cymbal stands do not match those seen in the videos.

I can realistically conclude that based on the serial #s and what can be seen in the videos that the 24×14 bass drum, 13×9 rack tom, one of the 16×16 floor toms and the 3 shell mounted cymbal stands are the same drums and stands seen in the videos. The second floor tom, snare drum, canister throne and other hardware are not. Whether or not the later items were ever used by Rich is impossible to say. In the letters that Phil Hulsey wrote he confirms that the set was in fact used by Buddy Rich but does not list any specifics about the set other than the color.

The set is in excellent condition and includes everything shown in the photos. This extremely rare and well preserved drum set is not only a prized collectable that belonged to the man who most people would consider to be the greatest drummer of all time, but is also of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, a show that is considered to be one of the most popular and influential shows in the history of television.

Single click on image to enlarge.

PRICE: $39,995.00, Serious offers considered.

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