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Don's Special Gift

As long as I've been a Grand Funk fan; for as long as I've enjoyed the music; I never in my wildest dreams would have ever imagined that I would meet Don Brewer.

And now that I've met him, I never in my wildest dreams would ever imagined that I would receive a special gift from the man that kept me playing the drums through my teens and twenties -- never giving up on my music.

If you are a member of the "roadkill" Grand Funk Railroad Internet Fan Club, I'm sure that you've heard the story about the 2-day Modern Drummer Festival late in May of this past year (2000).

One of our events -- not associated with Modern Drummer magazine -- was a party to celebrate the recognition that the magazine bestowed upon Don as one of the most influential drummers of all time. In the middle of all of the dancing, singing, drinking, and such, Sunny (Don's wife) came over to where I was sitting and told me Don wanted to see me in the hall outside the room.

All kinds of things raced through my head. Things like "Okay, which "roadkill"er did what to who?" Or, "Hey, Mark called and wants to play with us again!" and every variation between the two extremes.I didn't know what to expect so I stood up, straightened out my shirt, squared my shoulders, and went out to meet my fate.

To my surprise Don wasn't alone. Several of the more prominent "'kill"ers were there. They all had a look of excitement on their faces as I thought "What did I do now?"

Don cleared his voice and then came right out and said "Bill, how would you like a set of drums?" My first thought was: are you getting a new set? I finally regained my composure enough to stammer out a few words: "Really?" and in the ensuing cheers, slaps on the back, and such I found out that Don wanted to give me the set of jet-black Pearls that he used back in the 80s reunion tour.

So, this page is my way of showing what a great and wonderful man Don Brewer is. Not only is he a highly respected drummer. But, he is also one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. And his generosity knows no bounds ...

Well, maybe one bound. ;-) I had to arrange to get them from mid-Florida back to my house in Cincinnati. Well, I managed (with a lot of help from Don. and the pictures below try to detail my getting them unpacked and set up. Don even gave me the massive travel cases that he used to tour with.

I know that it's been a long time and many promises ago. But, I finally got the film developed and transferred here, to my Web site. I hope you enjoy the pictures as much as I do the drums. Just remember to keep Shinin' On!

Oh! And, remember -- click on the smaller, thumbnail picture to get a bigger picture.

It was almost funny. I took my son with me to pick up my present. The guy at the air shipping dock said something like "Yeah, I remember seeing those when they came in. Is that a band or something?" As I hung my head in shame, my son (who was closer to the age of the dock-man) explained things to the fellow who then started remembering. Between our two mini-vans, we got it all packed up and back to the house.

One of my memories is of Don's "drum corner." A corner of his garage where there was a "bunch of drum stuff." Out in the garage (where he needed more room) over in one corner was this huge stack of boxes, bags, crates, and such. This stack had some spare drums, more drum heads than I had ever seen in a music store, cymbals, sticks, pedals ... you name it and it was probably in there. By the time I got home, I couldn't remember what all Don had given me. He kept saying "you'll need one of these" or "have you ever used one of these?" I had to open them to help me remember what all Don had put in them.

So, with the help of my son, my daughter, and her fiance, we started unpacking the crates and taking it all to the basement. The basement is where I have my kit set up. Of course since Don has his "drum corner," I have my "drum basement room!" (My room doubles as my library.)

It took a while. But, we got all of the contents of the crates down into the basement. Three of the crates were small enough to make the twists and turns to the inner basement door and down the steps. My wife thought they would make good "benches." One of them, however, was just too big. So, to this day, it sits in my garage waiting for me to start my own "drum corner!"

Well, I had to "take an inventory," didn't I? Once everything was in the basement, I had to spread it out to take stock of what all I had. So, before I started assembling the kit, I spread all of the things out on the floor. To this day, I am amazed at Don's generosity. As you can see, there was a "lot of stuff" in his gift to me.

As you can see, there were drums, cymbals, heads, pedals, stands, sticks, keys -- everything one would need to set up a complete drum kit. I'll have to admit that I didn't get to see GFR perform during their 80s reunion. But, from what I took stock of, it was a big set of Pearl drums. One bass drum, one snare drum, but there were four mounted toms, two floor toms, one hi-hat, and three cymbals. As I mentioned, the finish on the drums was a glossy, jet-black.

More and more stuff! The sheer quantity of things I had to work with is still amazing to me to this day. I'll have to remember to thank Don again for letting this old fan feel like a professional drummer. I almost felt like I was getting ready to go "on the road for forty days." Hey! maybe Don needs another drum tech for the next tour? Naaah, it will never happen. ;-)

Finally, once I knew what I had, I was ready to put the kit together. I've been a drummer of sorts for close to thirty years. But, in all that time, I had never played or assembled a set of Pearl drums. For some reason, the tom-tom mounting hardware looked less sturdy than the one used on my trusty old set of Ludwigs. But the adjustments you could make on these things -- I think you can tilt drums and other components to just about any angle at all.

So, I dove in and started to put it all together. There was one minor tragedy. While trying to adjust the angle on the smallest of the four mounted toms, the mounting hardware broke off leaving a piece in the drum that I couldn't remove. When I can find the time, I'll go out and find another tom-mount for the drum and a new connector for the tom-stand. But, all things considered, it was coming together nicely.

All of the drums were a little bigger than what I was used to -- including the bass drum. So, I had a hard time getting the seat height and tom-tom angle at angles that were comfortable to me and my style of playing. But, all of those Pearl connectors and their angle-ability did come to the rescue. It just took a little longer than I expected to get the kit set up and the drums at the proper angle. One of the few virtues I have is my patience. All things will come in their own time. Waiting will fill ...

For those of you that are still with my during all this boasting, you might find yourself asking "I wonder what type of kit did Bill use in the old days?" I knew you were going to ask that. So, I've stuck a couple of pictures of my old set in here for your further elucidation and edification. Just know that I bought this set during the "disco years" where it was popular to have the "see-through" feature. My old set was made from, from what Ludwig called, VistaLite. Mine had a blue tint to them.

What I had originally bought was a double-bass set. It had three mounted toms, and two floor toms, along with Ludwigs top-of-the-line "Super Sensitive" snare drums. I never was much at double bass playing. The second bass was there for two reasons: looks, and a stand for the first mounted tom. I used A. Zildjian cymbals and the pre-Ludwig Ghost bass drum pedal. As you can see, there are times when I feel like trying to get back to the basics. At these times, I would strip the set down to the bare essentials. That is to say, in the Don Brewer tradition.

Well, back to the Pearls. As you can see, Don's gift set to me came together real well. I used three of the four mounted toms -- but, I do want to get that fourth one repaired. Also, I was used to fourteen inch hi-hat cymbals. But, this kit had fifteen inch hi-hats. I've got the angles set pretty close to the angles I'm used to playing with.

And, here's a drummer's view of the kit. I want to get "deadening rings" for all of the drums like the one that is taped to the snare drum with the red tape. I use external mufflers on my old kit, but I think I like this better. Notice the Pearls do not have an internal mufflers but these don't ring when struck like my Ludwigs do and are playable without too much echoing as they sit. Those rings will probably tone them down just the right amount.

Well, there you have it! One of the most talented drummers in rock music, the drive behind the power of Grand Funk Railroad, gave me a gift for which I will always be grateful. Words cannot explain the joy and happiness I get when I go down to the basement and sit on that stool. As I sit there, I think about how this set has seen things that I have had dreams about and gives me a small bit of the feeling of what it must have been like to be the engine supplying the power to move The American Band: Grand Funk Railroad.

Don, wherever you are, what ever you're doing, Thank You.

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