Bob Everett wants to find a home for his priceless collection of vintage drums.
Actually, he has found a home. The problem is finding a financially viable way of getting it there.
For the past 11 years, the musician and business owner has been building up an impressive collection of historic drum sets and accessories, everything from the first bass drum pedal from 1909, to 1920s-era kits used in vaudeville, to the behemoths favoured by 1970s rock bands.
Over the past decade, the collection has become a major draw to his 17th Ave. SW store, Beat It Music Ltd.. But last month, Everett made the painful decision to close shop, citing Calgary’s faltering economy. He could attempt to sell off his collection piece-by-piece online, but would rather see it preserved for posterity at Calgary’s National Music Centre. He estimates it is worth $100,000.
“It would start (the centre) off with such a cool history of the drum kit that they could become a national destination just because of it,” Everett says. “But somebody has to come forward or a number of people and say, ‘We want to buy that collection and donate it to the National Music Centre.’ It’s a shame if Calgary can’t support me and then couldn’t support seeing this collection at the National Music Centre.”
He needs the money to pay his bills and debt, so can’t give it to the centre outright. Not surprisingly, the National Music Centre is keen on the idea. But it is also a non-profit organization that relies on donations and loans of artifacts to build up its collection.
Bob Everett’s drum collection features rare kits from the early 1900s.
Azin Ghaffari /
Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Calgary
“The collection has a strong connection to technology and to Calgary,” says Jesse Moffat, the centre’s director of collections and exhibitions. “It should be in a museum.”
So Everett is hoping someone steps up to sponsor a donation before he closes his doors at the end of this month.
“I would rather not market this to somebody in New York or California and pack it all in boxes and see it leave the country,” he said. “It’s a shame because most of these kits are local. They represent some guy like me that used to play. If they could talk, you can imagine all those dances and gigs and parties and the type of music that came out of these things.”
While the drums are historic artifacts that help trace the 110-year-plus history of the instrument, many of them also come with stories of the colourful men and women who played them.
One set currently on display was owned by a local drummer whose kit dates back to the 1920s when he helped provide music for silent films at the Lux Theatre in Lacombe.
“A lot of collectors think that it has to be owned by Buddy Rich or Gene Krupa or something,” Everett says. “But to me, it’s the history of the kit.”
Everett’s own history as a drummer began when he borrowed his brother’s kit while still a preteen in Calgary. He started his own band in the mid-1960s and by the age of 14 was backing the Calgary Safety Roundup Singers, local sensations who starred on a popular variety series on CFCN-TV. In the summer of 1970, Everett’s rock band Done On Bradstreet opened the Calgary stop of the Festival Express tour at McMahon Stadium, which also featured The Band, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.
The Grateful Dead perform on the Festival Express tour.
Done on Bradstreet recorded its debut album with Buddy Holly’s iconic producer Norman Petty that same year, although it wasn’t actually released until 40 years later.
Since then, Everett has dabbled in other areas. He tried his hand at stand-up comedy and was a councillor in Rocky View County. But he says his true calling and passion is drums, which makes the closure of his business and possible dissolution of his collection all the more heartbreaking. But it’s a tough economy. Musicians are making less money and parents can no longer afford to buy their kids big-ticket items such as drum kits.
“I guess I’m like the canary in the mining shaft,” he says. “You don’t have to have a set of drums. Everybody wants one, but it’s one of those things that you can’t justify buying if you can’t afford to eat. Maybe it’s hitting me a little bit sooner than a lot of other people. But unless things turn around, we’re going to lose a lot of these amazing places like this store. To me, this doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world other than right now on 17th Avenue. It’s sad for me to see Calgary lose it.”
For more information visit beatitmusicltd.com