Pearl - Japanese Drum History

By: Mikey777


Here is the story about Mr Coopers import drum business that we talked about over the 15 years that I knew him.

Mr Cooper had a drum shop that he opened back in 1950 called Coopers Drums, it was in Garden Grove, CA. He sold all the big name drums of that time including Ludwig and Rogers.

It was in 1960 when he was looking to increase business and make more money. He came up with the idea to import drums from Japan. Up to this point no one in the business was doing this. He negotiated a deal with Pearl Drums about making and importing drums for him and selling them in the U.S.A. under a different name then Pearl.

The first Pearl/Japanese import sets Mr. Cooper sold in his store were called "Mindy" and were named after his first granddaughter. These badges were simple stickers, rectangular in shape with silver backing and black letters. The sets consisted of 3pc, 4pc, and 5pc kits with cymbals. The only colors were red, blue, gold, and silver sparkle finishes. He sold the Mindy named drums for about 1 year and since sales were very good he ordered more sets in 1961.

The Mindy name was changed to "COOPER" on the new order of drums and these badges were again simple stickers, oval in shape with silver backing and the word Cooper in black letters.

In mid 1962 he ordered more sets but wanted to sell them across the U.S.A. He added pearl finishes such as WMP (White Marine Pearl), BDP (Black Diamond Pearl, and PDP (Pink Diamond Pearl). He changed the name to "Tempest" and the badge was oval, made of brass (Slingerland copy) and painted black. The Tempest name was in gold letters with the word 'de-luxe' underneath it.

By late 1964 Pearl wanted to export their own drum sets under the Pearl name into the USA. They continued to make drum sets for Mr. Cooper under the Tempest name. Mr. Cooper told me by 1966 Pearl was flooding the market with their own sets using the Pearl name and about 75 other names.

Pearl continued to make the Tempest drum sets, but they wanted Mr. Cooper to order more sets. In late 1966 Mr. Cooper came out with another name of drums "Stagemaster". These badges were stickers somewhat oval is shape the letters were around the badge. It was gold and the backing color was an off-white.

By late 1969 or the first part of 1970 Mr. cooper stopped using the Tempest and Stagemaster names and started to sell drums under the name "American Custom" and still made by Pearl. These sets were 3 - 4 - and 5 piece sets in sparkles pearl finishes. Mr. Cooper came up with his lug design and they were a copy between Rogers and Slingerland. These lugs were used these from 1969 to 1980.

The first badges were the simple sticker type. They were silver in color with black letters. These were used from 1969-1973. In late 1973 he change badges to a thin long rectangle and were the same badges Pearl used on the "Wood-fiberglass" drums these were black in color with gold letters with gold around the edges Mr. Cooper used these badges from 1973-1975.

In 1976 he changed the badges again to a bigger rectangle which was silver in color, black letters which were used until 1982. By late 1982 he changed them again back to the first design but now they were made of metal. These badges were used all the way to the end of the American Custom drums in 1989.

I think a little information about the shells is in order. From 1969 to 1980 the shells were 9 ply mahogany with no rings. These shells were the same ones Pearl used for their drums from 1970-75. Remember the Pearl "wood-fiberglass" shells? They were 9 ply mahogany with a layer of fiberglass in between the ply's of the shell. All of pearls drums were made with these shells.

By 1980 shells the were still 9 ply, but to cut costs the shells were made cheaper with luan/lauan wood which is still used on some of the new import budget drums of today. It was also necessary to cut cost by changing the lugs to a pearl copy lug which are still being used to this day by many drum makers.

I guess that the end of the story. I just would like to say thank you to Mr. Cooper who told me this story over the 15 years I knew him. He passed away back in 2000 and I wish I asked more questions about his life and the history of Japanese drums being imported into the usa.




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