Joe Connolly's Custom Tama Art Star Kit

My Name is Joe Connolly. I have been a drummer for over 30 years. I ordered this Tama kit in Autumn of 1987. It might look like a "Super Star" kit, but when I ordered this kit I ordered the "Art Star" shells. 


Back in 1986, not long after I had just seen RUSH play here in Milwaukee, I heard a rumor that Tama was going to discontinue their “Superstar” line of drums. So with the help of a few people and a small loan, I decided to work towards getting my “Dream Set” of Drums. With a little investigation with my friend Jeff at Uncle Bob's Music" in Milwaukee, I found out the rumor was true that Tama was going to end production and sales of the “Superstar” line of drums, and replace it with the “Grand Stars." I had to get my order in before the deadline, which was slated for the end of November of 1987.


On the day I did order them from Uncle Bob's Music, my friend Jeff called Ken Hishino, who was Tama’s Head Rep at that time, to make sure I could get everything I wanted. While there, he had me talk to Mr. Hishino to verify my order -- right down to the last detail. He also Informed me that these would be the last custom order they would take for the Superstars.

Some of the customizations I ordered included:

  • The Candy Apply Red color on all the drums
  • ArtStar shells made to look like the Superstars
  • Standard (or Jazz) drum sizes
  • A 22-inch gong bass drum shell with a 24-inch head and rim

After a little over a month, I received them. So, with my ’78 Toyota Corolla Wagon, I headed down to Uncle Bob’s and when I arrived I just couldn’t believe my eyes! The poor UPS guy was STILL unloading when I got there!

He asked…”Who the hell is this all for?” And I proudly replied, “ME!” 


It took almost 4 hours from the time I left the house to when I got home that day, but it was completely worth it! It took me all night to get them set up, tuned, and all before I could even play them. My Father came home around 9:00 that night and I was almost done with the setup and tuning. He couldn’t believe how many drums there were. He just sat and had a drink and tentatively watched me at my happy work.

When I was almost done he said, “Wow you really know just how they are supposed to go together!” And I replied, “Dad, I have dreamed of this drum kit ever since I started drumming! Of course I know how they are supposed to go together!” Then my Father told me that my Mom would have been proud of me. That really made me feel like I was on top of the world that night.


So, that’s how it all began. I am in the process of changing a few very small details, and a few upgrades, but nothing that will change the originality of the look of them.

Now, as for the small trigger above the 12- and 13-inch toms -- that is my own home built trigger, similar to the one Neil used at that time. I use it to trigger a small “Vintage Effects” unit for special “events.” I will eventually be adding some foot triggers and a more up-to-date effects sound unit that will be MIDI capable.

The cowbell tree is a bottom stand made from a Tama stand, but with an old Ludwig or Slingerland  “Coke Bottle Necked” stand that tapers to a smaller size, then has a third piece that accepts a very thin rod made from drill bit hardened steel that is slightly bent at an angle towards me, with an 8” Zildjian Splash mounted on top.

The cowbells themselves are a combination of bells, starting from the top a Ludwig traditional copper bell, a “Latin Percussion” "Medium" black bell, a Gon Bops “Triple” Agogo Bell setup, and finally a Latin Percussion “Large/Low” black bell at the bottom.



6", 8", 10", 12" concert toms

12", 13", 15" mounted closed toms

18" floor tom

22" Gong Bass

Two 24" bass drums

13" and 14-inch wood Timbales

5 X 14-inch Mid ‘60s Slingerland Maple Shell “Artist” series snare drum


All are Zildjian “A” Series Cymbals except one “China Type”

From Left to Right:

20" Medium Crash, 16" Medium Crash, 10" Splash, 16" Medium Crash, 13" New Beat Hi-Hats

A Zildjian Crotale that is tuned One Octave Up From Mid-C

8" Splash, 18 Inch Medium Crash Piggybacked over a 22" Ping Ride

22" Genuine “Wuhan” ‘China Type’ Piggybacked over a 20" Swish and an 18" Pang with rivets Installed.


Remo Black Dot on the Concert Toms

Remo Pin Strip on the Tops of the Closed toms, floor toms, bass drums, timbales, and Gong Bass

Evans red hydraulics on the bottoms of the closed toms and floor tom.

All of the hardware and hi hat stands are Tama with the exception of a few small custom bits and pieces. The Gong Bass stands on home made legs

The pedals are Camco chain driven pedals and I use Pro-mark 747 Wood Tip “Neil Peart” Signature Series drum sticks. I kept the Hardware “Chromed” as apposed to the brass plating like Neil did…..I like the look of chrome better. I guess I am a Hot Rodder at heart.