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Chad Sexton: My First Drum Kit

chad sexton

311 drummer Chad Sexton has fond memories of a red sparkle Majestic drum set acquired from Joe Voda’s Drum City in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1981. But like the beats he plays in his band, the story is complicated.

Technically, the very first drum set Sexton owned was a Sonor 5-piece – a ’69 or ’70 he thinks – also red sparkle, which he acquired at age three. “My parents were a lounge music duo,” he explains. “They were traveling on the circuit, and this guy they met was just like, ’I think your son needs to have this drum set,’ and just gave it to me.”

But Sexton’s not sure if the Sonor really counts as his official first kit since it never left the living room closet. “My mom said, ’Hey, maybe you want to get rid of it.’” Before Mrs. Sexton traded it in at Drum City (where she worked full time), she asked her son if he wanted another drum set. “And I said, ’I don’t think so,’ and she said, ’Okay, I’ll get you one drum.’”

The lone Ludwig snare drum his mother bought commenced the second phase of a budding music career: drum corps. Sexton was the youngest player in his junior high and high school snare lines, and would eventually join the top-12 national team, Sky Ryders, which would place ninth in the world in 1987. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

After returning from band camp one summer, Sexton saw Dave Weckl on TV and it flipped a switch in his head. “I was like, This is what I have to do. What was weird, if you’re in drum corps and you saw one of these kids sit down on drum set, they can’t play.”

This brings us back to the Majestic. “Taking snare lessons, I was talking about music a lot more at home and my mom noticed this,” he says. “She’s like, ’I think this kid need some drums.’ So she bought me a red sparkle [Majestic] set to resemble the Sonor. In my 12-year-old brain, it was ’Oh, another red sparkle set.’ It was like the same thing to me. So that was my first set. The red sparkle Sonor had been there, I tapped on it, but the red Majestic was the one I really first started to play.

chad sexton

“I don’t think it had bottom heads at all,” he continues. “Not even the bass, just a pillow in there. The top heads were like worn-in coated heads.” As for cymbals, he doesn’t recollect. “They were just some generic brand – it’s on the tip of my tongue – it had orange painted lettering …”

“Camber?” we suggest, a discontinued sheet cymbal from the ’80s. “That might be it!” he says. “Even though some of those cymbals were just tin they still sounded pretty good.”

As to where the Majestic is today, Sexton can’t tell you. After a few years, he traded it in for a CB700. There followed a DC1000 (lost in a house fire), a succession of Pearls (one of which was also incinerated when 311’s trailer caught fire), seven or eight OCDP kits, then back to Pearl exclusively. As the owner of Chad Sexton’s Drum City retail store in Los Angeles, the fascination with gear only seems to grow.

But the drummer still can’t stop thinking about the one that got away. “To this day I have never seen another red sparkle Sonor.” Because of his mother’s connections at the music shop back in Omaha, he was able to track down its whereabouts. To his surprise, the current owner wouldn’t sell it back – even after Sexton offered $2,000 on top of any drum set of her choice. “I thought it was really unclassy to do that,” he says. “I mean if I’d been in her shoes and the original owner approached me I would totally honor his wishes. But I don’t dwell on it.”

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  • Little correction: Camber cymbals were in business throughout most of the ‘90s.