The Legendary Kits of Keith Moon

An iconic drummer with a wild and complex personality, Keith Moon was relentless in pushing the limits of his instrument during his 17-year tenure behind the drums. A loyalist to Premier, he played on several kits with ever-changing configurations over the course of his career. Here's a look back on the kits he used with The Who from 1965 until his death in 1978.

A Life Without Compromise

Born in London in 1946 to a family of modest means, Keith John Moon showed an interest in music from an early age. He wasn't a good student, but was instead described as a hyperactive and frequently solitary child. After short-lived beginnings on both the bugle and trumpet, Keith's parents bought him a drum kit for his 14th birthday. Fascinated and enamored with the instrument, Keith was able to both express his emotions through the drums and also release some of his excess energy. After being self-taught for two years, he took a few classes with the renowned Carlo Little, a talented and self-taught drummer known for being "the best and loudest drummer" of that time in London.

Through hard work and dedication, Keith Moon shaped his own unique style and sound. In 1962, he joined his first rock band, The Escorts, and then quickly joined The Beachcombers, one of the most popular cover bands in London. In 1964, he auditioned for The Who to replace Doug Sandom, and got the job just before the recording of their first single. His sense of showmanship and his unique style pushed the other members of the group to level up their own stage performances, further developing the reputation of the group. A band with multiple singles and awards, the Who released 8 albums with Keith Moon between 1965 and 1978, and went on tours throughout Europe and the United States with phenomenal success.

Beyond his crazed onstage persona, Keith Moon was often over the top offstage as well. On tour, he was a specialist in the art of destroying hotel rooms. He even regularly destroyed his kits at the end of the concerts, which became a sort of signature of his. Moon also spent a good deal of his free time partying, and his drug and alcohol use steadily increased over the course of his career. His lifestyle quickly became problematic both professionally and for his health, and this led to his death at only 32 years of age. Ironically, his death of an overdose was discovered to be caused by drugs that were supposed to help fight his alcoholism.

The Kits of Keith Moon

During his career, Keith Moon played several drum kits. Although an iconic drummer for Premier, he played with several different brands such as Ludwig, Slingerland, Trixon or even the acrylic Zickos at times. As the years went by, Moon's kits quickly grew bigger, going from four to 15 drums between 1961 and 1978. Here's a quick look at the most notable kits from his career.

1961–1965: First Kits

The first "real" drum kit of Keith Moon's was a Premier 55 Outfit bought in 1961 in Blue Pearl finish, with a 20" bass drum, a 12" tom, and a 16" floor tom. Between 1964 and 1965, he followed the Ludwig trend beat by beat and played on two Ludwig Super Classic kits. The first one in Black Oyster Pearl finish with a 22" bass drum, a 13" tom, a 16" bass tom and the famous Ludwig LM400 disguised as a snare drum. The second kit had similar specs and dimensions, but Keith added a second 14$ bass tom and opted for a Silver Sparkle finish.

1965–1967: From Basic to the Double Bass Drum

In November 1965, Moon signed with Premier, and stayed loyal to the brand right up until the end. He then received a magnificent birch kit in a Red Sparkle finish with a 22" bass drum, two 16" floor toms, two 14" toms, and a Premier 2000 14" x 5.5" snare drum.

In June of 1966, Keith Moon became one of the first drummers in rock to add a second bass drum to his kit. Above all else, he wanted to stay at the forefront and not disappear in the back of the stage. The idea of this second bass first came to him by way of Ginger Baker, the drummer for Cream. Keith ordered another Red Sparkle kit from Premier and added a bass drum, a third 14" tom and a third 16" tom to his original setup. This off-the-beaten-path setup drew great attention, and from then on Keith Moon stuck to the double bass drum and large setups.

1967–1973: The "Picture of Lily Kit" and Other Classic Kits

Following his first kit with the double bass drum, and always in search of extravagance, in 1967 Keith Moon ordered a kit with a unique look: the "Picture of Lily kit." This birch kit had the same specs as the first, but the unique finish was painted by hand, in line with the psychedelic themes of the time.

Between 1968 and 1973, Keith Moon would go on to use two other kits with similar dimensions to this one, but in more classic colors: one kit in Champagne Silver finish between 1968 and 1970 and one kit in black finish—but this time over mahogany shells—between 1970 and 1973.

1973–1978: The Excessive Kits

Ever in pursuit of excess, in 1973 Keith Moon added several concert toms to his already overloaded kit and also started opting for two enormous 30" and 36" gongs behind him. This made his full kit as follows: two 22" bass drums, two 16" and 18" floor toms on his right, a 22" timbale on his left, three 14" toms, and up above, four concert toms (without reso heads) at 13", 14", 15", and 16". He had two mahogany kits like this, in black and gold finishes.

Down the road he also had an even more decked-out kit: with two extra 10" and 12" concert toms and sometimes a second timbale—all in a cream/white finish. This kit was special to Keith because even though he wanted to have gold-plated hardware, Premier convinced him that the longevity of such a kit would not be great, and so they opted instead for brass. Keith Moon later gave this kit to Ringo Starr, with whom he was close friends. Ringo later gave the kit to his son Zak Starkey, who would go on to use it on stage, and then sold it by auction to the Hard Rock Cafe in 1992.

The last in our list of notable Keith Moon kits is the one he used for the recording of "Who Are You" in 1978 at Ramport Studio, the personal studio of the Who. For this recording, he opted for just one bass drum (and a snare), but still a ton of toms: two floor toms, three larger toms, and 10 concert toms.

The Who - Who Are You

But What About Keith's Cymbals?

Although he was a faithful Premier player when it came to his kits, Keith Moon's tastes were more haphazard when it came to cymbals. He picked his cymbals on the spur of the moment, based on what was available. Over the course of his career, he mainly played on Paiste 2002 series, Giant Beat, and Formula 602, but also on Zildjian. He even signed an endorsement with Zildjian at the end of his career. As for diameters, he typically used 14" hi-hats, 18" or 20" crashes, and 20" rides.

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