Music News

Keeping Crime: Thieves Steal Drum Store Owner's Rare Drum Collection

Rupp's Drums owner Alex Simpson with his swirl orange Yamaha Club custom kit, which was stolen from a storage space.
Rupp's Drums owner Alex Simpson with his swirl orange Yamaha Club custom kit, which was stolen from a storage space. Joshua Neitzel
Before buying Rupp’s Drums in 2018, Alex Simpson was a salesman at the store that Bob Rupp founded in 1984. In 2015, a customer brought in a rare Swirl Orange Yamaha Club custom kit to sell. Simpson fell in love with it and bought it himself, the first in what eventually became a collection of rare Yamaha drums. Last month, Simpson's entire personal collection of drums was stolen out of a Security Self Storage right next to Rupp’s.

While Simpson says his collection — a lot of which was incredibly rare and irreplaceable — was worth tens of thousands of dollars, he’s fighting with insurance companies to recoup some of his costs. In the meantime, Simpson’s friend Samuel Welch has set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the loss.

"If we are successful in recovering all of his stolen gear, undamaged, all donations raised through this GoFundMe will be donated to MusiCares, a nonprofit organization which provides assistance for musicians in need," the GoFundMe page states. "If only part of his collection is recovered, the funds raised will be appropriately split between MusiCares and Alex. Finally, if we are unable to recover Alex’s instruments, your contribution will help him replace his stolen items.

"If you found you have accidentally bought any of Alex’s stolen gear, please know that the sentimental value of these instruments means the world to him, and if we are successful in raising enough money here, you will be compensated for returning the instrument[s] to Alex," the campaign page continues.

Simpson says there aren’t any leads yet on the stolen gear, but he did see security footage of the thieves in action.

“They knew where the cameras were,” Simpson says. “They put tape over the cameras. They concealed their license plates. They concealed their faces. They brought a crowbar and just jacked the door open, and then they took a couple hours to take multiple trips to load all my stuff into a tiny little car, over and over again. There's like a several-hour-long heist. It was fascinating to watch.”

How did they know about the collection? Simpson guesses that someone saw him loading some drums into his storage unit after he did a photo shoot with his swirl orange Yamaha Club custom kit.

“I really wanted to show them off to people, so I posed in front of them and got some really awesome shots,” Simpson says. “And then a week later, they were gone.”

Over the past decade, Simpson says he’s gone out of his way to hunt down drums that nobody else has, including some of the rarest Yamaha drum shells, collecting ten of the eleven different sizes of the swirl orange shells.

“I went to extreme measures to get them,” he says of the Yamaha Club custom kit. “I would buy entire orange kits that I didn't need because I already had all of the sizes except one of them. And I would keep that size and then sell the rest. A lot of personal time and emotional energy was put into that stuff.”
click to enlarge Yamaha 1999 Hipgig kit in mellow yellow lacquer. - ALEX SIMPSON
Yamaha 1999 Hipgig kit in mellow yellow lacquer.
Alex Simpson
Since that particular Yamaha kit and his Yamaha 1999 Hipgig kit in mellow yellow lacquer and other pieces of his collection are so rare, he thinks it might raise some eyebrows if anyone tries to sell them.

“I feel like I might have created such a hostile selling environment for them that they're going sit on them for a while before they try to sell them,” Simpson says. “It just doesn't make sense to steal something from somebody with a national network. There's not a music store, or at least there's not a drum store or a Guitar Center or Music-Go-Round, in the country that doesn't already know about this.”

Despite the theft, he says Rupp’s has had a good year, thanks to a lot of online orders and the store’s loyal customer base, some of whom would buy gift cards or send money to the store.
click to enlarge DW Collector's 8x14" snare drum. - ALEX SIMPSON
DW Collector's 8x14" snare drum.
Alex Simpson

“There were some people who bought gear that they just didn't need, but their jobs weren't affected by COVID, so they kind of wanted to help us out a little bit,” Simpson says. “We just had a lot of support and a lot of customers who called every week and asked how we were doing and told us that they valued what we were doing and they hoped we were going to be okay.

“That was really wonderful," he continues. "I feel fortunate because our industry, the music retail industry, didn't get the brunt of the impact of COVID. We actually kind of did pretty well across the board.”

Rupp’s was just ranked as a Top 100 Dealer by the National Association of Music Merchants, and also in the top 100 for best online engagement.

“That was all due to social media engagement and e-commerce and just the stuff we're doing online,” Simpson says. “I'm actually kind of flattered and blown away, because it's just fascinating that a 37-year-old one-horse mom-and-pop brick-and-mortar store can win an award for an internet-based category. It was kind of mind-blowing.”

Anyone with any tips or leads are asked to call Rupp's at 303-756-5777.
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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon