The chronology of Gene’s equipment, by necessity, rests on the foundation of imagery. All who knew of these important details are long dead and human memory is, at best, highly falible. Photographs hardly ever lie and the only images of Gene’s pre-Goodman period are painfully scarce. In fact, were it not for booking agency publicity photos, even the images that do exist would be impossible to easily identify as specifically Gene’s (so far).
The first that show Gene and a set of drums in the same photo are even somewhat suspect. The shot of Mal Hallett and his band (including Gene) at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City do not show Gene actually seated at the set, playing them but a long line-up of the personnel in front of and at the base of the stage. It is certainly possible that the stage they stand in front of is not actually Hallett’s bandstand. There is nothing in the image itself to specifically identify it as such so it’s a bit of a “leap of faith” to assume the drum set up there in the back was Gene’s. It certainly fits the criteria as far as what components go into the set along with what Gene’s (stated) preferences were for what he thought was necessary. Couple that with his Chicago ‘roots” and influences and it becomes even more plausible.
Working with these assumptions in place, it’s clear that it’s a most basic set of the period and quite typical of any Chicago Jazz drummer’s essential array.