Yep, but have you ever seen any of those guys on a kit more than 5 pieces or so? It would be cool to put Buddy Rich behind Mike Portnoy's kit, or Bozzio's kit, and see him play. I don't think I will ever have more than 7 drums in my kit. I love 4 pcs and I like 6 pcs 2 up 2 down. I like 5 pcs in any way, but I think I will always be partial to 4 pcs and 5 with 1 up 2 down. If I ever feel the need to have more than 6 or 7 drums, it will be because I have nothing else to do with my money, which probably won't be ever. The "masters" as you said, played relatively small kits. This was because they didn't feel the need to have bigger kits. They were all amazing drummers and were probably pretty secure in their abilities. I would bet that most of the drummers who have large kits are less skilled than the ones who have smaller kits. I think having a big kit is sort of a compensation (not all the time!!!). If you have a lot of drums, you don't have to rely as much on ability to impress people. Drummers who lack experience are very impressionable towards those they watch and see things differently than those who are more experienced. Drummers who lack experience = everybody who hasn't played drums or is a beginner. Anybody who doesn't possess the knowledge of a seasoned (at least somewhat) drummer, is easily impressed by huge drumsets.
Look at Tama
has probably the best scam towards beginning drummers. The Tama
Rockstar kit can be bought at 800 some dollars. It is an 8 piece kit! That is like $100 a drum! Not quality at all. Not bad for a beginner, but not quality. Tama
has realized that making a cheap kit and selling it in a large configuration will make them alot of money because inexperienced buyers will have the thought somewhere along the lines of "Having a big kit will make me good at drums!"
No, it won't, we all know that, but the people who watch us don't. If all else fails, anybody can sit behind a big drumset and look cool, get their picture taken, and to most viewers, look as though they are very good at drums. Granted, most people who actually make it in the music industry with big kits actually know how to use them decently to a certain degree, but a good handful of them don't use their monstrous set of cans as well as should be warranted for having so many shells. Dave Lombardo comes to mind... He has quite a large kit and he does use all of it, but does he use it in the same way Thomas Lang uses his? No. Do most beginning drummers think Dave is a better drummer than Lang? Yes. Why? In this case I would say because Dave has more exposure in the popular music world... Sorry, bad example.
Hmmm... Ok, Do most beginning drummers see Joey Jordison as a better drummer than Danny Carey? Yes, because Joey has a bigger kit. He also plays quicker rolls and double bass patterns, but would many drummers worship him the way they do if he played it all on a 4 piece set? Probably not. Becoming a famous drummer is an art. Becoming a famous drummer who will be remembered is a more difficult art. To become famous, the easiest way is to get lucky being in a band making music that is simple and catchy. To become famous as a drummer in that band, you either have to appeal to your listeners by appearance or by sound. If you lack sound, compensate with appearance. Can't understand the difference between a dotted eighth note and a triplet? (wow) Add another bass drum, nobody will notice, it will make you look better.
Drummers who are remembered usually have small kits, but know how to use them. They don't feel the need to use a bigger kit because they appeal to listeners with sound and skill rather than appearance. They don't need 3 bass drums to look awesome. Lets wait another 30-40 years and then take a poll to see who has more respect from the drumming community, Buddy Rich or Joey Jordison?
Sorry for any redundancy in the text above..............