Hoshino Gakki began manufacturing drums in 1965 under the name "Star Drums". Hoshino, the family name of the founder, translates to "star field," thus the selection of the "Star Drums" brand name. The drums were manufactured at Hoshino's subsidiary, Tama Seisakusho, which had opened in 1962 to manufacture Ibanez guitars and amplifiers. While the production of guitars and amps was moved out of the factory by 1966, the production of drums there continued to grow. The two higher lines of drum models, Imperial Star and Royal Star, were introduced to the American market and were successful lower-cost drums competing against more expensive American-made drums offered by Rogers, Ludwig, and Slingerland at the time.
By 1979, Hoshino decided to make a concerted effort to make high-quality drums and hardware and start marketing its drums under the Tama brand. Tama was the name of the owner's wife, and means "jewel" in Japanese. "Star" continues to be used in the names of Tama's drum models to this day.
Tama and Drum Workshop (DW) jointly bought the bankrupt Camco Drum Company. As part of the deal, DW received the Camco tooling and manufacturing equipment while Tama received the Camco name, designs, engineering and patent rights.
At the time, Camco was producing what was thought to be the best drum pedal on the market. DW continued production of the pedal using the original tooling, rebadging it as the DW5000. Tama began production of the same pedal under the Camco name. The Tama version of the Camco pedal is commonly referred to as the Tamco pedal to distinguish it from an original Camco pedal. Tama integrated all the engineering from Camco into their production process and the overall level of quality of their drums increased virtually overnight. The original plan was to market the low-end Tama drums to beginners and use the Camco brand to sell high-end drums to professional musicians. However, even the professionals were starting to use the Tama drums because of the low cost of the Asian-made drums with the (now) high quality of hardware.
Tama was one of the first companies to offer super heavy-duty hardware, and drum mounting systems that did not intrude into the shell like most brands in the 1970s. They also invented unique tubular drums called Octobans. Octobans are 6" in diameter and are manufactured in eight different lengths (hence the prefix "octo-") up to 600mm (23.5"). They vary in pitch by using different shell lengths, rather than widths.