1920’s

1922 – Premier Drums founded on 22nd October by Albert Della-Porta and George Smith. Production begins in a basement in 47 Berwick Street, London making drums for JE Dallas & Sons.

Jedson Drums launched by JE Dallas & Sons in Drury Lane, London.

1924 – Fred Della-Porta joins Premier. Premier factory moves to 64 Berwick Street, London.

1925 – Premier cease supplying JE Dallas with Drums and market products under their own name. JE Dallas transfer production to AF Matthews.

1928 – Premier move to new premises on Silex Street, London.

First edition of ‘The Drummer’ magazine published by Premier in December.

 

1930’s

1933 – Premier move production to Standard Road, Park Royal and open a new office in Golden Square, London on 2nd October.

1939 -   Publication of ‘The Drummer’ magazine ceases at issue #36.

 

1940’s

1940 – Premier factory in Park Royal, London is burnt down during an air raid in September. Premier are relocated to Canal Street, Wigston, Leicestershire to continue essential wartime manufacturing work.

1946 -   Clifford Della-Porta joins Premier.

1947 -   Flush braced lugs launched.

 

1950’s

1954 -   Ace snare drum launched.

1956 – George Smith retires.

1958 – HiFi, Super 4 and Super Ace  snare drums introduced.

Beverley Drums purchased by Albert Della-Porta. Production moved to the Premier factory.

Premier launch Everplay plastic heads.

 

1960’s

early 60’s – Premier resumes ad-hoc magazine publication, now called ‘Talking Drums’ (#37).

1960 -   Royal Ace snare drum launched.

1961 -   Super 4 replaced by 4" Royal Ace.

1963 -   Premier’s Everplay drum heads renamed Everplay Extra.

1965 – Albert Della-Porta (Premier) dies.

1966 -   Premier receives the Queens Award to Industry in recognition of it’s ‘outstanding achievements’.

            2000 snare drum and 250S bass drum pedal launched.

‘Talking Drums’ published (#38).

1967 -   Roger Horrobin appointed Advertising Manager in September

1968 – 12” and 16” toms revert to standard international sizes.

Lokfast hardware introduced. 5 star Super Zyn cymbals launched.

Premier’s expansion plans estimated to cost £300,000.

‘Talking Drums’ published (#39).

1969 – #40 ‘Talking Drums’.

 

1970’s

1970 – George Smith dies.

            Serial numbering introduced to badges.

Selmer appointed Premier distributors in USA.

Boosey & Hawkes cease production of Ajax Drums and begin marketing and distributing Beverley Drums still made by Premier.

#41 ‘Talking Drums’.

1971 -   13x9” and 14x10” toms added.

1972 – Fred Della-Porta (Premier) retires.

            Alan Gilby and Kenny Clare develop the first “Resonator” drums.

#42 ‘Talking Drums’.

1973 – Fred Della-Porta receives OBE at Buckingham Palace.

Work begins on the new Blaby Road complex.

Premier launch the ‘Kenny Clare’ Resonator range and Premier Plus heads.

 #43 & #44 ‘Talking Drums’.

1974 – Premier’s expansion plans now estimated to be £950,000.

#45 ‘Talking Drums’.

1975 – Production begins to move to Blaby Road

#46 & #47 ‘Talking Drums’,

1976 – Super Olympic Drums introduced and the ‘Kenny Clare’ sets become simply Resonator.

            252 bass drum pedal launched.

#48 & #49 ‘Talking Drums’.

1977 – Premier complete move to purpose built facility on Blaby Road, Wigston.

#50 & #51 ‘Talking Drums’.

1978 – Premier Soundwave Drums replace Super-Olympic, Premier rename their core range; Elite.

#52 & #53 ‘Talking Drums’.

1979 – Beverley Drums cease production.

            #54 ‘Talking Drums’.

 

1980’s

1980 – Olympic Drums rebranded as Premier Club.

#55 & #56 ‘Talking Drums’.

1981 – Selmer ends distribution deal and buys Ludwig Industries.

#57 ‘Talking Drums’.

1982 – Premier launch Royale range to replace Club. MTI appointed as distributors for Premier in the USA.

#58 ‘Talking Drums’.

1983 – Premier launch Crown range and Black Shadow Resonators.

#59 ‘Talking Drums’.

Premier board of directors resign in October and company goes into receivership ending 60 years of family ownership.

1984 – New management team form Premier Percussion on 4th April.

Premier launch the Project 1 snare drum, Projector range and Royale APK range.

1985 -   Premier Royale APK becomes Premier APK.

1986 – Premier Crown cease production.

1987 – Premier merges with Yamaha in October.

Lacquer finish APK introduced known as APK Excell.

HR9 snare drum added to snare range during Premier’s “Year of the Snare”.

Drum head manufacture ends.

#60 ‘Talking Drums’.

1988 -   Premier rename APK Excell – XPK.

#61 ‘Talking Drums’.

c.1988 – Premier Royale line ends.

1989 -   ‘Talking Drums’ (#62).

 

1990’s

1990 -   Premier replace ‘Talking Drums’ with ‘News from Premier’ newsletter.

1991 – Premier relaunches Olympic brand.

1992 – Premier/Yamaha partnership ends in November.

            Premier launch the Signia range.

Premier replace ‘News from Premier’ with ‘Rebound Extra’.

1993 – Premier Resonator and Projector production ends.

1994 – Premier launch Genista range.

1995 -   Premier sold to the Verity Group of Companies.

1997 -   Issue #1 of ‘Premier – News in Percussion’ magazine is published.

1998 – Premier launch Signia Marquis and Cabria range, APK production ends.

1999 -   Premier launch Astria and Vitria ranges. ‘Talking Drums’ reappears for one issue.

 

2000’s

2000 -   Premier launches Artist series and ends production of Signia, XPK, Astria and Vitria.

2001 -   Modern Classic snare drum range introduced along with Everplay drum heads made by Remo.

2003 -   Premier series of drums launched.

2005 -   Craviatto Modern Classic snare drums added.

2007 -   Premier Music International Limited (PMIL) acquires Premier Percussion Limited in September.

2008 –  PMIL close the Blaby Road factory in January transferring administration and warehousing to Kegworth.

Arbiter appointed distributor for Premier in March, distribution starts on 1st July

2009 –  August, PMIL enters bankruptcy. The company placed into liquidation but significant UK investment secured to ensure brand survival

            RW Salt appointed as UK/Eire distributor for Premier drum kits in October.

 

2010’s

2010 -   Premier relaunch the Genista range in August and appoint Universal Percussion as their distributor for north America..

Premier appoint and Premier appoint Trius Vertrieb GmbH for Germany and Austria distribution.

2011 -   Universal Percussion cease distribution for Premier drums on 17th March.

            Premier Percussion acquire KD Drums in December announcing that production will begin in 2012 at a new manufacturing facility in the UK.

2012 -   Premier celebrate 90th anniversary.

Premier appoint Hanser Musical Group as an exclusive distributor for Premier's drumset products in the US market from 1st January.

UK distribution by RW Salt ends.

Premier launch the ‘ONE’ series of UK made drumkits at the October London Drum Show and appoints Rosetti as UK distributor, all coinciding with the company’s 90th birthday on 22nd October.

2013 -   January, APK range revamped and APK Heritage range introduced.

            April – Premier take over distribution of their products from Rosetti

            June – Premier take over distribution of their products from Hanser

            September 12th, Clifford Della-Porta passes away.

2014 –  Premier launch the XPK concert tom kit at NAMM.

            May, new Modern Classic kits launched.

2015 -  January, Premier’s USA distribution with Hanser ends.

            Premier introduce ‘the Beast’ snare drum

            17th July, Premier close UK manufacturing facility.

            September – Premier announce manufacturing will not cease in UK but the Stockport facility will close


 With thanks to Tam Rankin, Dave McCready, Geoff Nicholls, Dave Seville, John Kaywood, Roger Horrobin & Eddie Haynes

 ©2016 Mike Ellis/Hot Foot Productions

 HR9

The HR9 (Heavy Rock 9”) was introduced in 1987, Premier’s self proclaimed ‘Year of the Snare’ and was considered the flagship drum in their snare range at the time, appearing ‘solo’ on the front cover of their 1987 brochure.

The drum measured 14” by 9” deep and the unique design included a lacquered brass shell and a thin ‘core’, or liner of  birch wood fixed inside the shell, allegedly combining the ‘brilliance’ of brass with the warmth of wood. The wood liner was fitted to cut down the overtones common with deep, brass shells and the drum was also fitted with a couple of inch wide felt strips at the top and bottom of the inside of the shell. An external tone control was also supplied as standard.

Premier supplied the drum with heavy duty aluminium ‘stress rings’ as opposed to die cast or steel hoops, these stress rings were designed to take the extreme tension needed by pipe drummers. The strainer was the tried and tested ‘Flobeam’ parallel action that found fame on the long serving ‘2000’ snare amongst others and there were 10 of Premier’s elegant ‘hi-ten’ lugs fitted.

The first version of the HR9 was a great success with Premier selling their first year’s estimated sales in just 6 weeks!

By 1990, the HR9 was subjected to a couple of ‘updates’ having now been tested in studio and live situations, namely; the birch inner liner was dropped, the ‘Flobeam’ strainer was dropped in favour of the more conventional 0642 lever strainer, new, thicker ‘tone belts’ were installed inside the shell and the model number was changed from ‘2029’ to ‘2039’.

The drum remained unchanged until 1993 when further ‘updates’ resulted in the 0648 lever strainer being replaced by the then new, ‘Signia’ 610 quick release mechanism which allowed the drummer to change the resonant snare head, without dismantling the snare wires from the mechanism. The heavy duty stress rings were also replaced with 1.9mm steel hoops and the model number was revised to ‘2019’. The 1994 Premier brochure was the last time the HR9 was listed.

In recent years, there has been a groundswell of interest in the HR9 as more and more find their way onto the open market, many unfortunately have suffered from ‘lacquer rash’, probably due to having been stored in less than ideal conditions. Worse still, some well intentioned owners have attempted to clean the blemishes off and simply made the drum look even more unattractive by removing the lacquer itself! Not unlike the much revered Ludwig 400 which is prone to pitting, but still loved by enthusiasts, the HR9 is best left alone to age gracefully.

It’s not a drum for the faint hearted and really does ‘what it says….’, it is best set loose on bombastic ‘heavy’ music. On many occasions, I have taken mine to ‘rock’ sessions along with a selection of more ‘sensible’ snares, which are invariably immediately returned to their cases once the HR9 is soundchecked!

©2007 Mike Ellis/Hot Foot Productions

Back in the 60's, in England

In the 1960s, there was another well-known drum maker in England apart from Premier, Carlton, Ajax and John Grey called Beverley. They were situated in north east Yorkshire in a town called (surprise, surprise) Beverley. The company that created Beverley Drums was "Deans & Sons" and their factory was situated on the banks of the River Hull in a small industrial area of Beverley known as "Weel". This small industrial area was the remains of what was Beverley’s proud ship building heritage.

Deans & Son was established in 1905 and were expert metal fabricators. Their chroming and casting skills were employed in manufacturing not only music stands, but also drum consoles in the 1920’s for Premier, Carlton and Ajax. By the mid 1930’s they were making and marketing their own Beverley range of drums, stands, consoles and accessories. Deans also made bus seats, grab rails and ashtrays that were seen on most buses in Yorkshire and the world famous AEC Routemaster double decker red London bus.

In the late 1950's through to the 1970's, much of the UK railway network in the region was closed and replaced by road building. The M62 started construction in 1957 and soon there was no longer a need for the ships and canals that linked East Yorkshire and Liverpool, roads had taken over. All of the buildings in Weel were put to better use and Deans were eventually the last of the manufacturers in the area.

In 1958 the owner wanted to retire so he sold the company to the founder and chairman of Premier, Albert Della-Porta. The main reason Albert wanted the business was because Beverley had very big outlets for their Generation music stands and totally controlled the UK market. The stands were supplied to all the schools, colleges and universities at the time whereas the drums, by now considered dated, were much more of a second string to the company's bow, music stands were it’s core business.

There are a lot of misconceptions about the Premier/Beverley relationship; it seems to be generally believed that Premier bought and owned Beverley however, that was not the case. Albert Della-Porta privately bought Beverley and then engaged a sales manager to promote and sell the Beverley name. The music stands could look after themselves, but the drums needed a lot of developing, modernising and tender loving care and that's where John Kaywood came in.

Albert gave him a totally free hand as to what he did with the drums. One of Albert’s sons, Gerald Della-Porter was the company secretary and that was it staff-wise, the drums and hardware were made on the Premier shop floor including the incredibly awful Krut cymbals (Turk spelled backwards), but amazingly, they sold like hot cakes in Holland and the USA.

Beverley paid Premier for making the sets and the two companies were kept quite separate. It is also thought that the 'crappy' Kruts were later re-named as Zyn cymbals, Zyns were totally different from Kruts (the lowest of the low), and were made entirely separately and from different base material. However Zyns didn't find a lot of acceptance and the Super Zyn range was introduced.  Although a marked improvement on the standard Zyn, they never could match the Avedis and K Zidjians of the time, despite the extensive development work put into Super Zyns. This cymbal work took up an awful lot of Premier time in the very early 60s.

What might seem odd was that there were only two drummers in the Premier organisation at the time, John and the Premier sales manager, Rex Webb. Premier had two sales representatives at the time, neither of them could play and neither could any of the people who worked on the shop floor. Fred couldn't either (he was a sax player), but Albert could and that's why he started Premier in the first place, in London. He was not happy with the drums the stores were selling in the early 30s and thought he could make better ones himself. So he made himself a kit and then someone saw it and asked him for one and that's how it started. Albert used to hawk his drums round the music shops in London by day and physically make the drums at night. When both jobs got too much he asked brother Fred to take over the selling while he concentrated on the manufacture.

During World War 2 the London factory was taken over by the government to make military equipment and when this factory was destroyed during a bombing raid, the Premier Drum Company relocated to a little town called Wigston in Leicestershire, where it remained until 2007.

After a couple of years Albert gave John a directorship and he remained with Beverley until Albert died. At this point, the ownership of Beverley transferred to his brother, Fred, who was the managing director (CEO) of Premier. Fred and John did not get on particularly well, Fred did not like Beverley because he thought it was hurting Premier sales in the USA. This was probably true because the Beverley range really did do exceptionally well in the States in the early 60s. This was possibly because John re-designed the range to look similar to Ludwig and being so much cheaper, the drums caught on in a very big way with the guys just starting out. John also introduced the Red Oyster and Blue Oyster finishes and these were as near as he could safely get to the Ludwig finish that Ringo Starr of the Beatles was using, without infringing copyright.

But John’s "claim to fame" was the introduction the Beverley 10-lug metal shell snare drum, the '21'. It was called ‘21’ because that was its UK store price at the time - £21 ($30). John actually named it the 'Beverley Cosmic 21', but somehow the 'Cosmic' part has been forgotten and only the '21' is remembered. The drum really was extremely popular in the USA in the early '60s as it was as near a copy of the Ludwig 400 as possible without infringing any patents and it was an immediate winner everywhere - even Premier star players started using the ‘21’.

Obviously this upset Fred Della-Porta - particularly the fact that the shell was actually a very old Premier shell from the Thirties, which John arranged for Beverley to buy from Premier, as they didn't want it anymore. The Premier metal shell snare at the time had flat sides; John wanted the bead round the middle like Ludwig. In fact, this beaded metal shell snare drum with 10 lugs was the first drum of its kind ever made in the UK from any manufacturer.

John took the first '21' snare drum to the States on a Beverley sales promotion tour and ran into Bill Ludwig at a show in Chicago, he was very complimentary about the Beverley range, particularly the ‘21’. John spoke with him at great length whilst in Chicago and Bill invited John to tour the Ludwig works where he saw for himself their steel shells being forged and spun. Bill was most interested in the Beverley ‘21’, he stripped it down and examined it at length but never once made any comment on the fact that it was a virtual copy of the 400.

During the 1970’s Premier launched the ‘35’ snare drum which was notable as it was a 10 lug drum, had a beaded shell and was Premier’s first drum ever supplied with square head tension rods. It’s also worth noting that it was identical to the ‘21’ apart from the lugs and the red ‘P’ badge. ‘Son of 21’ may have been a more appropriate name.

During his time with Beverley, John was also running a very popular 12-piece band with two singers and they toured US airbases throughout the UK before settling on a 7-year residency at the 1000-capacity Grand Ballroom in Coalville, Leicestershire playing two nights every week. As well as fronting the band (on Beverley drums, of course!), John also did all the pop number arrangements during the remaining 5 nights each week. The band was modelled on the Joe Loss Band and in particular Bob Miller and the Millermen, one of the UK’s most popular rock and pop bands who broadcast every Friday lunchtime throughout the early 60s. John couldn’t use his own name for the band because of the day job, so he took initials from all the members and came up with Bobbie Gray, and that’s how the band was billed; The Bobbie Gray Orchestra.

After Albert died, Fred disposed of Beverley to London brass instrument specialist Boosey and Hawkes who up until that time were the manufacturers of Ajax and Edgware drums for them to handle the marketing (they had tried in the 60's to market English Rogers which were actually Ajax drums with Rogers fittings, some of which were not compatible with US Rogers - just to complicate matters). He offered John the position of advertising and promotions manager for Premier and he produced the 505, 404, 303, 202 and 101 sets for Premier. But he wasn't happy working with Fred and resigned in '69.

Premier supplied Beverley drums to B&H who badged and distributed them as their own line of drums until 1979 when B&H exited the drum market. Beverley drums did make it across the pond in the 60's, but the 70's, B&H version was marketed as the Premier 6000 series in the US during this time.

The Beverley line continued into the 80's largely unchanged, but was badged as the Premier Projector series. All through production from the early 60's, the drums were made from the same shells as the Premier and Olympic lines and shared many of the features of top line Premiers. They were effectively almost identical to the Premiers in everything but the lugs and hoops. By the mid 70's they were unjustly regarded as "cheap" in their homeland and never really achieved a good market share in the UK, but they did very well on exports. These drums are becoming more and more collectable as opinions on their worthiness are reconsidered.

Sadly there is nothing left of Deans & Son, the site is just rubble and weeds. There is a range of Far Eastern ‘Beverley’ drum still available today, but they have no connection or lineage with the original company.

©2004 Mike Ellis/Hot Foot Productions
 
Further recommended reading;
The Drum Book by Geoff Nicholls
The History of Beverley Drums by Dave Seville

 Premier Royale and Crown kits

The Premier Royale line was introduced by Premier in 1982 as a quality entry level kit.

Prior to 1980, Premier had made Olympic as their entry level kit and supplied the UK instrument distributor, B&H with the Beverley line which was considered at the time to be mid-level below the main Premier line.

At the end of the 70's, the Olympic and Beverley lines were discontinued and renamed Club (Olympic) and Projector (Beverley), the Soundwave range was also introduced at this time sporting individual lugs rather than the traditional flush bracing common with Premiers of the time and under sized shells. Olympics, Beverleys, Clubs and Projectors shared many of the features found on the top line Premier Elites, Soundwaves and Resonators in terms of hardware and shell construction, but by the time the Royale line replaced Club - savings were being made on shell construction.

The lugs used were originally the floor tom lugs from the Olympic/Club range and they were the first Premier drums to be made without reinforcement rings from 3-ply 6mm Luan wood, although some examples exist that have thin reinforcement rings. The following year, the Crown range was introduced and being a little more ‘up-market’ falling between Royale and Projector. The Crown drums also had Luan shells but with outer layers of birch.

The Royale line continued with a range of power sized Royale APKs being introduced in 1984, then, the APK and XPK lines were the companies entry-mid line ranges. The original Royales were also marketed in some territories as Disco and Senator kits.

The Crown range disappeared around 1985 and the Royale moniker continued on low-end budget kits until 1988.


©2007 Mike Ellis/Hot Foot Productions

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