The Rocky History Of Premier Drums
Over the years Premier has been responsible for lots of great stuff, but using the adage of a prophet not being accepted in his own land, we Brits have tended to overlook them. But the Americans – who started all the “classic” business in the first place – have not. Perhaps this would be as good a time as any to fill you in on the company’s illustrious background. Premier began in 1922 when a professional drummer named Albert Della Porta forged, after a short time working with the Boyle Drum Co., a partnership with its former production manager. The pair rented a basement on London’s Berwick Street and were eventually joined by Albert’s sax-playing brother Fred, whereupon Albert became Premier’s first sales manager.
As with Gretsch in America, Premier didn’t initially make drums with its own name on them. Other companies like John E. Dallas (who put their Jedson trademark on them) bought the drums and fitted their own badges – exactly the same method the Taiwanese adopted more than half a century later. (Dallas, by the way, was eventually responsible for Carlton, President, and Hayman drums, which they built themselves.) Eventually Premier-badged instruments were produced, and began to sell. The new-fangled drum kits were becoming popular at that juncture, and Premier’s consisted of a single-headed bass drum, a snare drum, a stand, a small cymbal with its own supporting arm, woodblocks, and maybe even a very small tom.
From the very beginning Premier made timpanis, and for a number of years successfully sold a great deal of its production to a company that rented them to be used as sound effects in silent movie theaters. Unfortunately Al Jolson came along with The Jazz Singer, which was the world’s first talking picture, and killed that market.
Despite this setback the company grew into (and eventually out of) two factories, and ended up in London’s Park Royal with offices in Golden Square. By 1938 they were making brass instruments and clarinets, as well as supplying drums to the armed forces. (In the early ’30s they made a solid guitar called the Premier Vox and eventually an amplifier to go with it.)