In 1922 the picture was far different to the present day; Albert Della Porta was a young professional drummer in London. At a time when gigs seemed scarce Albert took a temporary job with the Boyle Drum Co whose drums he
used to play. Albert saw this involvement in a drum company as a golden opportunity to have some of his ideas for improving drums introduced. The Boyle's didn't seem very impressed, but Albert's ideas must have had considerable merit because the Production Manager, George Smith, was sufficiently impressed to want to start making drums independently with him.
Albert and George rented a basement on Berwick Street, London and Albert worked there during the day producing drums. George joined him in the evening after a day's work with the Boyle's. Within a few weeks Albert's younger brother Fred, who played the sax also became involved. Two years
later their initial success necessitated a move to larger
premises and Fred Della Porta embarked on his career as Sales Director for Premier.
They called themselves the Premier Drum Company from the start, however it wasn't until a few years later that this name appeared on the drums. Initially, they were supplying unbranded drums to wholesalers who would put their own name on them. This changed and the Premier brand was launched. Premier's new premises had space for a show room so they started selling Premier drums direct to the drummers themselves.
The factory section was producing the shells and building the drums. The calfskin heads were in high demand by Premier. It was the jazz age and there was a great demand for drum kits, which were a relatively new phenomenon anyway and were going through a popularity boom in the 20's.
The majority of the kits were basic as most people wanted a large single headed bass drum, which could house the rest of the kit stacked inside it. This enabled them to carry the kits on buses and trams. The average portable kit of this kind usually only comprised of a bass drum, snare drum, a stand, a pedal, a cymbal arm, a small cymbal and perhaps a small tom-tom and a couple of woodblocks.
Throughout the 20's and 30's Premier continued to grow. There were 'downs' as well as 'ups', like the time towards the end of the 20's, when the cinema's changed from silent films to 'talkies.' Premier had been supplying, incredibly, 50 pairs of timpani a month to a dealer who rented them all over the country. When cinemas no longer needed live music to accompany films, they no longer needed timpani and Premier lost a very large order.
The production side of the business moved, first to a factory at the Elephant and Castle in South East London and later to Park Royal in West London, while their sales were handled from a show room with a suite of offices above it in Golden Square next to Piccadilly Circus.
Premier symphonic percussion was being used by most of the major orchestras in the country and the armed forces were beginning to adopt Premier's marching drums. Premier developed its famous engineering capabilities. By the end of the 30's Premier was doing their own pressing and
World War II brought a lot of changes that ultimately led to the company expanding even further. Production of musical instruments ceased and Premier started making gun sights for anti tank guns, and plugs and sockets for radar equipment.
Fred Della Porta says, "the war taught us accuracy". When making these other things they had to be absolutely accurate. There was no room for miscalculating. Also due to the war they made an investment in the necessary machinery for diecasting so that they could make their own die cast fittings. Not only did the war give Premier accuracy and full foundry capabilities but it also moved them to Wigston in Leicester. The Park Royal factory was destroyed in September 1940.
Since Premier did important war work they were re-located by the ministry of supply to this small town in Leicester. This proved to be a happy location for the company-centre of the country that was convenient for transporting equipment to distributors and ports for exports.
When the war ended the company found itself with plenty of potential. Fred Della Porta started using his ingenuity to exploit fully the post war markets by beginning to export Premier drums.
During the 50's and 60's a new generation took over the running of Premier. George Smith retired in 1956 and Albert Della Porta died in 1965. By the time this sad event had occurred Albert's three sons were well established in the business.
In 1958 Premier started producing their Everplay drumheads. The flush-base stand reached a peak in 1967 with the Lokfast range, and the legendary 2000 snare drum was, and still is their ultimate refinement of the parallel - action snare mechanism.
Premier's Zyn and Super Zyn cymbals were very popular, and when they came up with the 5 star Super Zyn it was accepted by many professionals as a great alternative to the American, Swiss and Turkish cymbals which everyone depended on. Other
products which were very successful include the 250S bass drum pedal.
Premier's position in the British market boomed. British rock music took the World by storm in the mid 60's. The company itself was exporting to other countries; an average of 55-60%. Also, drum kits only represented a part of Premier's output. There were marching and pipe band drums, symphonic
percussion and the New Era educational range.
In 1984 there were big changes within the company. Premier Drum Company was changed to Premier Percussion to emphasize the fact that they were a new company and also to give a clearer indication that they produce a wide range of percussion instruments. Their new Premier team all worked together to ensure the Premier reputation was maintained. The team of dedicated people included Jim Kilpatrick (11 times World pipe band solo drumming champion) and many top all round players in the orchestral, marching and drum kit areas.
Major investment in new technology and machinery followed during the late 80's and early 90's ensuring the quality and competitiveness was guaranteed for the future.
In 1984 Premier had a management buy-out, followed by a six year period of Yamaha ownership 1989-1995. During this period the name was changed to Premier Percussion Limited, to better reflect the range and selection of products made.
During the 1980's and 1990's Premier further developed its business throughout the world, with a network of distributors in over 60 countries. With the advent of the APK and XPK kits, the Premier brand became accessible to more diverse markets such a Brazil, Argentina, and also to more consumers in traditional markets, leading to a boom in places such as Italy and France.
Premier has supplied army, government forces, police and other official bands worldwide and also many world famous orchestras, theatres and conservatoires.
Back in private ownership once more, Premier continues to update, upgrade and develop products to meet the ever-changing market requirements.
The Artist Series was the first mid-range series to be made purely of birch and of maple, and once again set the benchmark for the competition. The Modern Classic Professional Snare Drum Series developed together with Steve White and the new top end series - The Premier Series - launched at NAMM 2003 create benchmarks as world-class professional products.