Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Premier Super 4 Snare Drum

The 1960's was a time of intense competition between Drum companies. American companies like Gretsch, Ludwig, Camco, Slingerland, Rogers and,to a much lesser extent, Leedy did their best to attract the prospective buyer. But they weren't the only players on the field. European drum manufacturers entered the fray as best they could. Two German companies, Sonor and Trixon, promoted and marketed their drums using all means possible. But it was a English company that really carried the standard for the "Old World." That company was Premier.

Premier was founded in 1922 in central London. Premier made drums up until the Second World War. After the war, they resumed production. Premier attracted it's fair share of endorsers. I was first made aware of the company when I saw a picture of Sam Woodyard playing a double bass drum kit with Duke Ellington. Other jazz players like Rufus Jones and Barrett Deems also played Premier. Ringo Starr played Premier at first, but then switched to Ludwig. And the irreplaceable Keith Moon, of the Who, played the brand his entire career.

But Premier faced an uphill battle in the U.S. Perhaps it was the distribution. Or maybe it was the fact that the early Premier drums were metric sized. The fact that 3 of the major American Drum companies were based in Chicago, with a 4th one in Ohio, certainly didn't help Premier sales in the American Midwest. But you could find the drums if you looked for them. Both Frank's Drum Shop and Drums Unlimited in Chicago carried the line. And Premier was worth investigating, which brings me to the drum you see pictured here.

The 1960 Premier catalog called this model the Super 4. This little beauty sports one piece die cast hoops and Premier's parallel snare action strainer. The strainer was designed to allow the 18 snare wires to "float" against the snare head. Tension across the head would be consistent and the drum wouldn't choke, at least that was the theory. Premier was the only company in the world using this system in a 4 x 14 snare drum.

But does it work? Well. by the sound of the drum, it works just fine. The drum sounds as good as its American competitors. It's heavier than a comparable Ludwig, Slingerland, Gretsch, or Camco 4 x 14. Surely, the strainer has something to do with this. But it's a fine drum, solidly constructed, with state of the art chrome plating.

In the early 60's, the name was changed from Super 4 to the Royal Ace 4" model. And, for many years, it was a staple in the Premier catalogs.

As of this writing, Premier's future seems to be in limbo. That's unfortunate. Premier made some fine drums in the 60's ( and 70's, 80's and 90's). The company always seemed to be " swimming against the current." But its place in the history of drum companies is assured.


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