The company was founded in 1922 as the Premier Drum Company by London drummer Albert Della Porta and drum builder George Smith. At first, the company produced drum kits for wholesalers, who then would sell them as their own, but Premier soon began producing drums under its own name.
Premier also began producing symphonic percussion, marching percussion, and cymbals in addition to drum kits. Premier was originally located in central London (where the current Footes Music Store is now) and moved to purpose built premises in Acton in the 1930s. When WW2 broke out, Premier was engaged in the manufacture of gun sights for tanks and aircraft, but the factory was bombed out in 1940 and the company was relocated to a new Leicester facility shortly thereafter.
The company enjoyed great success during the Beat Boom of the 1960s not only in the UK, but worldwide, and won the Queens Award to Industry in 1966. During the 1970s, Premier invested heavily in a new, purpose built factory to meet demand for their products, but in 1983, the Della-Porta family resigned from the board and the company's name was changed to Premier Percussion in 1984 following a management buyout.
In October 1987, Premier was merged with Yamaha, which owned the Leicester factory until 1992. During this period, Limited was appended to the company name. In 1992, Tony Doughty, who originally arranged the Yamaha merger, took over the company. In February 1995, Premier was sold to the Verity Group of Companies before yet another buyout by a British consortium a few years later. Today, Premier continues to produce drum kits, marching percussion, and symphonic percussion (including timpani and mallet percussion).
Premier has had a history of new ownership. Although the chrome plating was lauded, the actual hardware and drum quality has been variable. In the 2000s, Premier started making drums in Taiwan under the Artists maple and birch series. The Premier series, maple, birch or hydbrid/ gen-x shells are made in England. Distribution in the USA isn't as large as it was in the past. The hardware is made on the same assembly line in Taiwan as Tama's.
Noteworthy drums: - Premier 2000 Snare - All drums made of African Mahogany at 70:s - Resonator Series - Signia and Genista Series - APK/XPK - Olympic Series - Artist Series - Premier Series (Maple/Birch/Gen-X Hybrid) - Gordon Mann 1 Wing Pipes and Drums
Early Premier drums were mostly made of 3-ply birch, with reinforcing hoops as was common with most drums from that period.
In the 1960s Ludwig, Roger's and Slingerland were being sold in greater number that Premier drums. This decrease in popularity, despite Premier's equal quality, was only temporary and Premier continues to produce quality drums today.
For some years during the mid-1970s, Premier began using African Mahogany in their drum construction. Premier drums from that period were mostly made of three-ply mahogany with beech wood reinforcing hoops (or glue rings.). True mahogany from Khaya Nyasica, Africa have an approximately 20% increase in low frequency resonance over the maple drums. Mid and high frequencies are mostly the same from a reproduction point of view, but because the Mahogany has the 20% low end increase, the perceived tone is warmer.
Vintage Premier drum kits are somewhat rare nowadays and are considered by most experienced drummers as high quality drums. Premier's modern upper-range drum kits are made of birch or maple, both excellent drum-making materials.