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This story was written by:
Mike Ellis

Back in the Sixties 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 8000 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 - but they were unjustly regarded as "cheap" 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.

Mike Ellis

(updated February 2009)

Further recommended reading;
The Drum Book by Geoff Nicholls
The History of Beverley Drums by Dave Seville

This web site is dedicated to the history of vintage drums.

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