Purdue Big Bass Drum

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
In the South End Zone of Ross–Ade Stadium on September 28, 1996, as Purdue defeated North Carolina State 42–21.

The Purdue Big Bass Drum is a percussion instrument played by the All-American Marching Band of Purdue University. At a height of more than ten feet (three meters), it is still branded (by Purdue) as the World's Largest Drum, although its not even close to the size of some Japanese Taiko drums. Since its inception, it has become a lasting symbol of the marching band as well as the university. The drum can be seen at all home football games as well as parades, alumni rallies, the Indianapolis 500 Race, and many other special events. It is stored within the Purdue University Armory when not in use.


Though the drum easily towers ten feet high on its carriage, the exact dimensions of the drum itself are a closely held secret known only to the crew members. The instrument is nearly four feet (one and a quarter metres) wide and about eight feet (two and a half metres) in diameter. Many of the original components, the carriage, axle, wheels, and wood shell of the drum are all intact and well preserved. Since its trip to Ireland with the "All-American" Marching Band in the spring of 2013, the drum has been remastered with new paint and select new parts to replace ones damaged on the trip. The carriage is built upon a Ford Model T back axle and wheelbase. The rims are steel wire spoke rims common during the 1910s in the racing circuit.

The drum is handled by a crew of four chrome-helmeted bandsmen, who are selected for their strength and agility, along with two beaters. They painstakingly rehearse every movement of the "Monster" drum to assure its being in the right place at the right time in accordance with the split-second timing necessary for the fast-paced shows presented by the "All-American" Band.


In 1921, Purdue Marching Band Director Spotts Emrick commissioned the Leedy Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis, Indiana, to produce a massive bass drum (cost: $911.12[citation needed]). Other bands were trying to make large drums at the time, but most could only achieve a diameter of about four feet. The main constraints included finding cattle skins large enough to use for drum heads, and carrying the drum both during and in between performances. After months of searching, Leedy's suppliers solved the first problem by finding steers weighing between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds each, which are said to have been from Argentina.[1] These large heads put a great strain on the shell, requiring special reinforcement rods to be designed.[2] While other marching bands had tried having two people work together to move their large drums along the football field, Emrick and Leedy decided to use a wheeled carriage. After contacting Jesse Lemon of the New York Central Railroad, Emrick was able to find a baggage car with a door large enough to accommodate the Monster.[1]

The Purdue Drum's first football game was at the University of Chicago, whose band members immediately contacted Conn asking for an even larger drum. The resulting instrument was completed the following year and later sold to the University of Texas at Austin where it was nicknamed "Big Bertha." Whether Big Bertha is actually larger than the Purdue Drum is still debated.[1][3]

The drum was refurbished in 1937 when the natural wood finish was replaced by an old gold diamond pattern and several inches were added to the drum's size. By the time Al Wright became Purdue's director of bands in 1954, the Big Bass Drum had been neglected after years of damage. Wright had the drum repaired and once again made it a centrepiece of the marching band. Because large cattle were much rarer than they were when the drum was built, Remo began making Mylar drum heads for Purdue in the early 1960s. These synthetic heads can be changed frequently.[1]

While the drum may have been the world's largest in overall size at the time it was constructed, other drums have claimed the title of world's largest, such as the Millennium Drum[citation needed]. However, no official comparative measurement has ever been made. In 1961, the University of Texas and Purdue University chapters of Kappa Kappa Psi, an honorary band fraternity, pledged to bring their drums to the national convention in Wichita, Kansas for a direct comparison; however, only Purdue showed up.[1][3]

The BBD has also gained national attention on several occasions, such as when it has been stolen, usually by students from Notre Dame or Big Ten rival, Indiana.[1]


The BBD has two beaters who work as a team to hit the drum. This is a list of the known previous beaters:

1935-1939 - Jesse Ballard
1966 - James Hefling
1968 - Stoops Poolbal/Hamm Stickles
1970 - Jorge Cloonicles
1971 - Jerry MacDonald
1980 - John Tolen, Steve Miller
1981 - John Tolen, Steve Miller
1982 - John Tolen, Steve Miller
1983 - John Tolen, Steve Miller
1984 - John Tolen, Al Golemo
1985 - Ben Pfeffer, Al Golemo
1986 - Ben Pfeffer, Al Golemo
1987 - Ben Pfeffer, Paul Kirsh
1989 - Jason Court
1993 - Tim Maynard
1994 - Wayne Johnson, Vincent Edward Carter
1995 - Brian Quirk, James Beeler
1996 - Brian Quirk, Misty McIntyre
1997 - Brian Quirk, Brett Blumb
1998 - Andrew Bauer, Brent LaRoche
1999 - Chad LaRoche, Troy Laubsch
2000 - Rob Ballard, Ben Lehman, Nugget
2001 - Rob Ballard, Ben Lehman, Nugget, John Mcknight
2002 - Rob Ballard, John Mcknight
2003 - Michael Diaz, Tim Flora, Ben Stengel, Peter Zahrt
2004 - Ben Stengel, Peter Zahrt
2005 - Tim Flora, Peter Zahrt
2006 - Kevin Zakiewicz, Greg Flora, Cole Garrett, Eric Kennedy
2007 - Kevin Zakiewicz, Greg Flora, Cole Garrett, Eric Kennedy
2008 - Greg Flora, Erik Larson, Dan Jemison, Marcus Thompson, John Henley, August Veron
2009 - Erik Larson, Marcus Thompson, August Veron, Michael Keefer, Ed Towne
2010 - Erik Larson, Marcus Thompson, Brian Foss, Kevyn Homowell, Aaron Miers, Talon Atwell
2011 - Marcus Thompson, Kevyn Homowell, Brian Foss, Michael Keefer, Talon Atwell
2012 - Chelsea Arthur, Aurie Swartz, Joey Heneghan
2013 - Chris McCabe, Aric Howard, Daniel Clark, Rebecca Fowler, Alex Lohse


The BBD has four pushers working to quickly move and navigate the drum through the band and across the football field. This is a list of the known previous pushers:

1921 - Marc Gilbert[4]
1967 - John "A.J." Collins
1968 - David P. Berlien, John "A.J." Collins, Art Glover
1969 - John "A.J." Collins
1970 - John "A.J." Collins
1971 - Carl Berlien, John "A.J" Collins, Blaze Stevenson
1981 - James "Stretch" Elliott
1982 - James "Stretch" Elliott
1983 - James "Stretch" Elliott
1987 - Darin Ingels, Steve ?, Eric Scheid
1988 - Delray Dobbins, Darin Ingels
1989 - Delray Dobbins, Ken Linger, Jeff Berger, Ron Subris
1991 - Tim Maynard, Ken Linger
1993 - Lynn Bortscheller, Eric Stankiewicz, Heather K. Webb
1994 - Eric Stankiewicz, James O'Hagan, Tim Hiestand, Bryan Warrick
1995 - James O'Hagan, Bryan Warrick, Tim Hiestand, Aaron Kelly
1996 - James O'Hagan, Bryan Warrick, Brett Blumb, Kevin Smith
1997 - Bryan Warrick, Chad LaRoche, Scott Lasiter, Troy Laubsch
1998 - Bryan Warrick, Chad LaRoche, Scott Lasiter, Troy Laubsch, Nugget
1999 - Scott Lasiter, Brandon Barrett, Ben Lehman, Rob Ballard
2000 - Rob Ballard, Ben Lehman, John McKnight, Nugget, Ben Murphy, Carin Vahle, Matt DeVille
2001 - Rob Ballard, Ben Lehman, John McKnight, Nugget, Carin Vahle, Steve Thomas, Nathan Dazey
2002 - Rob Ballard, Dana Lawrence, John McKnight, Steve Thomas, Lanette Armstrong, Peter Zahrt
2003 - Laurie Davis, Michael Diaz, Tim Flora, Ben Stengel, Stephanie Vahle, Peter Zahrt, Steve Thomas
2004 - Matt Brown, Kimberly Conrad, Kevin Zakiewicz, Tim Flora, Peter Zahrt, Evan Wisthuff
2005 - Kevin Zakiewicz, Greg Flora, Linden Cotchen, Andrew Teich, Evan Wisthuff
2006 - Linden Cotchen, John Weinrich, Eric Kennedy, Cole Garrett, John Zahrt, Peter Dinndorf, Greg Flora, Kevin Zakiewicz
2007 - Kevin Zakiewicz, Greg Flora, Cole Garrett, Eric Kennedy, Erik Larson, John Zahrt, Natalie Deacon
2008 - Greg Flora, Erik Larson, August Veron, Dan Jemison, Marcus Thompson, John Henley
2009 - Erik Larson, Marcus Thompson, August Veron, Ed Towne, Michael Keefer, Aaron Miers, Kevyn Homowell, Brian Foss
2010 - Erik Larson, Marcus Thompson, Kevyn Homowell, Brian Foss, Aaron Miers, Talon Atwell, Chris Lindsay
2011 - Marcus Thompson, Kevyn Homowell, Brian Foss, Talon Atwell, Michael Keefer, Andy Phelps, Aric Howard, Chelsea Arthur
2012 - Chelsea Arthur, Aric Howard, Joey Heneghan, Aurie Swartz, Chris McCabe, Daniel Clark, Brendan Schneider, Evan Neihouser
2013 - Chris McCabe, Aric Howard, Dan Clark, Brendan Schneider, Brady Ubel, Rebecca Fowler, Alex Lohse


Spinning in the Block P[edit]

In 1907 the Purdue All-American Marching Band was the first marching band to break ranks and form a block letter on the field.[5] During the pregame show, the drum is positioned in the 'P' formed by the marching band and spins while the band plays "Hail Purdue!".

Indianapolis 500[edit]

Being part of the official band of the Indianapolis 500, the drum can be seen on the back of a pickup truck driven around the track.


When Purdue scores, the drum crew can occasionally be seen performing aerials in the Southeast endzone of Ross–Ade Stadium. This is accomplished by first removing the 'third' wheel, which acts as kick stand. Two crew members pull down of the back of the drum as two other members are lifted on the front bar of the carriage, while performing acrobatic stunts, such as spinning on the bar, horizontal holds, and one handed balancing.


Drum crew members perform push-ups each time the Purdue Boilermakers score a touchdown. The push-ups correspond to the total score achieved at that point by the Purdue football team. The push-up tradition was started by Eric Stankiewicz in 1994.


Another tradition is for celebrities to sign the drum head, and old autographed heads are kept in the Bands Department. The head was signed by US President Harry Truman in 1961. Kix Brooks of Brooks and Dunn signed his name to the drum before a concert at Purdue University in 1995. Other signatures include astronauts Gus Grissom and Neil Armstrong as well as Snoop Dogg and the Kodo Drummers of Japan. The inside of the drum is filled with names of previous drum crew members. Through two air expansion holes in the side of the drum, one can easily spot the names.


Every fall during the week of camp, training occurs. The potential crew is put through a series of physical and public relations tests to determine if they suit the characteristics needed to be on the crew. Physical tests include: 2 minutes of push-ups, 2 minutes of sit-ups, a 1.5-mile road course, a 100-meter dash, and a 400-meter run. Each test has a perfect score for which members aim. A series of questions are asked to the crew to see how they would respond in certain situations because during a year many types of situations can occur ranging from talking with celebrities, rowdy fans, and senior citizens. Each takes a certain adaptation that a crew member needs to make. Questions also include history of and other important facts of the drum such as its size and original cost. Thursday of camp the crew scales the stairs of Ross-Ade Stadium for one final run in the blistering sun of an Indiana August.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Cook, Rob (1993). "Bass Drums Become Big and Bigger!". The Complete History of the Leedy Drum Company. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 79–85. ISBN 978-0-931759-74-1. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  2. ^ "Purdue Has World's Largest Bass Drum". Popular Science Monthly (Bonnier Corporation) 99 (6): 71. December 1921. ISSN 0161-7370. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  3. ^ a b "Purdue's Big Bass Drum makes long-awaited return to Chicago". Purdue University News Service. 2002-07-02. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  4. ^ Teibel, Jamie (2001-10-12). "Purdue to host celebration for Big Bass Drum". Purdue Exponent. ; Downloadable Big Bass Drum Photos. October 15, 2001. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  5. ^ Norberg, John (1987). Hail Purdue. The "ALL-AMERICAN" Band Club. p. 29. ISBN 0-9617991-0-2. 

External links[edit]