'Rolling Strong' tour celebrates Big Bass Drum's 90th

August 24, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A five-stop, "Rolling Strong: Big Bass Drum 90th Birthday Tour" will take a beloved Purdue icon on a tour of classic Indiana high school football rivalry games this fall.

"Sharing something that's unique to Purdue and very special to the hearts of all Boilermakers with football fans of all loyalties around Indiana is our tour's goal," said Kathy Matter, Purdue Bands public relations director and tour coordinator.

The drum's boom will be heard at some of the most hotly contested football rivalries, including games featuring two teams that won state championships in 2010.

In its own backyard, the drum will greet fans when Harrison High School visits McCutcheon on Sept. 9. 

It's been many years since West Lafayette and 2010 Class A state champ Lafayette Central Catholic high schools have met on the football field. The drum will be at their Oct. 14 showdown at Central Catholic.

The tour opens with two Indianapolis area games. Hamilton Southeastern visits county rival and 2010 Class 5A state titlist Fishers on Friday (Aug. 26 ). Then, on Sept. 2, the drum will be on hand when Center Grove plays at Carmel, a football rivalry listed on national websites as being Indiana's most intense.

A northern stop completes the tour, with the drum visiting the Merrillville at Valparaiso game on Sept. 30.

The home school's band department at each of the five stops will host the drum. It will be set up an hour before each game so fans can stop by, take pictures, meet the crew and ask questions about the drum's colorful history. It will remain available to the public through the third quarter at each game. Young children will be allowed to hit the drum.

Built in 1921 by Leedy Manufacturing of Indianapolis, Purdue's Big Bass Drum easily doubled the size of any drum in the world at the time and maintained its "World's Largest Drum" status for decades. The development of mylar in the 1950s, making synthetic rather than steer hide heads possible, made the creation of big drums easier. But, because they are expensive to build, challenging to store and hard to transport, the number of big drums remains small.

Purdue's maple-shelled drum is the original one built by Leedy. It has led a long and colorful life at Purdue, including some drum-nappings. Over the years many famous people have signed its heads from President Harry Truman to the first man on the moon Neil Armstrong, a former Purdue band member himself.
Contact: Kathy Matter, 765-496-6785, kcmatter@purdue.edu