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Louie Bellson Dies: 1924 - 2009

Published: Mon February 23, 2009  News Feed

We regret to announce the unexpected passing of Louie Bellson on Feb 14, 2009 due to complications of Parkinson's disease following a broken hip in November. He was 84.

Louie bellson

Tentative plans are for an L.A. area funeral, followed by a funeral and burial in Moline, Illinois, his boyhood home.

Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni (6 July 1924 – 14 February 2009), better known by the stage name Louie Bellson (his own preferred spelling, although he is often seen in sources as Louis Bellson), was an Italian-American jazz drummer. He was a composer, arranger, bandleader, and jazz educator, and is credited with pioneering the use of two bass drums.

Bellson was an internationally-acclaimed artist who performed in most of the major capitals around the world. Bellson and his first wife, the late actress and singer Pearl Bailey (married 1952-1990), had the second highest number of appearances at the White House (only Bob Hope had more). He was a vice president at Remo, the drum company.

He performed and/or recorded scores of albums (approximately 200) as a leader, co-leader or sideman with such renowned musicians and leaders such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Woody Herman, Norman Granz' J.A.T.P. (Jazz at the Philharmonic), Benny Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Hank Jones, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson, Clark Terry, Louie Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Shelly Manne, Billy Cobham, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Pearl Bailey, Mel Tormé, Joe Williams, Wayne Newton and film composer John Williams.

Today, many new drummers who use two kick drums may not realise this, but Louie Bellson was the first drummer to adopt this setup.

Watch Louie bellson in action, 1957:

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