Bellson Blues

Louie Bellson

A Drumming Pioneer

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This film of drummer Louis Bellson performing with Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter was was filmed at the London Philharmonic in 1967.

Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni (July 6, 1924 – February 14, 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 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, a drum company. Louie was also very great friends with the notorious cymbal manufacturer, Armand Zildjian.

Louie Bellson was born in Rock Falls, Illinois, in 1924 and started playing drums at three years of age. At age 15, he pioneered the double-bass drum set-up. His detailed sketch earned him an ‘A’ in his high school art class. At age 17, he triumphed over 40,000 drummers to win the Slingerland National Gene Krupa contest. Louie graduated from Moline High School, Moline, IL, in 1939.

In 1943, he performed with the Benny Goodman band and Peggy Lee in “The Powers Girl” the first of his many film appearances. He also appeared in 20th Century Fox’s classic “The Gang’s All Here” (1943) in the orchestra while Carmen Miranda sang “Paducah”. Bellson was 24 and a veteran of a U.S. Army band when he joined Danny Kaye, Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Barnet, Benny Carter, Mel Powell, Kenny Dorharn, Harry Babasin, Al Hendrickson, Buck Washington, and Goodman for the Howard Hawks film “A Song Is Born” (1948).


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