Louie Bellson (July 6, 1924 - February 14, 2009)
All of us at Zildjian are deeply saddened by the passing of drumming pioneer, musical giant, humanitarian and longtime friend, Louie Bellson. Throughout his illustrious 70-year career, Louie played with virtually every giant in the music world and was a prolific composer, arranger, bandleader and educator.
"Over the years, we've tried to acknowledge just how special Louie was and still is to the Zildjian family," comments Craigie Zildjian. In 1998, Zildjian celebrated Louie's iconic greatness, (along with Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones and Max Roach,) at Zildjian's
first American Drummers Achievement Awards at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where we established a scholarship in his name. Steve Gadd paid musical tribute to Louie and then presented Louie with his Drummer's Achievement Award (five years later, in 2003, when Steve Gadd was to receive the same award, Louie Bellson was on-hand to give Steve his award.) A year later, Zildjian recognized Louie's 80th birthday at the Drummers Collective in New York, and celebrated his 80th birthday again in January 2005 (along with Roy Haynes and Earl Palmer), at Winter NAMM in Anaheim, CA.
"With Louie, there aren't enough words in the dictionary to describe the talent and humanity that he brought to the world. His impact will forever be entrenched and serve as a guiding light for all of us. Debbie and I are deeply saddened but grateful to have been associated with such a master" continued Craigie Zildjian.
Louie was a true innovator and is credited as the originator of using two bass drums in his set-up, a concept that literally reshaped the way the drums were played. Louie also pioneered the concept of using a heavy bottom high hat cymbal with a medium top, thus Zildjian's legendary New Beat Hi Hats were born.
Besides being one the greatest musicians of all time, Louie was the most beloved person in the entire percussion industry. You only had to meet him once to feel like you were his longtime friend. He had that unique ability of making everyone feel special. He was a role model for young musicians - always taking time to answer questions and to impart his knowledge.
Louie had an enduring relationship with the Zildjian Family: Avedis, Armand, Craigie and Debbie, as well as so many others at the
Zildjian Company. He will be sorely missed by all of us here at Zildjian, and by the entire drumming community.
Commented John DeChristopher, Zildjian's Vice President, Artist Relations:
"I feel blessed to have known Louie and to have so many wonderful memories of him. He made a huge impact on my life as well as my family's. I can't describe the feeling when he'd call to tell me how much he loved the cymbals I'd sent him, or to say 'thanks' for sending him drumsticks. He was that kind of person - he said thank you, he appreciated little things and he loved talking about drums and drummers; he was simply a wonderful and kind human being. There's a funny story about Louie introducing Buddy at a gig where he said "And now, please welcome the only man who could be alone in a room and start an argument, Buddy Rich." Only Louie could get away with saying that! Armand Zildjian told me a long time ago 'always take care of Louie.' It was a pleasure, Armand..."
Below, please read some messages from some of the Zildjian Extended Family on the loss of Louie. If you would like to add your own comments, please visit the official Zildjian MySpace and Facebook pages.
What words to say when an immortal one leaves us? Louie Bellson had been "there" for my entire life, always legendary, elegant and exemplar. There was Louie in the Ellington band, serving as role model that drummers can be composers. There was Louie, married to Pearl - and later to Francine - serving as pioneering role model that harmony could be found on the bandstand as well as between races, in marriage and in music. There was Louie, consummate gentleman, serving as role model that graciousness is hip as well as possible in jazz and in this modern world. Louie, the quintessential timekeeper who always had time for everyone. It's hard to imagine a kinder and more giving man than Louie, all the more extraordinary because of his sky-high talents and abilities.
Louie's drumming could win the day by a knockout punch or a series of subtle whispers.
There was Louie in that wonderful Rogers catalog, thumbed through countless times by this young drummer upon which I eventually managed to get my own Dyna-Sonic snare drum just like the one Louie used to play. I still thumbed through that catalog afterwards for inspiration, dreaming while looking at the photos of Louie in action.
And the sound that man got from the drums! Most of us expected, I think, that Louie would always be "there" for us.
I wrote down a list of words this morning after I got the news...
Louie Bellson: Great, gracious, god-like, a giant, gee-whiz-wow...drumming guardian, true Gentleman! Giving, gentle, a gift to the world of music...go, Gene, go! Gallant, glowing...genius, genial, always generous. All good things, and now...gone.
Rest in Peace, Louie, and know that you left the world a better place.
Louie Bellson was not only one of my drum heroes...he was a very good friend and role model to me.
I first met Louie in 1978 at the Witchita Jazz Festival when I traveled there with my college big band. I was playing at the festival in the North Texas State Big Band and Louie was appearing there with his AMAZING Louie Bellson Big Band. The highlight of the festival was when Buddy Rich's big band and Louie's big band played together on stage for the grand finale!! It was UNBELIEVABLE!!!!
Buddy and Louie were very close friends and they had a lot of mutual respect for each other. They ended the night's show with a FANTASTIC drum duet that was INCREDIBLY musical. I spent countless hours of my college years playing over and over to Louie's tremendous big band album EXPLOSION!!
He was also a good friend of my dad Bud Bissonette. My dad passed away this past Oct 21, 2008, and Francine Bellson (Louie's wife) told me yesterday that the last public event that Louie made it to was my Dad's graveside burial and celebration of life service. What an honor...I know that my dad and Louie are hanging out in Heaven right now!!
One of the greatest thrills of my life was getting to play a big drum duet with Louie at the very FIRST Buddy Rich Memorial Tribute concert in 1989 on Long Island, NY at the Westbury Music Fair (a great theater in the round). This was a fantastic event that was the first in a series of many Buddy tribute concerts. Unfortunately, it was never recorded on audio or video. It featured Louie, Steve Gadd, Vinnie Coliauta, Dave Weckl, Joe Morello, Jim Chapin, Dom Famularo, Al Miller (a tremendous NY drummer who was also one of Buddy's best friends), Steve Arnold and Danny Di Imperio (one of Maynard and Woody's finest drummers with a GREAT house band made up of tons of Buddy alumni). Louie just absolutely tore it up with Buddy's tribute Big Band!! Another great honor for me was getting to play a REALLY fun drum trio with Louie and Dennis Chambers at the 2nd Buddy Rich tribute concert that WAS filmed at the Wiltern Theatre a year later in 1990.
Francine and Louie were at my wedding in 1996 and they would honor me several times by coming to my gigs with my jazz quintet at Cafe Cordiale near where they lived in Sherman Oaks, CA. Cafe Cordiale was one of their favorite dinner/jazz night spots!
A good friend of mine named Ronnie Berg, who was fifteen and had cancer, came from NY to my house in Los Angeles in 1997. This trip for him and his very supportive parents was made possible by the Make A Wish Foundation. Louie, and many other members of the Woodland Hills Drum Club (including Myron Grombacher, Simon Phillips, Tris Imboden, Hilary Jones, Tony Pia and myself), spent the day playing side by side drum duets and hanging out with Ronnie who played all day and wore us all out!! Ronnie passed away just a few days after his 22nd birthday...but Louie Bellson gave him one of the greatest drumming days of his life that day in 1997. Louie was ALL HEART!!!
Years ago I asked Louie how he did it...he was then in his seventies and I said something like: "Louie...how do you do it? You have SO much energy and you are traveling around the world and playing with your big band and your small group, you do all kinds of great cd's with your own groups and other artists, you do clinics all over the world, and you are in amazing physical shape!!"
His reply was something like this "Well you know...I eat right, exercise, I don't drink much, I try to stay in good physical shape. But most importantly, I try to never let negative thoughts enter into my mind!!"
I thought WOW...in the MUSIC business...with all of the ups and downs...yet the glass is always half FULL (not half empty) to Louie Bellson...What an incredible man, drumming hero and role model!! God Bless you Louie!!
Louie Bellson was one of the architects that helped shape music in general and jazz drumming in particular for many generations of drummers. He also broke down racial barriers during years of severe discrimination.
I love that guy. Just to prove how great of a guy Louie was, there was a conversation I once had with Buddy where he said "Louie wouldn't have a bad word to say about Adolf Hitler" and that was the truth.
Louie Bellson was truly one of our greatest! He was a gift to everyone who knew him and listened to his beautiful performances. His memory will be eternal.
My teacher in Cincinnati, Jack Volk, was a fellow Rogers artist in the early sixties and knew Louie Bellson well. My very first clinic was a Rogers' clinic featuring Louie Bellson and Roy Burns. After seeing Louie play, I couldn't WAIT to get two bass drums - and did within a few years! Louie's performance was, of course, detailed and awe-inspiring, but I remember his humanity almost more than his drumming. It was overwhelmingly clear that this was a great man. A principled man, with his pride in the right place.
I am thrilled that Zildjian included me as a dinner guest with Louie and his wife a few years ago. These few memories of him, simply enjoying the hang with his peers at the dinner table and the fine gentleman that he was, will always be with me. Dude could play too.
I first met Louis around 1972 when he was in London at the "Talk Of The Town" playing with Pearl Bailey.
I was playing in my father's band at that time and one of his trumpet players also played in the "Town" band. He took me along to
the show one night in the hope of meeting Louis and of course seeing him play.
Louis made me feel so welcome and in his mind, there was no question of me standing in the wings straining to see him play. He asked for a chair and sat me down right beside and behind his Hi-Hat overlooking his music stand. I and the best seat in the house and probably the best music lesson ever. He was so gracious and often looked over his shoulder to smile at me. That was just the start. I met him a few years later at the Frankfurt Trade Show in 1982 where he came with Armand Zildjian and others to watch me play at the Tama booth. We would bump into each other all over the place and in 1987 we finally got to play together on a program produced by Pete York that became "Superdrumming." Brian Auger had written a piece of music that we both played and soloed on. That was another huge lesson and has to be one of the greatest highlights of my career.
It was always a pleasure to meet up with Louis and I am sure anyone who has ever met him knows what a gentleman he was, how modest he was and what musical genius he was - but underneath it all, he had that fire which could be summoned up whenever he felt necessary and make a statement that as large as life!!!
He will be sorely missed and it is also another sad reminder of an era lost.
Leon Chiappini (Zildjian Head Cymbal Tester)
Louie was a great drummer and a wonderful person. We will miss him very much. Wouldn't it be nice if he were playing in that big band up there with Armand...
I remember riding in the car and listening to this great drum solo - had no idea who it was, but very fiery and inventive and quite
lengthy. The dj announced the record, the title of which I have forgotten, and the drummer, Louis Bellson, whom I did not forget.
That was quite an ear opener for me...
My heart goes out to the family & friends of Louie. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of times. He was a true master of his craft, and one that I would consider to be a pioneer of double bass. He paved the way for a lot of us drummers, and for that I am grateful. One of the last real gentlemen, Louie Bellson, you will truly be missed.
I was walking through NAMM last year. I was just taking in all the smaller booths in the back, and all the cool percussion stuff those booths are known to contain.
Sitting in a little booth, all by himself, was Louie Bellson.
I stood there and stared...one of the greatest drummers of all time, just sitting there all alone.
He looked up and saw me, jumped to his feet and said, "Hi, I'm Louie Bellson. Are you a drummer?"
I stammered some ridiculous answer and shook his hand. He said, "Son, why don't you buy one of my new CDs. I'll even sign it for you!!"
I gladly gave him the money and walked away with a personally signed CD from Louie Bellson. It was the best NAMM show ever. Little did I know, that it would be the 1st and last time I would ever see him again. Rest in peace, Louie.
2 bass drums, rack tom center-mounted, 2 small toms left, 2 floor toms right, matching cymbal heights left and right...Louie Bellson had the blue print for the drum setups of so many rock/metal/fusion drummers in my era, including myself. The old video clips are amazing. R.I.P.
Louis Bellson was acknowledged as a great musician and drummer by all that appreciate the instrument. DUKE knew. We all know that! I also got to know this gentlemen and remember him as being one of the nicest and most encouraging human beings that I ever met, who kept his ears and heart open. A great inspiration!!!
God Bless Louis!
The first time I saw Louie was the very first drum clinic I ever attended, at Ronnie Scott's club in London, maybe around 1983. By chance, my brother Mike & I met Ronnie himself in the West End and he invited us two young teenagers, keen on music, to see Louie play. We sat right at the front of the stage & Louie's bass drums were right at the edge of the stage. I could smell his cologne...we were that close. I had previously bought 150 MPH with the now standard Don Menza tune "Time Check" and another album Matterhorn, with Billy Cobham. This album really showed me how he was such an incredible composer too.
Several things about his performance inspired me that day. First thing was that he was around the same size as me...5 foot 7inches, small build...a real boon for me as a young teen, having been told that "real drummers" were built like John Bonham. Secondly, he played the drums like an orchestra (he was a great orchestrator), with a different type of physicality...similar to Fred Astaire or Sammy Davis Jr tap dancing. I loved his rhythmic phrasing & his swing. People ask me how I'm able to play while looking so relaxed.
Louie played a big part in that for me. I was so familiar with his sound on the albums but when I SAW him, everything was crystallized for me. I absorbed everything!
The biggest part of the day for me was meeting him afterwards when he signed my albums (which I still have). He made a nervous kid with a very severe stutter feel very much at ease.
The last time I spoke to him was at a Zildjian event, just outside London, to honour him. In 1999 I guess. I told him I had just attended a great speech therapy which had helped me a lot and this was the first time I'd experienced anything near fluent speech. He then stood up and gave me a big hug and congratulations. And his wife was very sweet too. I'll NEVER forget that. A colossal superstar legend...yet his humanity was much bigger!
He certainly enriched my life.
With great respect to Buddy Rich, Luigi Paulino Francesco Antonio Balassoni, for me, Louie was far cooler.
It seems ironic that Louie joined that big band up there on the day of love, for everyone. Louie was a great drummer, but more than that, he was a great guy. We both attended Roy Knapp in Chicago. Everyone loved Louie and his masterful talent on the drums.
He will be sorely missed. Rest well dear friend and kick that big band in the butt!!!
I'm sorry to have the news that Louis has moved on. Unfortunately, I never got to know him too well personally other than a few times our paths crossed when he was very warm and encouraging to me as a young musician. I of course admire everything he created.
Such a rich and giving lifetime of music. I send my condolences to Louis' family and loved ones. The world is certainly richer for his creative contributions.
With respect and admiration.
I am deeply filled with sorrow as one of the greatest drummers in the world has passed on.
Louie Bellson was not only the best, he was and is a legend that will live in the hearts of all who had the great fortune to know him. I'm sure that God is holding Louie in His arms.
Another great has exited stage left...one of my favourite players of all time...innovative: always a drummer. His work with Duke was amazing...one of my big influences for using two bass drums...God bless Louie...you will always be remembered...
A man of Wisdom, Grace and an awesome gift from God. My friend Louie was and always will be an inspiration to All! God picked a perfect day for Louie to go home. He is my funny Valentine!
Krupa, Rich and Bellson, the big three...are once more reunited, the triumvirate of genius that inspired and amazed is now complete. Louis to me was always kind on the few occasions I snuck in backstage to just stare at the white marine pearl of his beautiful double bass drum set. He always took time to talk, he was gently spoken and I always went to my seat with the gift of another piece of wonderful knowledge about practicing or clutching some gifted sticks, Louis seemed to always have time. Then the transition...The lightning singles, the driving ride, Louis the breath taking soloist, Louie the consummate accompanist, Louie Bellson was a national treasure of American music, an innovator, a drummer of mind blowing talent and world class jazz composer, bless him.
I first ment Louie when I was 7 years old and he was always not only an amazing drummer, but an amazing, positive, uplifting person who's passion for music and life will be greatly missed.
My Mom and Dad saw Louie Bellson's Band on there honeymoon in Vegas. I guess Mom had no idea then that she would have a family of drummers, but after hearing Louie that night, I think Dad had a plan.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bellson because I played with Ray Brown whom Louie had played with also on numerous occasion. He could swing a big band to death and be right at home in a trio or whatever setting you put him in. It's sad that an end of an era is coming to pass, but the music and spirit live on and so does Mr. Bellson's spirit and legacy.
In September 2000, Louie was on our campus to perform with the Kentucky Jazz Repertory Orchestra as part of a "Salute to Ellington" concert. After Louie rehearsed his charts, he asked the band if they would read some of his new arrangements so he could hear them.
It was a treat for me to play drums while Louie conducted, a dream come true. Later that evening, I played the first half of the concert and then Louie walked out for the second half. The first thing he did was complement me to the audience, the most gracious gentleman I have ever met. Of course, he stole the show for his portion of the concert as he made the band sound better than ever and brought the audience to its' feet. I remember he stayed a good hour afterwards signing autographs. A more giving artist never graced our drumming fraternity.
I am very grateful that Louie artistically inspired so many drummers by ignoring the rhetorically challenged musicians who described (and still describe) setting up two bass drums as "unmusical."
When I was a little kid, as far as big name drummers go, the first guys I ever heard about were Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, and Louie Bellson. My teacher at the time was a huge Bellson fan, so obviously that made me focus a little more on Louie and his history, not too mention he had TWO bass drums on his kit - very cool!!! Technically this is the man that FIRST inspired me to get another kick drum, and boy could he play them. I had the opportunity to see Louie at the MD fest in 1993 and he was smokin!! It gave me the confidence to know that you can keep kicking ass no matter how old you are!!! I'm just sad that I never got a chance to meet him and personally thank him for being such an inspiration! However, I'm sure he's in a better place now.
I had the great honor of meeting Louie a number of years ago, what a great human being. I stood in line to get his autograph after buying his latest album.
I walked up to him and he said "Alan, how are you doing? You're the drummer in YES. I listen to you guys all the time" Mind blowing!!! He's the one guy in the world that got me interested in double bass drum technique at an early age.
He will be greatly missed.
Louie Bellson. Those iconic photos that I stared at over and over as a kid, the two kick drums, man what a drummer. He made the impossible look doable. Fast forward...it's the eighties and now I'm friends with the likes of Myron Grombacher, Gregg Bissonette and the late, great Mark Craney. All bad-ass players and beautiful cats. They let me know that they are headed to the Catalina Club in Hollywood to catch Louie Bellson and his big band. I'm in. Turns out the guys know him. Louie is such a lovely man, invites everyone over to his table for a hang. Gregg introduces me to Louie so he treats me like an old friend. The conversation comes around to his performance that we just saw. I tell him that I just witnessed the greatest single stroke and press rolls ever. "How do you do that?" I ask. He looks around the table and with his movie star smile tells us, "You try to make it sound like you're tearing paper." Gregg says something fast and funny like, "Well brother, you tore up the whole LA Times tonight!" He laughs, looks every one of us in the eye and says..."I'm still working on it."
Louie Bellson never stopped teaching and learning and I'm very honored and grateful for the night that I got to sit at his table.
Louie's passing marks the end of an era in drumming. His attitude and love for music inspired countless musicians. When we spoke last summer, he still had the determination to play, putting the sticks in his hands every day just to feel the instrument. He had the greatest single stroke roll ever! It was intense, yet legato and like all aspects of his style, he made it look effortless. That was the magic of Louie. He knew how to play the drum.
He was a true trendsetter, the first to use two bass drums. He was also a very skilled composer and arranger writing music for Duke Ellington as a member of his orchestra. He was always very giving of his time, trying to impart knowledge through his experience to help younger players at trade shows and clinics.
In one conversation we had, he gave advice for which every drummer should live by.
"Learn to play the instrument, making it a part of your life. Listen to all kinds of drummers to include the old timers because you have to know where you came from in order to know where you're going. Music is a learning process and everyday you wake up, you can open up a book and study the scales of drumming and do it with love because that's what I did. Learn how to play different arrangements, learn how to improvise and memorize fast. Those are all key things every drummer should know. It takes time and effort. Keep on schooling."
The last time I saw him was in the exhibit hall of PASIC 07. I had my son Tony with me, and this was his first PAS convention. Louie took notice of Tony practicing various rudiments on a drum pad. Louie turned to me and said, "he's got a nice pair of hands Steve." He went on to talk to Tony and encourage him to continue his studies. I was genuinely touched that he took the time to be so kind to my family.
My best memory of Louie was at a Zildjian Party in 1984. It was the day following Zildjian Day in Boston in the lot adjoining the Zildjian Factory. There was a kit set up and at the high point of the party, Louie sat down to play with Armand by his side and the "who's who" of drumming gathered around Louie. Everyone was grinning ear-to-ear as they witnessed a true legend. I'm sure we've all spent some time on YouTube since Louie's passing - WOW! As a drummer, he was so smooth and so musical, but besides being such a master of the instrument, he was so eager to compliment and praise others. I've spoken with Louie a bunch of times at clinics, PAS shows, parties, etc, and he was always so warm and friendly. The last time I saw him play was several years back at Fat Tuesday's in NYC, a few blocks from where I live. It was a small club and I was sitting about a foot away from him. I was humbled when he acknowledged me to the audience- a truly "I'm not worthy" moment. I've also read interviews where he recommended my book on double bass- the art of drumming he invented! I can only speak of my personal interaction with him, but it was clear that he was the same with everyone- whether it was a peer, a beginner drummer or a fan. He was the ultimate gentleman! We love you Louie- you'll always be an inspiration to us all and for generations to come...
Saturday, February 14th the world not only lost one of the greatest and innovative drummers of all time. It lost its most important role model and spokesman. I feel privileged to have been a good friend of Louie's and too have experienced his amazing depth as a drummer, musician and most importantly as a human being. I not only learned to use the double bass drum with restraint and taste, he also he taught me how to be a better man and for that I will always be eternally grateful. He taught me to remain humble no matter how important you or other people may think you are. To always take the time to share your gift with your fellow musicians, especially kids as they are our future. We all owe so much to him and have to make sure we as his students carry the torch for him in his memory.
I never got the chance to meet Louis Bellson the man, but you don't have to look far to see what a widely-loved, benevolent, warm and compassionate human being he was. The artistry, innovation and contribution he brought to this art, of course, are of colossal proportions, and will surely continue to inspire thousands and thousands of aspiring players in the future.
I am very sad to hear of his passing and I wish for his family and close ones much courage, strength and warmth at this immensely sad time.
I grew up about 50 miles south of where Maestro Bellson was born, so I was fortunate to hear and meet him when he would come home for appearances. He inspired me by not only the beautiful sound he offered, but also by his joyful countenance that welcomed everyone in his presence to see the world in a positive light.
I was student at a jazz camp where Mr. Bellson was the guest artist in the summer of 1980. I saw him one morning in a practice room working on a score for a new big band arrangement. He invited me to sit with him and he graciously shared his thoughts and concept for the arrangement. I realized that that this man was a complete musician and today I am a composer because of those precious minutes being inspired by a master. Indeed he was a master. He played with Duke Ellington and his compositions were played by the Ellington Orchestra! Talk about an extraordinary achievement!
Just Sunday, I was going through a box of keepsakes that I recently had sent from Illinois. In it was a framed picture of Mr. Bellson smiling behind a set of Slingerlands. He signed it "To Matt Wilson, a fine young player."
I'll never forget the moment that he signed it at a concert in Rock Island, Illinois. Talk about something making you feel great AND motivated to practice (I am heading down to my studio right now!). Thank you Louie Bellson for making the world a better place through your music and compassionate spirit!
I met Louie twice, about 7 years apart. The second time I was taking a friend to see him at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. I told my friend that Louie and I were old pals thinking that we would never get a chance to talk to him anyway and seizing the opportunity to wind my friend up a bit! We walked in and we were some of the first people there so it was a bit empty. Louie was on stage messing with his drums and before I could hide he came walking over and said, "Jimmy! How are you doing man? You look great! Great to see you!" He remembered me like he had met me the day before! I answered his questions whilst my friend looked at me with a solemn reverence. Needless to say that besides getting one of the best drum lessons of my life that night, I received an education in Humility and Grace. No extra charge! Louie was an ambassador for all of us. He gave all of us a good name! God Bless Him!
Terri Lyne Carrington
Louie was one of the most gracious gentleman I have known. I met him and played his drums when I was 10 years old and he treated me with such kindness and respect back then, as well as every time I saw him after that. Often, his incredible technique overshadowed the fact that he was always appropriate and musical, but the joyfulness in his playing is what I remember the most. I will miss him, yet it is comforting to know that his contributions to jazz will remain forever...
In 1980, I was playing with Woody Herman's Band at Ronnie Scott's in London, Louie and Kenny Clare came in together. Both of them were so encouraging, all they wanted to do was talk about music. A few years later, Louie and Pearl Baily came into a gig I was doing with Red Rodney and Ira Sullivan's Group. I was surprised that Louie remembered me, once again he was so supportive, all he wanted to do was talk about music. Do you sense a theme yet? Everybody knows what a great guy he was, but what struck me about him was his curiosity, his heartfelt desire to keep learning. I always felt honored somehow when I would get regards from him through a musician we both knew. Truly a man of humility and integrity, his loss saddens me, but his spirit makes me smile.
I remember seeing him at a clinic and didn't really know his playing, only his name. I was in awe of his incredible speed, and even more so, his finesse and gracefulness. I left there with a lesson in class and style. What a force!!!
I'm very saddened by the loss of one of the greatest drummers and human beings that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, Mr. Louie Bellson. I had the honor of spending time with Louie over the years and I took away a few profound things. The honesty of life that was displayed by Louie, was very profound. It was always about just playing great music and being a great musician. Not press, theatrics, politics, money or fame, just music. Only this level of honesty can propel you to the heights of musical legend, that Mr. Bellson has attained. I sat and spoke to him many times over the years but one instance, I will always remember. I was coming back from a tour, flying into Burbank airport and low and behold, Louie Bellson is waiting curbside for a car to pick him up. He sees me first and says "Hi Russ!" (the fact that Louie Bellson knew my name, was enough to brighten my day!). I, of course, ran over to him and greeted him. He asked where I was coming from and I asked him the same. I asked him how he felt and how he was doing physically (this was just when his health was started to downslide), he said he was still going! And then said to me, "It's your turn now, Russ." First, I felt like crying, then was hit with a rush of fear. I could never even pick up where these giants left off! We are all still trying to come close to where they were in the 1940's! Louie was an equally genuine and beautiful person, as he was a musician. Humility, joy, reverence, genius and power seldom co-exist in one person, but they did in Louie Bellson. These attributes are the ingredients of a great musician but more importantly, a great person. I am truly indebted to him for all of things that I have stole from his playing over the years. From, "Fascinating Rhythm" on the Skin Deep record, to "Gee Baby Ain't I Good To You" with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Louie has been a huge influence to me. Louie is now with the Lord and is playing better than ever!!! Thank you Mr. Bellson for you time here, it is truly a better place because of people like you.
Louie was a gentleman who always had time to chat. I've just written an obituary on him for Mike Dolbear's website and having listed all the jazz greats he'd played with, I tried to put it into rock 'n' roll terms. What Louie did in his time was my generation's equivalent of playing with The Beatles, Stones, Who, Kinks, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Eric Clapton et al.
I found 'Skin Deep' on You Tube and really studied it for the first time for years. It was blindingly obvious Louie Bellson taught me and every drummer who has ever aspired to playing more than one bass drum exactly how to do it.
Louie was the consummate gentleman, and he was such a positive influence on me, and the entire drumming community, both musically and personally. As a young player, he recommended me for Maynard Fergusons band (my first big gig), and he was always kind and supportive. To strive to live your life well lived is a noble goal, and Louie certainly showed us how that should be done.
I was fortunate enough to have met Louie Bellson at a critical stage in my development and he was a completely gracious and giving man.
I think most of us immediately think of him as a master technician with an unbeatable feel, but one of his most important attributes in my opinion, is that he was an early practitioner of also utilizing the drum set for colorist possibilities. He was a true musician in that regard and brought out qualities in the music that showed a whole generation of drummers another crucial aspect of being a great drummer.
During the 70's, I played on his CD called Ecue for Pablo Records. Louie was such a gentleman and so humble. I tried to learn those virtues from him.
God Bless him RIP.
I'm so sorry to hear this. My prayers go out to Louie and his family.
Louie was a friend of mine since 1977. He was doing a drum clinic at Franks drum shop in chicago and people kept chanting my name and he was talking about the swiss rudiments and demonstrating them and he asked me to join him on stage to jam with him and do swiss rudiments alongside him. That meeting with Louie led me to my first drum endorsement with Slingerland drums that same day. I signed a deal that Monday at the company with Spence Alosio. That day changed my life.
Louie, may you rest in peace.
Louie Bellson's passing has left me with a pain in my heart. Louie had become a friend and mentor and I loved being able to call him on the phone and have an inspiring talk. It seems strange that I will no longer be able to do that. I miss the fact that Louie no longer inhabits this planet.
I met Louie Bellson for the first time in 1984 when I did a drum clinic with him and Billy Cobham. We all played together during that clinic and it was quite an intimidating experience for me. Louie was very gracious and did his best to put me at ease. Over the years, I did a number of Zildjian Weekend Workshops with Louie and I got to know him quite well. We stayed in touch over the phone and saw each other frequently at gigs, clinics, and trade shows. Louie was the nicest man I have ever met, always complimentary and very open-minded. Of course I asked him to show me some of his moves on the drumset and he was very forthcoming and generous with his lessons.
I learned a lot from him on how to truly listen to, and appreciate, the younger generations. He would ask me many questions about what I was playing and how I did it, and gave me the kind of encouraging feedback that was inspirational and helped me build confidence. I came to realize after awhile that he was modeling for me an approach to mentoring the next generation that was positive and encouraging. His influence on me has helped me to look for the positive and be open-minded with the younger generations, when sometimes as an older musician, it is not always obvious. Louie Bellson was one of the greatest drummers who ever lived and he was one of the greatest human beings that ever lived.
I remember as a fresh young drummer seeing a video of Louis on one of the Buddy Rich Memorial Concert videos. I'd never heard of him before that. My main memory was the sheer delight that he had on his face. His love an passion for music looked as strong as ever. It really inspires me to remember why I do music and I truly hope that I can show the same passion and enthusiasm for my instrument when I get to my 70's and 80's.
A pioneer, a gentlemen and one heck of a drummer...
I was deeply saddened by the passing of Louie Bellson. He was always very gracious to me. On the few occasions I got to be around him, his love for the music and his spirit permeated the room! I'm glad that I got the chance to meet Mr. Bellson. My Prayers go out to the family.
Joe La Barbara
There are great drummers and there are great men...Louie was both. I have never, ever heard anyone say anything bad about Louie Bellson. That is truly success.
Bill Selditz has been hosting these "Jake Hanna" luncheons for a while and Hamilton surprised everyone by bringing Louie. I cannot describe how moving it was to hear Ed Shaughnessy talk about meeting Louie when he was 16 and getting a second bass drum pedal from him along with a lot of encouragement.
Truly, the Big Band era came to an end with the death of Louis Bellson. Composer, bandleader, drumming advocate, devoted husband--Louie lived a very full life. And, he was a lovely, generous gentleman. Never too busy to give a helping hand or word of advice to a passing younger musician--like myself. He will be missed as much as he was loved.
It was my pleasure to meet Louie many years ago when he was doing a guest appearance on the Johnny Carson Show when it was still in NY. I remember that Carson was a huge fan of his and liked having him on the show every once in a while to sit in with the Doc Severinsen Band as a special guest. I remember being struck by his talent, humility and genuine friendliness. He went out of his way to come over to me and tell me how much he enjoyed my playing and meeting me and that was something I will never forget. He has never been any different in all the years since and all the times I have seen him. He was one of the great drummers of our time and one of the great people as well. I will miss seeing him at various functions and gigs around town. We'll all miss him.
Louie embodied what all of us dream and aspire to be: A virtuoso, a pioneer, and the consummate professional. Many of us lose sight of why we drum, whether it be for fame, fortune, or impressing our peers. Louie's passion for the art and devotion to the craft is why he is the legend that he is and always will be.
I was sorry to hear the sad news of Louie Bellson's passing. I didn't have a chance to talk with him personally, but he was one of the most influential drummers of all time. It was a big loss for the drum world.
Louie Bellson's playing was so inspiring and classy. His solos were always fun to watch and I love hearing him kick a band! His contribution to drumming will always live on.
I was fortunate enough to get invited to a post-clinic dinner with Louie in London circa early '80's. He seemed to recognize my reluctance to ask questions, encouraged me and was friendliness and gracefulness personified. A wonderful player AND a wonderful human being - we've lost a true icon.
We're all so sorry to hear about Louie's passing. Louie Bellson was a drummer's drummer and a great musician. We will surely miss him. May he rest in peace.
Louie Bellson's talents and abilities on the drums will never stop being inspirational to me and will always demonstrate how much more there is to learn and strive for on the drums.
I am truly saddened by the death of the great Louie Bellson. I've listened to him since as far back as I can remember! He was, of course, a giant in the drum and jazz world who, whether playing live or on recordings, always gave 100 per cent. My father had his recording "Concerto For Drums" which features him using his own invention called "jingle sticks" (drum sticks with small tambourine cymbals attached so they kind of jingle when you play them) in a wonderfully musical drum solo. He was also one of the nicest, warmest, and most "real" people I've ever met. I ran into him and his then-wife Pearl Bailey at Zurich airport on my first trip to Europe, when I was in a band called Out Of The Blue and he was with Ellington's Spacemen - a group of all Ellington sidemen. I remember Miss Bailey saying her feet were hurting and Louie going through all 15 of her suitcases to find her slippers. When I told him how much I loved his work and mentioned the Concerto recording and the "jingle sticks," he was very gracious. Then, later when we were at the performing venue, he presented me with a pair of the sticks, which I still have to this day. Of course I can't for the life of me play with them and I'm amazed at how he did it! I had the oppurtunity to hang with him on several occasions and it was always a thrill. He was one of the great drummers of the past and one of the last links to that era, and it was fascinating to hear him speak about his contemporaries. And he never rested on his laurels. He was always forging ahead. Louie Bellson stands shoulder to shoulder with the truly all-time jazz and drumming GREATS and he set a high standard for the rest of us to aspire to.
Louie, on top of being one of the greatest drummers of our time, was the sweetest of all time. I met Louie when I was very young and it always surprised me that he always remembered my name, he always made you feel so comfortable . We will always remember Louie Bellson.
Louie Bellson was one of the finest examples of a great human being that God has ever produced. The kindest, most gentle, thoughtful man anyone could meet. An innovator, the total musician, few are cut from that cloth.
I was sad to hear the news about Louie Bellson. Louie was my hero. He was my first and greatest inspiration. I was introduced to him by my father who saw him perform many times over the years. I remember seeing him on the 1989 Buddy Rich Memorial Concert tape and as a 7 year old being blown away. Louie just had something special. So much finesse. I wrote to Louie in 1992, aged 7, and was thrilled to receive back a signed photo and personally written letter saying: "Dear Louie, Keep up your good work. Respect and listen to your parents, study for a good education, stay with the drums and music and you will do fine. All my best always, Louie Bellson." The letter and photo remain up on the wall of my drum room. I then later met Louie in 1997, aged 12, where he was performing with the BBC Big Band. It was a thrill to see him play in person. I was lucky to get back stage and meet Louie. I told him of the letters we exchanged some years earlier and he smiled and said "Louie!" and gave me a big hug. It was a meeting I will never forget. Louie was such a gentleman, a wonderful musician and a big part of my musical life.
This is a sad day in the world of drumming here on earth, buat a joyful day in heaven. That God has brought Louie Bellson back home to rest in His heavenly arms and sleep. Louie Bellson is a big influence on my playing and I had the honor of getting one drum lesson from him when I was 17 years old, a lesson I never forgot. God rest Louie, you brought us so much love, peace and drumming.
"What an era!" Mr. Bellson was one of the definitive leaders...loved his playing...both bass drums and all!
I met Louie Bellson and had my picture taken with him in 1989 when Berklee College Of Music drummers made a field trip to the Zildjian Factory. That trip was very inspiring to me and I had the chance to converse with a true drumming legend that day. We'll all miss Louie.
A consummate leader. The ultimate team player and dear friend. Louis personified grace and class on and off the band stand.
I couldn't imagine what the fraternity would be like without him. Louis is still the man and I'm so thankful for all the wonderful things he shared with us.
Imagine the fun he's having now...Play on Louis...
Louie was certainly a role model for me on so many levels. He was a masterful musician, drumming icon, percussionist, composer, band leader and a wonderful human being. I can't remember him EVER saying anything bad about anybody. He would go out of his way to make students feel like a million bucks, with a few encouraging words after their performances. He genuinely loved hearing what new drummers would bring to the table and always wanted to know exactly what they were doing. He embraced any kind of music as long as it was done well and with passion. At the drumming events I was so fortunate to do with Louie, he listened to everyone who performed very carefully and made you feel like he was going to run home and practice after something he heard you play. Then, he would go out on stage and completely bring down the house!!! A humble master of the drums. He was absolutely one of a kind.
Thanks Louie for all of your guidance, musical insights and beautiful drumming.
One of the All Time Greats!!!
I met and shared a stage with Louie Bellson for the first time when I was only 10 years old. Only being 10 I had no real understanding of just how great a player Louie was, I was just too young to recognize that.
But what a 10 year old child can recognize is sincerity, kindness, inspiration and encouragement. All of the qualities and more that came in this package called Louie Bellson.
I NEVER forgot the words of encouragement he spoke to me that day, on that stage. Explaining to me, a 10 year old little girl, that I had the talent and the opportunity to be what ever I wanted to be in the world of drumming and music. WOW...if Louie Bellson said it, to me it just had to be true.
6 years later, I was the first girl ever to enter and to win The Louie Bellson Heritage Days Festival Drum Competition. I won a Louie Bellson signature series snare that I will cherish for the rest of my life. In addition to that, again I got the opportunity to further my relationship with one of the greatest ever at an art that I so love.
This past October, at the age of only 18, this "little girl" in awe of one of the greatest ever was asked to perform and do a clinic at The Louie Bellson Heritage Days Festival. There are no words that can describe the feeling of honor I had while I played and watched the gleam in Louie's eyes as he watched me. Louie and I got some special one-on-one time at the festival this year sharing some thoughts about life, drumming etc...and he even found some time to give me one last brush lesson. Yes, somehow I knew this would be my last dance with one of the greatest men I've had the opportunity to work with, share with and learn from.
Louie wanted to make sure that I understood the responsibility I have to pass on my knowledge and always share it with others. I take that responsibility and the words Louie shared with me last October very serious. I can only hope that somehow in my lifetime, I can touch just half as many people in the same special way that Mr. Louie Bellson did in his lifetime.
Louie took a piece of my heart to Heaven with him...but I'm convinced he left a piece of his heart with me here. RIP Louie, I won't let you down...
Peace Love & Drums...
Louie, this giant of a musicians was always humble and gracious to others. When I told him that I had learned how to do a rim flex with the brushes from watching him he simply stated "Oh, I probably got that from Papa Jo." Louie has left us with huge shoulders to stand on.
Thank you Louie, we love you.
I remember several things about LOUIE.
when I was still in High school, a couple of the drummers from school drove all the way up to DONTES in North Hollywood on a sun. night to hear his band. there was the double bass ROGERS KIT on stage and when he sat down to play, you could feel the electricity in the room.
Louie played BRILLIANTLY as usual and had such a nice groove along with tasty dynamics with the band. after i got home that night, i could not fall asleep. I think that was the night that i said to myself, "i want to do that." i was 15.
a few year later i I was attending orange coast college here in Newport Costa mesa and Louie would usually be at the Jazz Festival with his group or as a soloist, clinician. he was always so cool with students and loved to play and show them a few things.
fast forward to about 1998 or so and i'm doing a Promise Keeper event (men's Christian ministry) at the Oakland A's stadium and back stage is Louie, what a surprise!!! he was there with some friends. he was so cool and complimentary to me and the whole band that was playing.
i did see him again probably at last year's NAMM he looked well. i did get e mails from his site to update me with his condition. was a sad day for us all to hear of his passing.
he loved the drums, but I think he loved People the most. he always gave his best. will be missed, but his spirit lives on.
thank you LOUIE