From that first WHAP of his drumsticks and his feet in position for his double bass drum (the Bellson signature), you can expect spontaneous combustion! One of the most exciting drummers of the century, he has been characterized as a “single collective percussion ensemble”.
Having won the Gene Krupa nationwide drum contest at age 17, Bellson played with Benny Goodman a year later, in 1942. Numerous other big bands followed – Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Norman Granz’s “jazz at the Philharmonic”. From 1951 to 1953, Louie toured with Ellington, who performed many of Louie’s arrangements and compositions including jazz classics ‘The Hawk Talks’ and ‘Skin Deep’.
Louie has performed and/or recorded scores of albums (approximately 200) as a leader, co-leader or sideman with such greats as Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz and his late wife, Pearl Bailey, to name a few.
Honors of six-time Grammy Award nominee Louie Bellson include: induction into the Halls of Fame for both Modern Drummer Magazine and Percussive Arts Society, named Duke Ellington Fellow by Yale University, honorary doctorates at Northern Illinois University and Denison University and the prestigious American Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Louie continues to record and perform, many times featuring his daughter, Dee Dee Bellson, on vocals. He also holds seminars collaborating with his wife Francine and continues to show his discipline and experiences in the Drum Clinics he holds.
With sadness we must relate that Louis passed on 2-14-09.