Bellson, Louie [Balassoni, Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francisco Antonio]
- Gareth Dylan Smith
[Balassoni, Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francisco Antonio]
(b Rock Falls, IL, July 6, 1924; d Los Angeles, CA, Feb 14, 2009). American drummer, composer, arranger, and music director. He began learning drums with his father at the age of three and won the first annual Slingerland National Gene Krupa Drumming Contest when he was 17. He performed with, among others, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Sammy Davis Jr., Tommy Dorsey, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Woody Herman, Harry James, Oscar Peterson, Mel Tormé, Sarah Vaughan, and Pearl Bailey, to whom he was married. He was a member of Duke Ellington’s orchestra several times (1951–3, 1956, and 1965–6), and Ellington incorporated a number of Bellson’s compositions into the band’s repertoire, including the drum kit feature “Skin Deep.” Bellson also led his own band almost uninterrupted for 40 years, and wrote more than 1000 compositions in a range of classical and jazz styles. An ambidextrous player, he pioneered the use of two bass drums that was subsequently emulated by numerous heavy metal drummers as well as others such as Billy Cobham, Jon Hiseman, and Ian Paice. He was awarded four doctorates, nominated for four Grammy Awards, named a Living Legend of Music by the Avedis Zildjian Company (...