Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni, known by the stage name Louie Bellson, was an American jazz drummer. He was a composer, arranger, bandleader, and jazz educator, and is credited with pioneering the use of two bass drums. Duke Ellington called him “not only the world’s greatest drummer… he’s the world’s greatest musician!”.
Anyone who knew Louie personally also knows he was one of the kindest people you could ever meet. I was fortunate to hear him play live many times, sitting just feet away from him. My memories of Louie are ones I will cherish for the rest of my life. I remember him being at the piano composing, spending his set breaks with my parents and other members of the audience, and I especially remember one very fond story about Louie.
Louie used to come to Walt Disney World Village Jazz Lounge to perform. My parents and I would go to hear him play as often as possible, sometimes many nights in a row. I had gotten my dad a beautiful ivory sweater with a treble clef and musical notes along one side. It really was a gorgeous sweater and looked great on my dad. On one particular night when Louie was in town playing my parents were there. During a break Louie chatted with my parents and told my dad how much he loved his sweater. On the next break Louie mentioned the sweater again. So my dad told my mom that if Louie mentioned the sweater again he was going to give it to him. My dad was quite the sharp dresser, especially when he went out with my mom, so he had a nice white t-shirt on underneath the sweater.
Of course you know where this story is going… on the next break, sure enough Louie mentioned the sweater again and my dad took it off right then and there and gave it to him. My dad knew I would not only be okay with it but that I would be so happy he gave the sweater to Louie.
My father played accordion in The Czupka Family Band and had his first music lesson from Louie’s father. Our family had and still has a very special place in our hearts for Louie. And when I watch videos of Louie playing I am taken right back to the days where I was 18 years old, sitting there listening along with everyone in the room. When Louie played, everyone just listened. Except my parents, they also danced.
There is so much to say about Louie. At age 15 he was the first drummer to use 2 bass drums and at 17 he beat 40,000 drummers to win the Slingerland National Gene Krupa contest. You can read more about Louie here:
Louie Bellson - Wikipedia
Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni (July 6, 1924 - February 14, 2009), known by the stage name Louie…
And here’s another great article written about Louie when he passed by the LA Times:
Louie Bellson dies at 84; Duke Ellington called him 'the world's greatest drummer'
Louie Bellson, a jazz drummer and bandleader who combined remarkable instrumental virtuosity with far-ranging…
And a 5 Heart Rating on Louie Bellson wouldn’t be complete without a video of him playing a drum solo. This one is just 5 minutes. I saw him do much longer ones. Enjoy!