Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
One of the great drummers of all time (and one of the few whose name can be said in the same sentence with Buddy Rich), Louie Bellson has the rare ability to continually hold one's interest throughout a 15-minute solo. He became famous in the 1950s for using two bass drums simultaneously, but Bellson was never a gimmicky or overly bombastic player. In addition to being able to drive a big band to exciting effect, Bellson can play very quietly with a trio and sound quite satisfied.
Winner of a Gene Krupa talent contest while a teenager, Bellson was with the big bands of Benny Goodman (1943 and 1946), Tommy Dorsey (1947-1949), and Harry James (1950-1951) before replacing Sonny Greer with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. A talented writer, Bellson contributed "Skin Deep" and "The Hawk Talks" to Ellington's permanent repertoire. Bellson married Pearl Bailey in 1952, and the following year left Ellington to be her musical director. Bellson toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic (1954-1955), recorded many dates in the 1950s for Verve, and was with the Dorsey Brothers (1955-1956), Count Basie (1962), Duke Ellington (1965-1966), and Harry James (1966). He continued to be active, leading big bands (different ones on the East and West Coasts), putting together combos for record dates, giving clinics for younger drummers, and writing new music. Bellson has recorded extensively for Roulette (early '60s), Concord, Pablo, and Music Masters.