Okay, I didn’t want to bring yet another death into this here blog but I’m afraid the passing of the last of the ‘big 3’ cannot go unacknowledged.
Legendary drummer and all round great chap Louis Bellson passed away last week aged 84. Along with Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, Bellson was considered one of the very best big band drummers and played with the Tommy Dorsey, Harry James and Duke Ellington bands plus brief stints with James Brown and Count Basie amongst many others. Whilst it is well documented that Buddy Rich was a complete arse, Bellson was just the opposite. Dave Grohl is known as the nicest man in rock, Bellson was the same in the jazz world, Tony Bennett called him ‘the best person I ever met’. (Thus proving you don’t have to be a git to get to the top…)
There are lots of fitting tributes which will tell you all about his many hundred compositions (including a Broadway musical, a Ballet, ‘sacred’ music and of course Skin Deep, the hugely successful drum feature that took up both sides of the original record!) his controversial standpoint as the only white member of the Ellington band and travelling to England in the 50s to marry black Broadway star Pearl Bailey to avoid the New York press. He won multiple awards, wrote and recorded many drum tutorials and DVDs and performed regularly into his 80s.
However, for us drummers one major achievement must be mentioned perhaps above all others…….Bellson brought the world DOUBLE BASS DRUMS! Bellson was such a star he persuaded the Gretsch drum company to make an enormous kit and with his name emblazoned across the front drumheads he pioneered the use of double bass drums back in the late 40s/early 50s, decades before the use by rock and metal drummers. Its no understatement to say without Louie, no Dave Lombardo (Slayer) and no Joey Jordison (Slipknot).
To see Louie back in the day……..his drums sound ace (like a walrus being slapped with a cricket bat):
At 1min45secs is where he really starts to give it some and by the end his cymbal has had enough and gives up!
Louie paved the way for the expanded more exciting drum kits that followed, with multiple toms and huge bass drums and as many big shiny cymbals as you could get within arms length!
I have to say I’m something of a self-professed ‘drum whore’ (you can never have enough snare drums) but I’m grateful to Youtube because on the occasions my wife gives me grief for my accumulating drum museum I simply show her this:
And all is well.
RIP Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni – we’ll miss you.