Louie Bellson, the great drummer, bandleader, composer and educator passed away on February 14 at the age of 84.
Bellson cast an enormous shadow over the history of drumming with his innovations such as double bass drumming. He was the last great star of the swing era to pass away.
Bellson came to fame in 1941 when he won a Gene Krupa Drum Contest, beating out 40,000 other contestants. But perhaps his greatest fame came in the early '50s when he joined Duke Ellington's band, helping Ellington produce hits like "Skin Deep."
During his career, Bellson played with artists such as Harry James, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Louie Armstrong nd many other jazz immortals. In the '50s he married entertainer Pearl Bailey, at a time when interracial marriage was taboo in most of American society. He served as her bandleader, in addition to doing session work and often sitting in on television programs such as "The Tonight Show."
He performed off an on with Ellington throughout the decades. In later years, Louie has focused more on composition, including choral, symphonic and religious works.
In 1998 he ws honored as one of four "living legends" at the Zildjian Lifetime Achievement Awards, with Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones and Max Roach.
Bellson was a great friend to many young drummers over the years. Check out what Peter Erskine and Dave Weckl had to say.
And, of course, Duke Ellington said it best, "He is the world's greatest drummer."