In Memory Of Louie Bellson

In Memoriam - February 15, 2009

We regret to announce the unexpected passing of Louie Bellson on Feb 14, 2009.
Tenative plans are for an L.A. area funeral, followed by funeral and burial in Moline, Illinois, his boyhood home.

Condolence cards to:

Louie Bellson Legacy
16055 Ventura Blvd. Suite #1212
Encino, CA 91436

More Sad News: Dee Dee Bellson (1960 - 2009) - July 19, 2009

Only 5 months following the death of Louie Bellson in February, we regret to announce the sudden passing of our daughter vocalist Dee Dee Bellson, at her home in Charlottesville, Virginia on July 4. She was 49.

Dee Dee sang independently and, on occasion, with her father Louie Bellson's Big Band. She also sang backup with groups including the Rolling Stones, Sheryl Crow and Sheena Easton.

News of her step-daughter's death was a shocking blow to Mrs. Bellson who'd just completed holding the third Memorial Service for husband Louie in San Jose June 29. (See Home page). Flying to Virginia for the July 14 funeral, Mrs. B was comforted by the kindness and hospitality of Dee Dee’s former band members and friends in Charlottesville.

Afterwards, Mrs. B. traveled to Washington, D.C. to visit her own father who is recuperating well following his recent critical surgery.

Condolences for Louie and/or Dee Dee may be written on the Guestbook page.

To donate (tax-deductible) in memory of either Bellson, choose & write name on memo line of check. Make payable to “Emmanuel Baptist Church” and mail to:

Louie Bellson Legacy
16055 Ventura Blvd. Suite #1212
Encino, CA 91436




Referred to by Oscar Peterson as “one of the musical giants of our age”, Louie Bellson has expressed himself on drums since age three. At 15, he pioneered the double bass drum set-up. His detailed sketch earned him an ‘A’ in his high school art class. At 17, he triumphed over 40,000 drummers to win the Slingerland National Gene Krupa drumming contest.

He has performed on more than 200 albums as leader, co-leader, or sideman with such greats as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Woody Herman, Norman Granz’ J.A.T.P., Benny Carter, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, Hank Jones, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, Milt Jackson, Clark Terry, Louie Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Shelly Manne, Billy Cobham, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Wayne Newton, and Bellson’s late wife Pearl Bailey.

In 1942, he performed with the Benny Goodman band and Peggy Lee in The Power Girl and The Gang’s All Here, the first two of his many film appearances. Louie was 24 and a veteran of the U.S. Army Band when he joined Danny Kaye, Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Barnett, Benny Carter, Mel Powell, Benny Goodman and others in A Song Is Born (1948).

Louie Bellson replaced Sonny Greer in the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1951. He left in 1953 returning in 1956 and once more from 1965-66. His contributions to the Ellington repertoire include Skin Deep and The Hawk Talks. He also performed with Ellington on the classic Concerts of Sacred Music; on the stage production My People; and on the movie soundtrack of Assault on A Queen.

In 1966, Bellson toured briefly with both Count Basie and ex-boss Harry James. He served as musical director for his late wife both on her TV show, ABC’s The Pearl Bailey Show, and on the numerous tours they performed together.

As a prolific creator of music, both written and improvised, his more than 1,000 compositions and arrangements embrace jazz, swing, romantic orchestral suites, symphonic works and ballet. As an author, he has published more than a dozen books on drums and percussion.

Voted into the Halls of Fame for both Modern Drummer magazine and the Percussive Arts Society, Yale University named him a Duke Ellington Fellow in 1977. He holds honorary Doctorates from Northern Illinois University in 1985, from Denison University in 1995 and from Augustana College in 1996. He performed his original concert Tomus I, II, and III, with the Washington Civic Symphony in historic Constitution Hall in 1993. He received the prestigious American Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994. A member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, he is a six-time GRAMMY nominee.

In 1998, Bellson was hailed (along with Roy Haynes, Elvin Jones and Max Roach) as one of four “Living Legends of Music” when he received the American Drummers Achievement Award from the Zildjian Company.


In 1999, The Ellington Centennial year (and Bellson’s 75th), Bellson led an all-star Ellington Alumni Big Band on World tour including Europe and South America.

Starting off the new millenium, he was named the “No. 2 Entertainer of the 20th Century” hailing from the Quad-Cities (Illinois) area. In March 2000, he premiered his Sacred Music and Jazz Ballet at the University of Southern Calif.

For 2001, Modern Drummer magazine again named him Big Band Drummer of the year, this time sharing the honor with Ed Shaughnessy, also of “The Tonight Show” fame. Stick It magazine devoted it’s entire spring issue in tribute to Louie Bellson. In June, Dr. Bellson received his 4th honorary doctorate, this time from DePaul University in Chicago. In July, he played his hometown (Quad-cities area, Illinois) reuniting in brief performance with Ray Charles.

In 2002 the Ellington-inspired “Sacred Music of Louie Bellson”, which combines the voicings of symphony orchestra, concert choir and big band, was performed at Stanford University and Emmanuel Baptist Church. It has been deemed “a masterpiece” by friend Tony Bennett. Foreign engagements that year covered trips to Switzerland, Canada and the Caribbean. His fall tour included a jazz cruise sponsored by Jazz Times magazine and a week with his quintet at the Jazz Showcase in Chicago.

2003 witnessed the dedication of an historical land-marker at his July 6, 1924 birthplace in Rock Falls, Illinois. thus inaugurating their annual 4-day celebration in his honor. Again named Big Band Drummer of the Year by Modern Drummer; observance of the 50th anniversary of his classic composition “Skin Deep” as recorded with Ellington. Receipt of U.C.L.A’s “Master of Jazz Award” presented by Tony Bennett.

2004 saw tributes and performances worldwide in observance of his 80th birthday. These included a concert hosted by longtime friend Clint Eastwood and being subject of the December cover story of Modern Drummer magazine.

2005  “Louie Bellson Premieres” at USC, where his original orchestral works showcased him as both a performer and composer. He performed at the Big Band Academy of America and received their Golden Bandstand Award. Also, participation in a transatlantic cruise honoring the Tommy Dorsey Centennial.

The 2006 CD release of “The Sacred Music of Louie Bellson and the Jazz Ballet” amply showcased his mastery and breadth as both composer and performer. This “magnum opus” is well attested to by the highest accolades of colleagues Tony Bennett, Della Reese, Dave Brubeck, Lalo Schifrin, and others.

In March 2007, Bellson and 35 other jazz greats received the “Living Jazz Legends” Award from the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.








“Not only is Louie Bellson the world’s greatest drummer… he is the world’s greatest musician!”-- Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington


“To me, Louis is just one of the nicest guys I have every known. His playing is absolutely on top – on top of everything! He is just so nice! He’s a sweetheart. Louie Bellson is a beautiful artist.”-- Count Basie


“To listen and see Louie is to know ‘Man’s love of music.’”-- Pearl Bailey Bellson


“One of the greatest thrills of my musical career was to sing with Louie Bellson, my ‘birthday partner’.”-- Della Reese


“Louie is a superb artist.  There’s so much hyperbole you can use but he’s just one of the top drummers… percussionists in the world.  And one other thing about Louie: he is a sweet, nice man. There are no pretensions about Louie, and I like that!”-- Johnny Carson


“I’ve known Louie since around 1950.  He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.  Louie’s the kind of musician who, if you tell him something one time, that’s it.  He gets it.  He’s an excellent, superb musician.  If all musicians were like him, we wouldn’t have problems.  In other words, anyone who doesn’t love Louie Bellson is sick!” -- Sarah Vaughan

Louie Bellson has performed with:

Ted FioRito
Duke Ellington
Count Basie
Bennie Goodman
Tommy Dorsey
Harry James
Woody Herman
Norman Granz' J.A.T.P.
Bennie Carter
Sarah Vaughan
Ella Fitzgerald
Oscar Peterson
Art Tatum
Dizzy Gillespie
Gerry Mullingan
Stan Getz
Hank Jones
Zoot Sims
Sonny Stitt
Milton Jackson
Clark Terry
Louie Armstrong
Lionel Hampton
Eddie "lockjaw" Davis
Shelly Manne
Billy Cobham
James Brown
Sammy Davis Jr.
Tony Bennett
Mel Torme
Joe Williams
Wayne Newton

..and many more


"There are a lot of great players… a lot of great players around, but Louie Bellson is really something special.”-- “Dizzy” Gillespie

“Louie Bellson’s playing, everybody knows, is great, but the important thing is that in a business that is so nuts, we’ve remained friends all these years.  That’s the real accomplishment.” -- Buddy Rich

“Louie Bellson represents the epitome of musical talent.  His ability to cover the whole musical spectrum from an elite percussionist to a very gifted composer and arranger never ceases to amaze me.  I consider him one of the musical giants of our age.”-- Oscar Peterson

“When you say ‘working with the tops,’ that’s what it is to me working with Louie.  He’s an all-around well-loved musician.  To me, he’s just like one of the family.”
-- Ella Fitzgerald



The legendary Louie Bellson celebrated his 80th birthday in 2004.

Click here to e-mail Louie or Francine

New Big Band CD By

Louie Bellson and Clark Terry!

Louie Bellson CD's

   Purchase Or Download!


 Jazz masters LOUIE BELLSON (drums) and CLARK TERRY (trumpet) join on this magnificent album of new big band music by composer Bellson. Also features Kenny Washington and Sylvia Cuenca (drums).







 The Sacred Music Of Louie Bellson

album cover

  Hear audio samples here!   

To Purchase CD Visit here!

 or call (800) 645-6673.

Louie Bellson, drums, composer, arranger

Bobby Shew, trumpet & flugelhorn

John Thomas, trumpet & band director

Glenn Carlos, choir director

Ann Patterson, alto saxophone & flute

Albert Alva, alto saxophone & librarian

Harold Garrett, trombone

Buddy Baker, composer & arranger
Jack Hayes, composer & arranger

Recordings Louie Bellson did with Verve Records

An American Songbook

Louis Armstrong

Skin Deep

Louie Bellson

Soul On Top

James Brown

Ella And Louie Again

Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong

Jazz Masters 10: Dizzy

Dizzy Gillepsie


Compact Jazz:

Best Of The Big Band

Louis Bellson and The Oscar Peterson Trio

Compact Jazz:

Ella And Louis



Quick Time Movies

         (two incredible 'live" movie clips of  Louie Bellson playing the drums!) 

 clip 1              clip  2  

For a complete catalogue of Louie Bellson's CD's, DVD's, VHS, and more visit here!


Louie Bellson Contact Info

Artist manager - Francine Bellson  at  Phone (661) 294-5600

Visit Louie's Web Site!


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