Referred to by Duke Ellington as "not only the world's greatest drummer...(but also) the world's greatest musician!", Louie Bellson has expressed himself on drums since age three. At 15, he pioneered the double bass drum set-up. At 17, he triumphed over 40,000 drummers to win the Gene Krupa drumming contest.
He has performed on more than 200 albums with such greats as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, Woody Herman, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Louie Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, James Brown, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Joe Williams, Wayne Newton and Bellson's late wife Pearl Bailey.
Composer and author, he has written more than 1,000 compositions and more than a dozen books on drums and percussion. He received the prestigious American Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1994. Also, he is a six-time Grammy nominee.
In 1998, Louie 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. Bellson holds four honorary doctorates, the latest from DePaul University in 2001. In 2003, a historical land-marker was dedicated at his July 6, 1924 birth house in Rock Falls, Illinois, thus inaugurating their annual 4-day celebration in his honor.
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. CDBaby.com
In March 2007, Bellson and 35 other jazz greats received the Living Jazz Legends Award from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. In June 2007, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers inducted Bellson as a Living Legend in the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame ceremony, Jazz at the Lincoln Center, New York City.
His new big-band CD with trumpeter Clark Terry, "LOUIE & CLARK EXPEDITION 2" was released in early 2008 and is available through CDBaby.com or Amazon.com. - Francine Bellson
"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 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
"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
"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
"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.-- Sarah Vaughan
"Louie Bellson - the only man I know who, when he plays by himself, sounds like a symphony orchestra."-- Sammy Davis, Jr.
"There are a lot of great players... a lot of great players around, but Louie Bellson is really something special."-- "Dizzy" Gillespie
"I feel blessed to have had (him) in my life for so many cherished times ... I feel blessed to have (him) deep in my heart."-- Quincy Jones
"Louie is the best person I ever met."-- Tony Bennett