OnlineDrummer.com’s exclusive interview with Louie Bellson, a drumming legend. Bellson, the pioneer of the double bass drum, shares his story and his knowledge.
Be sure to visit http://www.louiebellson.net
Louie Bellson is one of the greatest drummers that ever was. At age 15, while still in high school, he invented the double bass drum. At 17, he triumphed over 40,000 drummers to win the Gene Krupa drumming contest. Composer and author, he has written more than 1,000 compositions and more than a dozen books on drums and percussion.
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. 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.
He’s presently involved in producing his new jazz CD “Louie and Clark Expedition 2” which is due for release soon.
Online Drummer is pleased to present an exclusive interview with the drumming legend himself, Mr. Louie Bellson.
First, I’d like to thank you for your time for this interview; it is greatly appreciated.
By all means, Lisa/Nate. I feel the work you do with Online Drummer is vitally important.
You pioneered the use of two bass drums when you were 15. Today, two bass drums or a double bass pedal are commonplace among drummers. What did your peers think of your invention?
Although my high-school Art teacher thought the design was ‘way out,’ my drumming peers thought it was a good invention. Then the double pedal idea came next, making the concept possible for all drummers.
What is your current drum set-up? Do you still practice?
My current drum set-up is basically the same. (See my setup ) I added two roto-toms and 2 toms (8×10 and 10×12). I do still practice. It’s important to keep fit physically and practice every day, whether on a practice pad or a full drumset.
You’ve played with many renowned musicians, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman and Louie Armstrong to name a few. Is there any particular musician you enjoyed playing with most?
Duke Ellington, without a doubt; I regarded him as my second father.
You’re described as one of the greatest drummers of all time. Who is your favorite drummer?
Papa Joe Jones.
In your early drumming days, did you ever think that you and your drumming would still be so widely recognized and appreciated today? How does it feel to have generation after generation of new drummers still be inspired by your music?
I always felt I could shoot for the stars and be the best at my craft. I feel a certain satisfaction knowing I’m inspiring young drummers today.
Drumming styles have changed a lot over the decades. Do you think a lot of drummers these days tend to focus more on how fast they can play, rather than playing in the pocket and having “groove”? What advice would you give to new drummers?
It is absolutely important for any drummer to find the “groove”. Solos are secondary.
Your new jazz CD “Louie and Clark Expedition 2” is due for release soon. Can you tell us a little about that?
Actually it’s available now! (Click http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/bellson )
For this project, I joined forces with my old friend, master trumpeter Clark Terry on an album of new big-band music that I composed. The array of arrangers includes Nat Pierce, Remo Palmier, Jack Hayes, Albert Alva and my recently departed friend, Tommy Newsom. Besides me, the album features drummers Kenny Washington and Sylvia Cuenca. And on one number, all 3 of us drummers get to take solos. We recorded last May. The whole band is a group of musicians swinging their hearts away!
We thank you, Louie, for your time and wish you all the best for the future.
For more information on Louie Bellson, visit his website at http://www.louiebellson.net