Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni (July 6, 1924 – February 14, 2009), known by the stage name Louie Bellson (his own preferred spelling, although he is often seen in sources as Louis Bellson), was an American jazz drummer. He was a composer, arranger, bandleader, and jazz educator, and is credited with pioneering the use of two bass drums.
Bellson was an internationally acclaimed artist who performed in most of the major capitals around the world. Bellson and his wife, actress and singer Pearl Bailey (married from 1952 until Bailey’s death in 1990), had the second highest number of appearances at the White House (only Bob Hopehad more).
Bellson was born in Rock Falls, Illinois in 1924 and started playing drums at three years of age. At 15, he pioneered using two bass drums at the same time. At age 17, he triumphed over 40,000 drummers to win the Slingerland National Gene Krupa contest.
After graduating from high school, he worked with big bands throughout the 1940s, with Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Harry James, and Duke Ellington. In 1952, he married jazz singer Pearl Bailey. During the 1950s, he played with the Dorsey Brothers, Jazz at the Philharmonic, acted as Bailey’s music director, and recorded as a leader for Norgran Records and Verve Records.