In Memory of Remo Belli

by | May 23, 2016 | Looking Back

A visionary and icon in the percussion industry, Remo Belli’s legacy started with a compulsive love of music, rhythm and, above all else, drums.  When matched by his eye for innovation, Remo’s insatiable passion for sound catalyzed rock ‘n’ roll, produced revolutionary developments in drumming technology, and inspired wellness-based drumming programs throughout his lifetime.  By the time he died on April 25, 2016, the drum industry and music world would never be the same.
“An innovator, pioneer and icon in the world of percussion, Remo was an inspiration to us all for breaking new ground and making a difference in the world,” the company announced in a statement after his death.  “Through his ongoing efforts, the professional, the enthusiast, children, the elderly, those at risk and those faced with both emotional and physical challenges have been brought the joy of drumming.”
The story behind Remo and his drumhead is a classic entrepreneurial tale.  Born in Mishawaka, Indiana, Remo developed an interest in drums at an early age.  By the time he entered high school, World War II had broken out, and most of the local drummers had been drafted.  As one of the few drummers left in Northern Indiana, he soon had more gigs than he could handle.  The varied performance experience honed his skills, and when he enlisted in the Navy at age 18, he was immediately assigned to the Navy band.
After receiving his discharge, he moved to Los Angeles and began his career as a professional drummer.  Starting in saloons, he quickly graduated to touring with singers Anita O’Day, Betty Hutton and a host of other notables.  When he was off the road, he was a first-call studio drummer.
Soon Remo turned his focus toward business.  In 1950, with $2,300 borrowed from his parents, he rented a small space on Santa Monica Boulevard and opened Drum City.  It quickly became a destination for top West Coast drummers.  Retail quickly led to manufacturing, and Remo and chemist Sam Muchnick devised an innovative solution: punching holes around the edge of the Mylar head and using a fast-setting liquid resin to bond it to a u-shaped aluminum hoop.  The unique bonding system was patented in 1957, and Remo immediately began head production in a 500-square-foot space adjacent to Drum City.
As demand Remo’s drumkits soared, manufacturers and retailers enthusiastically embraced the new head, and by the time the Beatles made their U.S. debut in 1964, the Remo Weather King had become the undisputed head of choice.
Eventually, Remo wanted to do more than just business with drums – he wanted to create wellness-based programs with percussion at the center.  With his wife Ami, an MD practicing alternative medicine, he partnered with neurologists and education experts to develop wellness-based programs using rhythm. Remo explained in past years:  “Drums can be used by anyone for relaxation and enjoyment.  They can be used for helping people with Autism or Alzheimer’s, or for someone just showing up at a recreation center on a Tuesday night having a ball.”
Remo committed himself and his company to providing drummers, and the world over, with quality products and programs, while striving to expand the acceptance of rhythm as an integral component of an individual’s wellbeing.
Remo Belli made the world a better place by giving drummers better tools, by pioneering the concept of music as a means of enhancing health, and by creating a valuable enterprise that employs hundreds.
“We mourn his passing and he will be missed by people in all walks of life,” the company released in a statement.  “His spirit lives on, and we will continue to pursue his vision of making drumming available to everyone alive.”
For more information about Remo Belli, please visit www.remo.com.

photo by Gary Choppé

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