Tag Archives: Percussion

Honoring Remo Belli – Drumhead Pioneer

We wanted to take a moment to honor Remo Belli (1927-2016)- drumhead pioneer, accomplished percussionist and educator. ¬†Many percussionists out there use Remo drumheads every day and probably don’t realize the story or the man behind them.

Before Remo Belli, drumheads were not what they are today. What used to be a meticulous process of wrapping calfskin around a wooden hoop was eventually simplified in 1957- when Belli Remo came in contact with a chemist named Sam Muchnick. Together, an innovative solution to the grueling production (and less than perfect function) was discovered: Punching holes around the edge of a Mylar head (introduced to Remo by Bud Slingerland from Chicago), using a fast-setting liquid resin to bond it to an aluminum hoop (u-shaped). ¬†The bonding system was patented in ’57, and Remo began production in a 500 sq. ft. space adjacent to his drum shop in Los Angeles, Drum City.

Remo’s story is a truly classic entrepreneurial tale. He was born in Indiana and developed a love for percussion at an early age. Despite pressure from his father to play the accordion, Remo couldn’t let go of his passion for drums and continued to pursue his craft. Oddly enough World War II broke out when he was in high school- leaving him to be one of the few drummers left in Northern Indiana as the others had been drafted. The multitude of performances only helped him perfect his skills- so much so that by the time he enlisted in the Navy at 18, he was assigned to the Navy Band right away.

Years later, (after being discharged) Remo would move to LA to begin his professional music career. He started off in saloons but eventually wound up on tour with folks like Anita O’Day, and became an ‘in demand’ studio drummer. It was in 1950 when Remo realized the existing drum shops in the area did not properly serve the needs of top percussionists. He secured a loan and opened Drum City- a retail shop that quickly attracted the best players on the West Coast.

So with a successful drum shop and a new patented item- came the inevitable criticism. Many said it wasn’t the same as calfskin- which was of course, 100% accurate. However, the growing list of positive endorsements from the likes of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa and more – was a powerful response. Given the fact that the production of the calfskin heads took longer, and in many cases, couldn’t keep up with demand- Remo’s solution satisfied drum manufacturers and retailers alike as the popularity of drum-kits rose. By 1964, the Remo Weather King drumhead was the ‘head of choice’.

Remo didn’t stop there. Throughout the following years he would continue to create and evolve his drumheads – for example, in the 80’s he came out with the ‘pre-tuned’ head- an invention that set the stage for a broad line of world percussion instruments. He would get involved with holistic healthcare practitioners, neurologists, and experts in education – encouraging the idea that music can help people on a multitude of levels (from Alzheimer’s to stress).

If you couldn’t tell, Remo Belli was an epic contributor to the music industry- leaving a legacy that will never be forgotten. Though he is no longer with us, his influence will forever be recognized and appreciated by percussionists all around the world!