Remo Belli, born Remo Delmo Belli on June 22, 1927 in Mishawaka, Indiana, revolutionized the music industry with the Remo Weather King drumhead in 1957. As a jazz drummer, Remo was looking for ways to improve the percussive products he was using. Once his team of chemists found the perfect formula, Remo took it around to his many drummer friends to test the product out. Remo has also pioneered the use of music and wellness with his dear friend Karl Bruhn and a wave of instruments aimed at getting all ages involved with music and music making.
As a child, Remo had a passion for the drums. At the age 11 he was hired as drummer in Mishawaka Band and by the time he was 16, traveling across the United States to play jazz. At age 19, Belli was working as a professional drummer in the recording studio. He moved to Los Angeles, performing with orchestras for film soundtracks at Universal Studios — one of those being The Man with the Golden Arm with Frank Sinatra.
In 1952, Belli, along with jazz drummer Roy Harte, founded the first drumshop in Hollywood, Drum City, located on Santa Monica Boulevard. The store soon became a Mecca for various percussion musicians and drummers — a place where one could view impromptu jam sessions and special parties — a place that inspired creativity and innovation. Remo said, "It did not matter who you were, everyone felt they were at the same level and had fun. Drum City was frequented by the likes of Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, Joe Shmoe, Jackie Cooper, Mickey Rooney, Bill Holden, Peggy Harper Lee, and Ralph Edwards... all drummers. You could also find Louie Bellson, Shelly Manne, Buddy Rich, Jack Sperling, Alvin Stoller and Lou Singer... all together. This was really extraordinary!"
In 1955, Belli co-founded, along with Walt Disney and 31 others, the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, about 30 km from Los Angeles. Inside the park, in the reconstruction of the city, it houses the "Room of the 33", the room where the 33 members gathered to sign the constitution of society. In 1958 Belli gave Disneyland a giant bass drum that remained in the Guinness World Records until 1994.
In the 1950s, DuPont produced a polyester called Mylar. Remo had the idea of using the material for a drumhead — applying the transparent skin to common wooden hoops typically used for animal skins. The sound that resulted was excellent! Belli worked to find the right chemical formula for the glue to hold the mylar in place and invented the aluminum circle to hold the mylar skin permanently. In 1957, Remo filed a patent and established the REMO Inc.
Remo became famous in the late fifties with the legendary skins Weather King (King of the weather). The innovation suddenly solved two major problems that drummers where having with skin drumheads: the high cost of the skins and their sensitivity to climatic variations. With the new Remo drumheads, these two issues were completely eliminated.
Remo initially only produced the Ambassador and Diplomat drumheads. Remo's marketing approach was relatively simple: give a free drumhead to drummer friends (eg. Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson) that happen in-store, and the mylar's workability and great sound quality does the rest.
Rock 'n' Roll, as we know it today, would never exist without Remo's synthetic skins. In fact in 1964, The Beatles made their debut in the US using Remo's drumheads. Thanks to the Beatles and drummers like Ringo Starr (who affirmed that "thanks to Remo Belli, rock was born"), new sounds and kinds of skins would be required. An example is the birth of Nuskyn drumheads with its more natural feeling by mimicking the response one would get from animal skins such as goat, mule and cow. All the major manufacturers of percussion instruments, like Bill Ludwig Jr. and Bob Zildjian, from that moment on would collaborate with Remo Inc.
In the 70s, Remo patented the Acousticon, a cheaper material than wood but just as good from a sound point of view. The Acousticon material is obtained by reducing tiny fibers in wood chips and the sawmill waste wood, then repulping with water and natural resins. The environmental impact is minimal, and its uniqueness is that the material, in fact, is very adaptable to any type of drum, such as congas, djembe, bongos and countless other percussion instruments which Remo currently produces.
Percussive Arts Society
During the 1960 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, Remo Belli was one of fourteen percussionists and educators who met for dinner to discuss the possibility of establishing a national organization that would "bring up to date the present standards in solo and ensemble contests, stimulate a greater interest in percussion performance and teaching, and promote better teaching of percussion instruments." In January, 1961, during the SW-MENC convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico, another meeting was held at which Jim Sewrey suggested the name Percussive Arts Society to Remo Belli. Following this meeting, Robert Winslow, a professional percussionist and North Hollywood band director who served as an educational adviser to Belli, sent a letter proclaiming: "The Percussive Arts Society is open for business," and in September, 1961, the society sent its first publication, Percussive Arts Society Bulletin, printed on a mimeograph machine donated by Belli, to the membership. The fourteen originating members listed in the first Percussive Arts Society Bulletin were Remo Belli, Warren Benson, Mervin Britton, Robert Buggert, Don Canedy, Rey Longyear, Charles Lutz, Jack McKenzie, James L. Moore, Verne Reimer, Jim Salmon, Hugh W. Soebbing, Charles Spohn, and Robert Winslow.
Remo Belli died on April 25, 2016; he was 88.