Remembering Remo Belli

Remo Belli, founder of Remo, Inc., passed away on April 25. He was 88.

Remo first started his drumhead company in 1957 when he invented the first synthetic Mylar drumhead. He opened a store in Los Angeles, and eventually moved to Valencia, California, where Remo, Inc. is headquartered today.

By the early 1990s, Remo began to take note of the growing studies connecting music to improving health and education. In October 2014, Remo spoke with Music Inc. about how his company continues to support research between the use of music and the life-enhancement business.

"[We are focusing on] using musical instruments in ways other than learning how to play — like the entire field of caregiving, for example," Remo said. "We believe the use of music in these areas is going to grow substantially."

Since word of his passing spread, the MI industry has responded with its reflections on the industry legend. The following are a few:

"I went to visit Remo last month and little did anyone know that it would be our last meeting. Touring the factory floor and seeing the depth of Remo's connection to his hundreds of staffers, calling most by their first name, was a lesson in what true leadership was all about. And, surprising for someone nearing their 89th birthday, we spent the day with his team talking not about the past, but rather about the future and celebrating the progress that had been made in bringing recreational music making and drumming to the classroom, to the medical community, and all the way to Capitol Hill and the White House."
— Joe Lamond, president & CEO, NAMM

"Remo was dedicated to his drumhead business, the contributions drumming could, and did make, to an individual's health, and was always looking for a better way to improve what was already being used. He was always ready to help with his contagious smile and a mind full of ideas. I always considered Remo and Ami [Belli] one of my life's treasures."
— Larry Linkin, former NAMM CEO

"[My father Robert Zildjian and Remo] were friends, and I'm happy to say that I was lucky enough to participate in that friendship. While on a trip to visit our mutual Mexican distributor, Remo, Ami, Freddy Shen and I enjoyed an afternoon amongst the ruins of Teotihuacan talking about history, philosophy, humanity and, of course, health and well being. Remo was a reserved man, but he was also a very wise, friendly and warm person. He was someone that my father respected, and I very much agree with that opinion."
— Andy Zildjian, president & CEO, SABIAN

"Remo Belli was a music visionary, realizing early on that music education through drumming improves wellness. He was also a cherished life long friend and mentor to me. Remo's contributions have made the world a much better and more musical place to live. He will never be forgotten."
— Jay Wanamaker, president & CEO, Roland Corp. U.S.

"As a veteran of the drum and percussion industry myself, I had the pleasure of knowing Remo for many years on a personal and professional basis. My wife Dinah and I shared visits with him at trade shows and other drumming events, and we always enjoyed our time together.

But Remo's connection to the Gretsch family goes back much further. My uncle, Fred Gretsch Jr., was a little more than 20 years older than Remo. When Remo was touring as the drummer for Anita O'Day and bandleader Billy May in the 1950s, Uncle Fred was running the Gretsch business. He welcomed Remo into the fold as a Gretsch drum artist. In fact, Remo's smiling face graces the cover of the 1954 Gretsch drum catalog — right next to Louie Bellson, and in the company of other drum greats like Art Blakey, Jo Jones, and Shelley Manne.

Just a few years later, when Remo went into business himself, Uncle Fred supported his efforts by becoming a major customer for his Weather King synthetic drumheads. Remo heads are still factory-installed on Gretsch drums today.

"Fast-forward to when I entered the drum business 50 years ago. Returning the favor that my uncle had done for him, Remo (who was a little less than 20 years older than I am) served as a mentor to me, offering sound business tips and valuable personal advice. Over the ensuing years I came to cherish his friendship, his guidance, and his unparalleled professional example. I will miss those things — and Remo himself — tremendously."
— Fred W. Gretsch, president, The Gretsch Company