Remo Belli, founder of Remo Inc. and pioneer of the synthetic drumhead, passed away at the age of 88 due to complications from pneumonia in late April. The legendary businessman transformed percussion by popularizing Mylar drumheads over the calfskin standard.
“An innovator, pioneer, and icon of the world of percussion, he was an inspiration to us all for breaking new ground and making a difference in the world,” said a statement issued by Remo Inc.
Born in 1927 in Mishawaka, Indiana, Belli was interested in drumming at a young age. In his youth, he accepted many gigs vacated due to World War II. At 18 he joined the U.S. Navy Band, then moved to Los Angeles after his service.
Belli worked as a professional drummer on tours and in the studio before opening the Drum City drum shop, which eventually grew into Remo Inc., now located in Valencia, California. In 1957 he patented the synthetic Mylar drumhead, which soon became the industry standard. Its reputation was solidified in 1964 when Ringo Starr played on a Remo drumhead during The Beatles’ live television debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
In the 1980’s Belli developed the pre-tuned drumhead and continued to expand Remo Inc. He helped start the Percussive Arts Society and worked with organizations such as International Association for Jazz Education, The GRAMMY Foundation, National Association for Music Education, Drum Corp International, WGI Sport of the Arts, Music for All, and Youth Education in the Arts.
Together with his wife, Ami Belli, M.D., he worked with the American Music Therapy Association and started Remo Inc.’s HealthRHYTHMS program, promoting wellness through music and percussion. They also opened the Remo Recreational Music Center in North Hollywood, providing free workshops and concerts for people of all ages with or without a musical background.
“We mourn his passing, and he will be missed by people in all walks of life,” says the Remo Inc. statement. “His spirit lives on, and we will continue to pursue his vision of making drumming available to everyone alive.”