Instruments Taught: Drums
Louis has been playing drums since elementary school and started performing in clubs at the age of 13. Since beginning to play, he has performed with various groups across the country. Louis has been teaching drums for over 35 years.
To read a more detailed bio, written by Louis himself, click below
When I entered High School, I chose music as my major and joined the school orchestra. I had joined the musicians union upon the advice of my father, who was a saxophone and clarinet player. He performed a short stint with Paul Whitman’s band in his younger years and later led his own band around Buffalo. He brought me with him on slow nights to sit in and learn about playing shows. During this time, big and small bands were passing through Buffalo, and one of the smaller bands was looking for a drummer to go on the road. I became interested and discussed the idea of going on the road with my father. I auditioned for the band and got the job. I had just started my sophomore year of school and had to quit school in order to join the Al Belleto Sextet. It was a jazz instrumental and vocal group out of New Orleans.
After a one year stay with the group, I returned to Buffalo and starting teaching drums at a music store owned by the teacher who taught Don Menza, Mr. John Sedola. One night, I received a call from James Moody who was performing at a club in Buffalo with Eddy Jefferson. He asked if I could substitute for the drummer who had to fly to New York unexpectedly on a personal matter. That drummer was Shadow Wilson. I took the opportunity and played the weekend. On Saturday night, Kai Winding, the world renowned trombonist stopped into the club to see Moody. After the set, Kai pulled me over and asked me if I would be willing to do some traveling with a new band he was going to put together. It was a band with 4 trombones and a rhythm section. Kai had been working with J.J. Johnson at the time. I said yes and joined the new band in New York two weeks later for rehearsals. I stayed with the band for two years, 1956 – 1958. We played all the major jazz clubs in the United States and Canada, such as Birdland in New York City, The Blue Note in Chicago, Peacock Alley in St. Louis, the Cotton Club in Cleveland, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit, and the Continental in Newport News, Virginia. In Canada, there was the Edison Hotel and the Town Tavern, including others.
After leaving Winding, I stayed around New York and found work with various musicians and rejoined Winding for a short tour to the Newport Jazz festival. I then rejoined Al Belleto, with Billy Holiday and Sunny Stitt, which was supposed to be a 10 city tour. We played only four, the last being the Magnolia Ballroom in Atlanta, Georgia.
I returned to Buffalo with Al Belleto where I met my wife, Joann. We were married in 1959 and moved to Las Vegas. I immediately transferred into the union and landed a job with Charlie Ventura and worked with Jackie Kain and Roy Krol. I left Ventura and started working lounges with the Tony Peter’s Band, Billy Ekstein, The Kirby Stone Four and Beatrice Kay.
I then played with Vido Musso for three months. Tommy Turk was the trombonist in the band. I also played backup for the Kim sisters who were a great hit on the Ed Sullivan show on television.
I was then drafted into the US army, and upon completion of boot camp joined the US army signal corp. 1st army band in Augusta, Georgia which was an 80 piece concert band. 16 of us formed a big band and worked at the officer’s club on Friday and Saturday evenings. I also started a small jazz quintet and played around the Augusta area.
After being discharged from the Army, my wife and I moved back to Buffalo. I went to work at Palace Theatre, which was burlesque house. I stayed there for four years. I then started working clubs in the city that were featuring jazz with such friends as Sam Noto, Don Menza and the late pianist Wade Legge. We performed, while backing up singers Carmen Mc’Rae, Dakota Staton, Dina Washington, Della Reese, and Mark Murphy. We also did special gigs, with Sunny Stitt and Jonah Jones, taking Cozy Cole’s place when he was in concert with other people. He became a good friend of mine.
In 1964, I went on the road with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, under the direction of Mr. Lee Castle, for two years. Lee was one of the original trumpet players with the Dorsey Band. This was one of the greatest experiences because I read the original book and played tunes such as The Bells of St. Mary, So Rare, and T.D’S. Boogie, Etc. After two years of living on a bus and traveling 100 miles a day to the next town, I decided to go back to Buffalo and raise my family. I started teaching at Mr. Sedola’s Music Store once again, and then started a studio of my own. I have been teaching private lessons for 34 years. Several of my students are doing very well, for example, Jack Gavin is currently with the Charley Daniels Band, Ed Rosseti teaches at the Percussion Institute in California, Joe Catlado has played tours on the S.S. Norway and others are doing local rock and Jazz gigs, now living in Los Angeles.
In 1979, I was asked by the University at Buffalo to teach part time. I started teaching set drums for a year, and then became the director of the University Jazz combo for 8 years. I have worked on a steady basis and a Jazz and show drummer in Jazz clubs, with the Buffalo Philharmonic pop concerts and Melody Fair, behind such acts as Black Stone, Buddy Hackett, and Joan Rivers to name a few. I have also played The Variety Club Telethon on television for the past 30 years, backing up Lou Rawls, Mike Douglas, Eddie Adams, The Four Aces or whoever the stars would be. In jazz clubs, I have been the house drummer for Lou Donaldson, Donald Byrd, Woody Shaw, Tal Farlow, Charlie Byrd, Bucky Picherelli, Jackie and Roy, Mark Murphy, Richie Cole, Al Hibber and many more.
I am currently playing on two albums, one with Bunky Green and Willie Thomas on Mark Records, and a new album with the Big Band of Phil Simms and the Buffalo Brass. Also Mike Eivisca’s First Album and a new CD titled Al Tinney and Peggy Farrell. I still teach private drum lessons in Buffalo.