Vying with Gene Krupa for the title of “greatest jazz drummer of all time” (Art Blakey acolytes may beg to differ), Buddy Rich brilliantly married technique, timing, speed and power – and a spikey manner with some of the mere mortals who shared the bandstand with him. He was born today in 1917.
Virtuoso jazz drummer Bernard “Buddy” Rich was born in Brooklyn, New York City, USA. The child of vaudeville-performing parents. , Rich took to the stage as a child, rejoicing in the title, “Traps the Drum Wonder”.
Largely self-taught, this percussion phenomenon secured his first professional engagement in 1937 at New York’s Hickory House, backing clarinetist Joe Marsala. Following stints with Bunny Berigan and Artie Shaw, Rich joined Tommy Dorsey’s band in 1939 – where he’d perform alongside Frank Sinatra.
Parting company with Dorsey in 1945 (for the second time, following a break for wartime service in the US Marines), the first Buddy Rich Orchestra then came into being. Meeting with mixed success, Rich returned to sideman duties with Dorsey, Harry James and a who’s who of jazz legends in Norman Granz’s touring band, “Jazz at the Philharmonic”.
Striking out on his own again in 1966, Buddy recruited and blooded a new generation of players, working under the name Killer Force. Continuing to play live domestically and overseas, Rich also opened two “Buddy’s Place” nightclubs, recording a 1974 album at one in New York City with his septet - “Very Live”.
Buddy passed away at the age of 69, suffering a fatal heart attack following surgery to remove a malignant brain tumour. He’s buried in Los Angeles.
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And here’s some footage of Buddy in action: