Buddy Rich (1917-1987) was one of the most influential and well-known jazz drummers of all time.  His first drum set came at 18 months, he debuted on Broadway at the age of four, and he soon became the second-highest paid child entertainer in the world.

Rich delved into jazz at the age of 20, playing with Tommy Dorsey, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong.  He formed his own band during the 1960's, toured extensively into the 1970's, and still had time to open the Buddy's Place nightclub in Richmond, VA.

Rich's big-band musical style was notable for his long "show-off" drum solos.  Many songs would feature long percussion sections intended to show off his skills--for an example, listen to the Channel One Suite's third movement.

He also became well known for his biting, cynical sense of humor, appearing regularly on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and the Merv Griffin Show.

Rich has performed for three American Presidents--Teddy Roosevelt (after his presidency), John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan--as well as the queen of England, the king of Thailand, and King Hussein of Jordan.

Buddy Rich died of heart failure at the age of 69 following surgery to remove a brain tumor, and was eulogized by lifelong friend Frank Sinatra.

"Buddy Rich was the greatest drummer to have ever drawn breath." - Gene Krupa


Major Discography


No writeup on Buddy Rich would be complete without mentioning the legendary tirades he would unleash on musicians in his band if they were irritating him in any way. Even non-musical offenses, such as growing a beard, would trigger staggering amounts of rage and invective from Rich, typically delivered in confined, private spaces that enabled him to corner and intimidate his band without being overheard by outsiders. Like many other famous bandleaders, Buddy Rich ran an extremely tight ship and expected perfection from his well-paid band members, but he was unique in the capacity he had for heaping vitriol on anyone whom he felt had wronged him.

Although Buddy Rich apologists are quick to downplay his propensity for foul-mouthed harangues by painting him as an otherwise generous guy with a big heart but an undeniably short temper, at least one group of musicians who worked for him endured his tantrums with such regularity that they secretly recorded him on a small audiotape recorder. These grainy, clandestine recordings, made on their tour bus or backstage between sets, reveal a leader who is practically foaming at the mouth and deeply upset with members from every section of the band. The levels of energy and perverse creativity he sustains as he lays into his entire band make for interesting listening, even for people who didn't already know that Buddy Rich was one of the greatest drummers who ever lived. Teenagers have been particularly interested in seeking out bootleg copies of "the bus tapes", which contain enough threatening profanity to make a David Mamet play seem tame by comparison.

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