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Tribute to Buddy Rich

Categories: OpinionMusic

I grew up in a musical family.  Both of my parents were music teachers, so I was exposed to a variety of great music and musicians.  But I was defiant by nature, so I had my own favorites.  Looking back, I'm happy with my choices.  The first was, of course, The Beatles.  In 1969, I recognized the truly talented band, Chicago.  After that, it was Yes (with Rick Wakeman) and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  From the mid-70s when I was introduced to ELP, I admired and respected Carl Palmer's drumming ability.  He was well-trained, and seemed to be lightning fast.

A few years later, I was a percussion major at the University of Louisville.  Buddy Rich, probably the greatest drummer of all time, was to perform in Louisville, and the head of the U of L percussion department, James Rago, was playing in the orchestra.  He took some of his students, including me, to the rehearsal, and it was very exciting for us to watch Buddy Rich in an informal environment as he helped them set the stage, check the sound, and work out the wrinkles.

In the early 80s, I went to a Los Angeles drum contest sponsored by a local rock FM radio station.  Competing drummers were given a set amount of time to play an unaccompanied solo, and were judged by eight popular drummers at the time, mostly from rock bands.  I don't remember them all.  One was Carmine Appice; another was the drummer for The Pretenders.  The one I knew of most was Buddy Rich.

After the competitors had finished, each judge took turns playing his own solo.  And they were all good - some better than others.  The very last to perform was Rich, and the difference between Rich and the rest was like night and day.  He blew all the others away, and made them all look like amateurs.

Even those who have no drumming or musical skills whatsoever can see the extraordinary ability of Rich.  He can do things I've seen no other drummer do, and he does them repeatedly and accurately.  His technique is among the very best.  I was once told that it was his technique that made him appear and sound so fast, but I still find that hard to believe.  Rich IS fast!  Even in his later years, his speed was incomparable.

While Carl Palmer impressed me with his huge set which included two gongs, chimes, and a set of tympani, Rich impresses me with the minimal set - a bass drum, snare, tom, two floor toms, and cymbals.  He played more with his left hand than most drummers can do with both hands.  He played on the tops and the bottoms of cymbals.  He played the bass drum with his sticks.  He can get an amazing variety of sounds out of just one drum.  He played rim shots in the middle of a roll.  He played with such incredible technique and control - I don't think I've ever seen or heard him miss his target.

I stumbled across this video and thought I would put it here just as an introduction to those who may have heard the name, but don't really know who he is, and as a reminder to those of us who grew up with him.

Here's to Buddy Rich, the very best drummer ever!

click to play


User Comments:
JimBAgde - May 7, 2015 07:27:43 — Buddy, A master technician when playing his instrument. Simply put, a true and dedicated musical artist. Though Gone, he is still looked up to and always will be remember by true musicians.

"If you can't say something nice, let's hear it!"   — Joan Rivers

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