Growing up in the late fifties, I was really plugged into many of the great jazz drummers. I liked Art Blakey for his basic time keeping and hard sense of swing. Max Roach and Philly Joe Jones had real inventive styles all their own. I loved what Joe Morello did with Dave Brubeck, and I absolutely went nuts for Papa Joe Jones and what he did with brushes. He was the epitome of style and class. I also really had a lot of respect for Gene Krupa and what he did back in the swing era with Benny Goodman. Gene was really a pioneer when you talk of the great drummers. Each one of these guys had there own special talent. However when it came to drum solos there was one drummer that had the greatest technique and flair. Buddy Rich was in a class by himself. He was the greatest drum soloist I ever heard. I played drums a little, so I was really aware of how special he was. I called him the eighth wonder of the world. He did things that no other drummer could do. I would watch him play one of his solos and my jaw would drop in amazement. His dexterity between his hands and feet were incredible. It was like watching a video in fast forward.
I remember once seeing him play a five minute solo with one arm in a cast. The audience jumped up and cheered when he actually played a roll between his bass drum (now known as a kick drum) and his one good hand. I got to know Buddy a little in my early New York recording days. I used to go to Birdland or hang out at the two well known music stores in Manhattan .. Manny’s and Henry Adler’s. With respect to all the fine drummers on the scene today, there has never been anyone quite like Buddy Rich when it comes to solos and playing the impossible. While I was traveling on the road conducting for Suzanne Somers, Buddy Rich and his band were the opening act on a few tours. Night after night Buddy would make the audiences scream with his solos. It was really something to see. What made it more special was the fact that Buddy was in his seventies. I started to hang out with him a little and I was able to win him over with my sense of humor. We ate and laughed and of course told each other jokes. He was a great laugher. He had the funniest stories about the days of the big bands. Quite “juicy” I must say.
I really got to like him a lot. One night in his dressing room I offered to write an arrangement for nothing. I told him it was my small way of thanking him for all the joy his playing brought to me since I was a young kid. He said he really wanted to have a medley of Beatles songs. I told him it was a great idea, and it would be a fantastic showpiece for him and his band. I agreed to do it. He jumped up and gave me a bear hug. He looked me straight in the face and said “I trust you Artie. I checked you out when I accepted these bookings with Suzanne. You have a great reputation and the musicians love to play your arrangements. I look forward to getting it.” Wow was I knocked out. Sadly Buddy passed away shortly after, and I never got to give him the arrangement. I was about 25% finished with it when he died. Talk about an icon. Buddy was toooooooooo much. This picture was taken in Warwick Rhode Island while on tour with Suzanne Somers and Buddy. We were standing in front of his band bus.