If you haven’t already heard of him, Bernard “Buddy” Rich was a legendary Jazz drummer who is widely regarded as one of the greatest drummers in the history of music.
He was known for his incredible speed, precision, and technical ability on the drums, as well as his fierce musicianship and stage presence.
A man with a rich history, Bernard Rich was born in 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. He began playing the drums at a young age and quickly became a prodigy.
Around the age of 5, he was already capable of matching up against seasoned drummers as he displayed his iconic solo performance at his vaudeville act which gave him his stage name at the time “Baby Traps, the Drum Wonder”.
As time went on, he continued to flourish. From sneaking into Jazz clubs to leading a band touring around the U.S. and Australia, his growth was unparalleled. It was so much as to the point where he became the world’s second highest paid child entertainer at only the age of 15.
His career in Jazz truly began in 1937, where he began playing with clarinetist Joe Marsala. He soon became the rhythmic inspiration for popular swing bands and he worked alongside many other musicians.
A lot of them were short-lived bands including bands that he formed, while some stuck around for some time such as when he worked alongside Tommy Dorsey (1939-1942, 1944-1946, 1954-1955) and Harry James (1953-1954, 1957, 1961-1966). He finally found lasting success in his own band of 16 young musicians over the years of 1967 to 1974.
He was known for his high-energy performances and his ability to lead a band with confidence and authority along with his stunning and high level skills as a soloist. His solos often featured complex and intricate drumming patterns which demonstrates his incredible technical ability.
Aside from his own projects, Rich also worked as a session drummer for many recordings including famous artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, the Oscar Peterson trio with Ray Brown and Herb Ellis, Ustad All Rakha.
He was especially known to have a rivalry with Frank Sinatra which would sometimes end in brawls during their time together in Tommy Dorsey’s band. However, they have still collaborated on numerous songs together and remained lifelong friends to which Sinatra delivered a eulogy at his funeral.
In addition to his work as a Jazz drummer, his success as an entertainer led him to make appearances on television.
Among others he appeared on shows such as Ship Ahoy (1942), The Marge and Gower Champion Show (1957), Here’s Lucy (1970), and many more.
He also frequently appeared as a guest on television variety shows including The Steve Allen Show and The Tonights Show in the 1950s.
Throughout his career, Rich received numerous accolades and awards for his contributions to Jazz and music.
For instance, he was inducted into the Downbeat magazine, Modern Drummer and Playboy Halls of Fame. Even with the Grammy awards, he received up to five nominations.
Despite his success, Rich was known for being a perfectionist and demanding leader. He had a reputation for being tough on his bandmates and demanding the highest levels of performance from them.
However, his drive and dedication to his craft also inspired many young musicians and helped to raise the standards for Jazz drumming.
The man was known to use various drum kits and cymbals throughout his career. What majorly contributed to the influence of his sound and projections was his frequentl use of big drums.
Some of the gear that he was known to use include:
Buddy was known to use Slingerland, Ludwig, and Rogers drums while endorsing them.
In the ‘60s to ‘70s he would advocate for the Slingerland drum kit while sometimes switched out for a Fibes snare drum.
Later on in the ‘70s and ‘80s he exclusively switched to Ludwig drums.
Rich was known to use his Evadis Zildjian cymbals, which are known for their bright, clear sound.
To be specific, he used a 20” ride, two 18” crashes, a pair of 14” hi-hats, and a 6” splash.
He was known to use several brands of drumheads but one that caught the most attention were the Remo Coated Diplomat drumheads which are known for their high quality, sensitivity and durability.
Buddy Rich normally liked to use drumsticks that are slightly heavier than 7As with a diameter of around .550 inches and a length of 16 inches.
Rich was known to use the Ludwig Speed King bass drum pedal or the Rogers Swiv-o-matic pedal.
He was also known to use a variety of other percussion instruments, including tambourines, cowbells, and other auxiliary percussion.
In the decades following his death on April 2, 1987 Rich's legacy has continued to grow and his influence on the world of music has been recognized by drummers and musicians around the globe.
His contributions to Jazz and the drumming world have made him an enduring icon and a true legend of the music industry.
Buddy Rich started playing the drums in 1919 at the age of 2.
Buddy Rich died on 2 April 1987 at the age of 69.
Buddy Rich played the drums for 67 years.
Throughout his career Buddy Rich has used Slingerland, Ludwig, Rogers Drums, Fibes Drums, Zildjian and Remo.
He is known for playing Jazz and Big Band.
Counting all his Albums, EPs and Singles, Buddy Rich has been featured on at least 69 recordings.
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