Thursday, March 13, 2008

Buddy Miles, flamboyant rock drummer with Jimi Hendrix in his Band of Gypsys, passes away

As a kid, I do remember hearing Jimi Hendrix, and recognizing that after Mitch Mitchell did his firmament stint with JH, Buddy Miles was the next to make his mark and to point the compass of all who aspired to drum and to express themselves, as the rhythm told them to. Buddy was the musician that sailed lots of those seas of rhythm, and this inspired legions of drummers to perhaps, match some of his soulful fury...

In my varied musician travels, I do remember being on the road with the Jazz keyboardist Tom Grant, and as we are clocking the many miles down the freeway, just trying to get the motor home back to Portland after a long tour, I do remember hearing "Band Of Gypsies" about 5 times in total, as we went through the state of Nebraska, doing what we would do to pass the many miles to traverse this country. Buddy's rock-solid groove passed through all the tunes we heard, and completed the necessary ostanato of groove that would sustain our ferverent interest.

Buddy also spent some time, living here in PDX and interacting with the locals, and being just a genial and wonderful spirit. I did get the chance to talk to him a few years later, and he did remember fondly the about 8 months he was here, living in town.

I also remember freely hijacking my brother Muntasir's copy of Buddy's hit solo effort "Them Changes", and checking it out many times... that is, only after hearing it come from his bedroom many a day/night... (he would put a speaker outside his bedroom and I would hear the right channel of the's funny to remember that aspect of the story )
and in the course of that... letting it surround my ears,
and influence me musically in the '70's,

As a drummer, I have never been
the same...


R.I.P. Buddy Miles. : )

and big thanks to the mighty Tony Coleman for giving, and pointing my compass on what Buddy meant to all of us...

Buddy Miles, the American rock drummer who died on February 26, was a member of Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys from 1969 until Hendrix's death in 1970.

During his career Miles played on more than 70 albums, and appeared with musicians such as Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, Barry White, Prince and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Part of Miles's appeal as a rock musician was his physical appearance. From his command post behind his drum kit he held audiences spellbound with his Stars-and-Stripes shirts, high-brushed Afro hairstyle, massive frame and engaging smile.

Born George Allen Miles on September 5 1947 at Omaha, Nebraska, Buddy took his nickname from the drummer Buddy Rich and was considered something of a child prodigy, playing drums in his father's jazz band, the Bebops. George Sr had played upright bass with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon.

As a teenager Buddy Miles played in a variety of bands, including Ruby and the Romantics, the Ink Spots and the Delfonics. In 1967 he formed Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield, guitarist with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. When Electric Flag broke up after their second album, Miles formed the Buddy Miles Express.

This was the era in which the demarcation between black and white artists in rock music began to be broken down (Jimi Hendrix himself was the first black musician to become a "white" rock star), and Miles was part of this process.

He had met Hendrix in Canada when both were acting as sidemen for other artists in the early 1960s. As Hendrix started to include guest artists on his recordings, he invited Miles to participate, and Miles played with him on two tracks on the influential Electric Ladyland album (1968). Later their friendship led to various collaborations, Hendrix producing the Buddy Miles Express release, Electric Church, in 1969. Soon afterwards Miles joined Hendrix in the short-lived group, Band of Gypsys. A notable feature of its line-up was that all the players were black. This was a first for Hendrix and was seen as a move towards reconnecting with his soul roots. Perhaps the group's best known album was Live at the Fillmore East, which featured Billy Cox on bass guitar; it was recorded on New Year's Eve 1969, the last night of the 1960s.

But a month later, when Hendrix appeared to suffer a (probably drug-related) breakdown on stage (there were suspicions that someone had spiked his drink), Miles was fired by Hendrix's manager, Michael Jeffery. Although the Band of Gypsys was wound up, Miles continued to work with Hendrix until his death in September 1970.

Miles went on to produce other records under his own name.
Soon after Hendrix's death he re-recorded "Them Changes"

a song he had written and recorded with the Band of Gypsys. It became his signature song, and later featured on a live record he made with Carlos Santana.

Signed to the Casablanca record label, Miles released the album Bicentennial Gathering Of The Tribes, an echo of his friendship and collaboration with Hendrix, who had Native American blood.

In the late 1970s Miles was sent to prison after being convicted of theft, serving his sentence at the California Institution for Men at Chino and at San Quentin - at both institutions he formed his own bands. He was released in 1985, and the following year found work singing in the highly popular California Raisins Claymation advertising campaign (the California Raisins were a fictional R&B group); he was also lead vocalist on two California Raisins albums of 1960s R&B covers. He rejoined Carlos Santana as a vocalist on Santana's album Freedom.

In 1999 Miles appeared on Bruce Cameron's album, Midnight Daydream, featuring the former Hendrix musicians Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell, as well as Jack Bruce and others.

In 2006 Miles released a final live album, The Band Of Gypsys Return, the result of a reunion with Billy Cox to re-record songs from the original live album of 1970.

Buddy Miles is survived by his partner, Sherrilae Chambers.


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8:51 AM  
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