My Buddy Rich Connection

Buddy Rich Playing his Slingerland KitIn 1969 Buddy Rich was beginning one of his tours. Frank King my old tutor was interviewing him at Ronnie Scots Club for a magazine article.

Buddy mentioned that he had had just fired one of his trombone players who also doubled as his roadie. Having replaced him with a British trombonist, he also asked Frank if he knew of anyone to set up his drum kit for the 3 week tour.

Frank contacted me and of course I accepted. I met Buddy at Ronnie's and his words to me were 'see this kit, I want it set up exactly like this on every gig'. Gulp!!

So started an unforgettable experience. The first gig was only his appearance at the Palladium for the Royal Command Performance. No pressure there then!

Two of Britains top drummers were there also on hand. Kenny Clare played in the pit and also helped me with my first experience of a Rogers Swivomatic drum pedal with the clamp. Ronnie Verrall was on stage backing Tom Jones as well.

There are too many stories to relate here, but two I will tell relates to Buddy's incredible ears.

He did a TV show from London which had an audience crammed with every top British drummer at that time. (There's a DVD floating around, Buddy Rich at the Talk of the Town). On it was a top American singer. He gave me the arrangement the band was to rehearse. While the band was on a break, I put the parts on the music stands. There was a drum part of course, so I put it on Buddy's snare drum. This will be interesting I thought, Buddy being a non-reader.

Buddy came in, sat down, looked at the drum part and promptly tore it up into four pieces and threw it over his shoulder. The singer was livid!

Buddy stood up in front of the band and counted the number in. There were some copying errors so they played it again. Buddy then sat down and played the tune with all it's brass hit's, stops and tricky ending perfectly.

The second story relates to when he wanted to change the snare drum head.I took along to his dressing room a new Remo Ambassador head where he duly changed the head . Did I bring any sticks with me so he could try it out he asked.? No,of course I hadn't.No matter he said and proceeded to fine tune it with the back of a large pair of scissors that were lying around!

His fantastic memory and great ears were much in evidence!


© 2011 Bobby Cleall