10 Things you Didn’t Know About Buddy Rich

Horn Factory

10 Things you Didn’t Know About Buddy Rich

Anyone who has seen Horn Factory perform will know we’re great fans of Buddy Rich, a jazz drummer known for his virtuoso technique, power and speed. But here are 10 facts you might not know about the man billed as “the world’s greatest drummer”.

Buddy Rich, Arcadia Ballroom, New York
(Gottlieb, Public Domain)

The Buddy Rich Big Band in the 1940s.
(Gottlieb, Public Domain)

Buddy Rich in New York 1956.
(Gottlieb, Public Domain)
  1. Rich began playing drums in vaudeville when he was 18 months old. In his early years of show business, Buddy was known as “Traps the Drum Wonder”.
  2. At the peak of his childhood career, Rich was reportedly the second-highest paid child entertainer in the world.
  3. Buddy believed that the instruction would only decrease his musical talent and was said never to have had any formal drum tuition. He never practiced and claimed that he did not know how to read music.
  4. When asked about Rich’s ability to read music, Bobby Shew, lead trumpeter in Rich’s mid-60s big band replied: “No. He’d always have a drummer there during rehearsals to read and play the parts initially on new arrangements… He’d only have to listen to a chart once and he’d have it memorized. We’d run through it and he’d know exactly how it went, how many measures it ran and what he’d have to do to drive it… The guy had the most natural instincts.”
  5. Buddy’s explosive temper was legendary. When fellow musicians didn’t meet up to his exacting standards, Buddy would drag them back to the tour bus and berate them with a pure, vitriolic rage. Some say he had to get himself angry to get himself in the mood to play. The musicians began to tape record these rants, including one where Rich threatens to fire Dave Panichi, a trombonist, for having a beard
  6. Buddy Rich was undoubtedly a massive influence to many musicians over the years. However, he also provided inspiration to comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Buddy’s comic rage was put to good use in “The Opposite” (when George discovers every instinct he’s ever had is wrong), “The Understudy” (where Elaine hires Frank Costanza to translate what the Korean women are saying about her) and “The Butter Shave” (when Jerry intentionally bombs onstage to sabotage Bania).
  7. Billy Cobham stated he once met Rich in a club and asked him to sign his snare but Rich dropped it down the stairs.
  8. In 1980 Buddy held a drum battle against another of history’s most formidable drummers- Animal from “The Muppet Show”
  9. In 1987, shortly before his death Rich underwent heart surgery. When Buddy was wheeled into the operating room, the nurse asked him if he was allergic to anything. In response, he replied: “Yes. Country and western music.”
  10. His posthumous reputation among musicians is that he was indeed a genius, but an especially prickly one. Legend has it that after his funeral an anonymous ex-band member called Rich’s widow. “Is Buddy really dead?” asked the caller, and the sad news was confirmed. A few minutes later, the same man called back. “Is Buddy really dead?” he asked. “I just spoke to you before. I already told you: he’s dead,” came the reply. “I know,” said the caller. “I just like hearing it.”

Main Photo: Buddy Rich during a concert in Cologne (Germany) on March 3rd 1977. Paul Spürk CC BY 3.0