I'm (obviously, I suppose) a huge fan of Buddy's music. Buddy's playing,along with his "the show must go on" attitude, will be discussed forever, which is the proof of what he was. Of course, our appreciation of music is subjective, so you may disregard guys like me as being biased. But here are some undeniable facts...
What (besides double-bass drumming) are the most popular tech subjects discussed here on Drummerworld? ...the Moeller and Gladstone techniques that Buddy and others had mastered. Derrick Pope's "stick trick" and "one-handed roll", as performed by Buddy, are still hot subjects. It's ironic that Buddy was the "textbook example" of the best way to play most techniques, but that he did it NATURALLY, with very little formal study.
Buddy once did a performance at Jazz at the Philharmonic, where he came out front and played a solo on ONLY two bass drums, flooring the audience. (Buddy didn't normally use two bass drums... He just sat down and did it, amazing everyone... Then he never did it again.)
Buddy's influence was a major force in the drum industry itself. Who was responsible for the first (reinforced) "dot" heads? Buddy Rich asked Remo Belli about making his bass drum head last a little longer, and they were invented. Who motivated the design of the (Rogers) "Dynasonic" snare drum? Buddy Rich asked Rogers to design a snare drum that could respond at all volume levels with clarity, and without "choking", and after they did, he proved it's attributes during his playing with Harry James and later, with his own band.
Buddy was the first drummer to play drums "upside down", when he did a gag performance on the pilot for the "I've got a secret" TV show, which then led to many rock drummers doing it in their live shows.
Buddy drove Slingerland hard when he was en endorser in the late 1960s and 1970s, proving his seriousness by playing other drums, when Slingerland made drums he wasn't happy with. Simply naming a drum as a "Buddy Rich model" wasn't enough to buy Buddy's loyalty. On the other hand, when they, in his own words, "finally made him a snare drum that was playable", he was happy to play it and speak about it. He used very simple drums and hardware, showing drum companies (and drummers) that "complex" and "heavy-duty" didn't necessarily mean "better". His thoughts on cymbals influenced Zildjian. He didn't talk a great deal about these things, but simply led by example. When Slingerland let him down, in the mid 1970s, he switched to Ludwig, and stayed with them for years.
In his final years, when he could've played anything he wanted, he returned to Slingerland "Radio King" drums, made in the late 1930s. That wasn't because he was "nostalgic"... It was because he loved the sound
of the drums. After his death, drummers and manufacturers alike began to wise up, and you're now seeing "Vintage" drums in their own (high-priced) market, as well as modern manufacturers trying to emulate them. Just recently, DW has introduced a vintage series, and who was the "showroom" kit modeled after? Buddy Rich. Buddy's sidemen included generations of players and writers who then went on to become the jazz masters of our time.
We all benefit from Buddy's influence, (and, in all fairness, other great drummers too) whether we realize it or not. He certainly did a lot more than just "play fast".
For those of you who would like to hear some great live concert clips of Buddy and his bands, I'm hosting a page of previously-unheard and unpublished clips on my site, at http://www.mikejamesjazz.com/br_clips.html
(free to download for personal listening, with no "catch") Enjoy!