A serious thread... (regarding a Buddy Rich quote)

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
So I've seen this meme pop up of Buddy Rich quoted to have said "If you don't have ability you wind up playing in a rock band", and I of course, chuckled, but apparently ALOT of people out there were quite offended.

Some people argued that "well, I'd like to see Buddy play in Rush", or some other nonsense. And while this is a "everybody is kinda right" situation, being older, I can see where Buddy was coming from.

Jazz, before rock n roll, before political correctness, was very much a "prove your mettle" situation. There's a story Bill Cosby (that Bill Cosby) told when he was a young wanna-be drummer sitting in with a band: the band kicked off something like "Cherokee", and he literally couldn't keep up. The great Mickey Roker basically shooed Bill off the drums and took his place and played the tune instead. Very humbling for Mr. Cosby at the time - probably what made him pursue other avenues of maybe making a living!

Jazz in the bop era was all about musical muscle. Listen to standards like "Cherokee" or "Giant Steps", and you hear the band flying along - as well as expressing themselves musically. If you don't even have the chops to play really fast like that, how are you supposed to drive the band? Even later jazz bands still played physically demanding speeds, like check out Will Kennedy with the Yellowjackets on a tune called "The Spin". The studio recording was fast, but on their "Live Wires" live album, they went even faster. Tony Williams with Miles Davis on the live "Four & More' album? If you're struggling to play "spang-a-lang" on an medium swing number, that album might make you just give it up. No, it was not screaming fast bass drum licks, or odd-times to make your head spin, but it is what it is, and back then (and even now). Jazz chops are different from Rock n roll chops, and I think the difference is pretty apparent - compare Sonny Emory to Terry Bozzio - both brilliant, but Sonny always sounds more musical (Terry even admitted this).

Considering how many people argued that "Buddy couldn't play in Rush or Dream Theater", well, in a way, do I want to see Buddy as a sideman playing for somebody else? Would you want to hear Stevie Ray Vaughn play Bach preludes on guitar? There are sidemen, and there are flat-out celebrities who are paid to do what they do. Buddy falls into this category (as does Stevie Ray Vaughn). Having said that, do you really want to see Vinnie Colaiuta front his own band? I think sidemen have different mentalities compared to the celebrities - their thing is all about perfect execution for a common goal. But as much as I love Steve Gadd, his albums for the Gadd Gang kinda put me to sleep.

So I think people miss the point of what Buddy said and chose to get offended rather than look at why he said it. There is a physical boundary you have to pass to be able to play screaming jazz - and even scarier is how many players out there who can actually do it that we don't know about. There is indeed a physical boundary regarding other genres, like double bass drumming with Meshuggah, and that's cool too - that is what it is too. But I doubt alot of the "rock" guys could sit in with the high caliber jazz bands and survive the set. And I've seen well-rounded jazz guys sit in with a rock band easily, and alot of the busy ones probably don't need (or want) to play rock n roll anyway. Without having this thread spiral out of control, did I make any sense? Or is the subject still incendiary?
Some folks around here get offended at Buddy memes?

Say it ain’t so?

“and I of course, chuckled, but apparently ALOT of people out there were quite offended.

Some people argued….”

Yeah they did…. While I’m chuckling the whole time. Some folks just can’t take the hook out of their own mouth.

I take it with a grain of salt and don’t get my panties in a bunch while I put it in my pipe and smoke it.

Another take on practice vs talent or in other words…
It may have been started by me. I have a few old British drum magazines from the 70's. I posted some pics and quotes on Instagram a few years ago. I think it is amusing. It is very obviously designed to be provocative. Nothing more to see here.
The same magazine hosted a feud between Alphonse Mouton and Billy Cobham.
Again, there is no need for a long analysis of Rich and his often outlandish statements. It's meant to be provocative, trigger a response, and probably part of his showmanship schtick.
Most of the drummers on this forum are hobbyists like me. We're doing it for fun, not for a living. I can't imagine any of us getting seriously offended by a comment made by a drummer who has been deceased for decades. Even those of you who are at the professional level and beyond, would just kinda smile that this quote and move on with their day.

Buddy Rich's statement is funny. It's one of the earliest "drummer jokes". Nothing wrong with that.
The comment was made in about 1974/75.
A lot of jazz musicians were experimenting with rock. Rock music was having I'd heyday too. So I think it was tossing a hand grenade into that specific period. Really no one cares now, and positively speaking many musicians are comfortable with multiple genres, both appreciation and being able to play them.
Oh ya!..try to have rocked the Bangles! Mr. STICKMAN!. Big band jazz is all cool until you step into Walk like an Egyptian!..get ready to be humbled Johnny Carson guest!. Ok..im done.
It's Alphonse Mouzon, Chris.

It's not worth getting offended by anything Buddy Rich said almost fifty years ago. Those who knew Buddy's penchant for putdowns and outrageous statements always expected him to say something provocative, like the time he went on Mike Douglas, or some other show and lambasted country music. That was Buddy being Buddy. No surprises. I'm sure he knew exactly what he was doing.

I could get into the whole "jazz got too serious" argument, but I'd rather not. I'm basically a rock drummer who can play jazz to a certain lower/medium level because I grew up listening to big band and small group swing, but I know my limits. I'm not going to try to play "A Love Supreme."

Example: When I was in San Francisco in 2007, I sat in with a good pop/jazz group one night. The leader asked me what I wanted to play, and I replied, "Something medium tempo and I'll play brushes so I can't screw up too badly!" That got laughs all around. We did "Cherokee," and it was fun and sounded good. I even traded fours with the leader/guitarist.

Buddy's statement may have also reflected a bit of jealousy on his part at seeing certain rock drummers becoming millionaires, while 99% of jazz players, who he considered to be superior musicians, scuffled for a living.
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Can’t even play Buddy Rich on the radio if I tried. Buddy was a bit of a snob to say the least. No different than most famous people. It’s human nature I guess. Get on the watch snob forum and anything below a certain price level is total trash. Car forums are the same. Unless you have 10x your current budget for mods, you need to shut up, etc. I see it all the time. Glad an untalented hack like me has rock to pop off some steam with now and again. Yeah, I like other stuff and experiment with complex patterns, etc. Nothing would ever get me to Budd’s level no matter how many hours a day I’d practice.

Now, he was definitely correct in his assessment that if you can play, you play rock. At least in my quest to find a local band I could enjoy joining, I find that to be very true.
"Please leave Buddy alone" 😭

One time he told my dad
(as my Dad touched his elbow to get me an autograph, backstage at a Sheraton)
"Don't Touch me , Man"

I thought it could be the beginning of a great relationship 😁
When Peart tried to play Buddy Rich in a Burning For Buddy series of tributes it sounded flat and clunky. From memory Omar Hakim, I think it was, killed it. I never found the series on my own. Someone showed it to me.

Buddy could've played Rush with little issue. He'd have enjoyed some passages, but the song structures weren't what he dug most.

Could he play Damien Schmitt or Tony Royster Jr in the matrix passages? Because that's what they look like when each is in full on mode. Like they're in the matrix.
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According to “Buddy Rich: One of a Kind — The Making of the World’s Greatest Drummer,” the drummer completely gave up playing drums in the late ’50s to become a singer. “He burned his drumsticks at a press conference at Birdland,” recalled drummer Bruce Klauber.

"Buddy Rich Quits Drums to Be Song and Dancer," proclaimed Down Beat early in 1956.

This was discovered by reading a seemingly well-researched article, "Buddy Rich, a Monster at Rest." http://jazzprofiles.blogspot.com/2016/10/buddy-rich-monster-at-rest.html

Clearly, Rich recognized that jazz was in decline (and 1956 was the year Elvis first appeared on Ed Sullivan). He sensed that a career as a jazz drummer would never eclipse the singers he sat behind.

Is this why he was so angry?

He's no Eddie Arnold in singing. I started moving to guitar, singing and bass because of frustrations at how drummers are taken for granted by other musicians.

Carlos Santana said in concert that Rock is like a pond. But Jazz is like the ocean.
and you know who - in 1951/3- he hired to play drums when he went out front to sing don't ya..
Philly Joe Jones

He'd pick Philly up in the car and go to the gig:
That's why Philly loved Buddy and it was Mutual.

Buddy said "the greatest fours" were Philly Joe's on Miles' "Billy Boy"