Is Buddy Rich REALLY the greatest drummer of all time?

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
My vote goes to Jeff Indyke.
I agree with Jeff Indyke

Yes Indyke, one of the great American originals.






People tend to forget that drums are a musical instrument. Playing for the song is a lot different than seeing how many notes you can play in under a minute. Any time I see one of these speed racers I think of what Buddy himself said about Chick Webb:" CH-the daddy of 'em all." They had lots of great drummers who were great musicians like Gene Krupa, Louis Bellson, Jo Jones. The list goes on forever. Another thing that Buddy said was: "You either swing a band or don't swing a band." Too much emphasis is being put on how fast you can play, not how musical. Another thing is that the equipment of today is miles ahead of what those folks had to deal with. Calf heads are great until the room starts to heat up and the air in the club gets more humid. I think back on how rickety the old bass drum pedals were and those damn railette tom holders! Listen to Joe Morello on "Take Five" if you want to hear pure technique being applied in a musical manner. He uses silence as a note. That's real drumming! Buddy was a great, natural drummer but he wasn't the best. No one was or is the best. We have really great drummers but they're all great in their own, unique way.

This ^




The OP asks

But is he really the greatest of all time? Taken literally, that means he's the best drummer who has ever lived. But when I see the amazingly intricate polyrhythms and four-limb independence of drummers like Marco Minnemann and Thomas Lang, the extreme creativity of drummers like Gavin Harrison and Benny Greb, and the new crop of ultra-talented jazz virtuosos like Antonio Sanchez, Eric Harland and Keith Carlock, I can't help but think that drumming has really evolved to a whole new level since Buddy's days.

Any of the drummers mentioned above transported back in Buddy's prime time, playing with the greats he did, on his level of gear... would fall on their faces.

They even admit it, they admit BR is THE MAN! They're not being modest.


The difference is, a lot of todays so called 'greats' have spent thousands of hours not playing in the worlds greatest bands executing a myriad of styles (each night) to the new music of the time, what these modern day greats have spent thousands of hours doing (someone in another topic thread used the term 'masturbating' a drum kit) is regurgitate a bunch of random chops real fast, randomly arranged. The musicality between BR and todays so called greats is literally at right angles. Music vs exercise routines.


No one to this day is at BR's level of playing the level of music he played, that's obvious. Maybe some today could rehearse a chart of that music, but to go out night after night, own the band and sound as good as BR doing it.... there's nobody who could sound as good. BR was hungry to the end, he always played in the red, and no matter what he played everyone knew he owned it, in a suit and tie most of the time.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
You think Johnny Rabb couldn’t have beaten Buddy at hand technique? Or Mike Mangini?
Johnny Rabb and Mike Mangini are very fast but my god their playing is boring. There's no feel or taste. More to drumming than speed.

That's why Buddy was amazing, he did speed with feel and taste and drove a band with it hard. Buddy was the complete package in terms of sound too and on a 5 piece to boot.
 

veecharlie

Senior Member
One thing can be said:

Most of the greatest drummers we have had and have nowadays are inspired by Buddy Rich.

I think that would explain it all. ;)
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
With art, you can't win.

There is no "greatest drummer of all time."

I have my favorites, just like you have yours.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
It's like asking who is the "best artist", "best scientist", 'best singer", best musician, etc. It depends on when you ask. It's an evolving scene with evolving players. In 1900 there was some 1-2 billion people on earth, now over 7 billion-lot more people to pick from. So at one point people would say "Chick Webb" or "Gene Krupa"-mainly because of name recognition. The question gets more complicated with more people and a raising bar of excellence. You have to admit Buddy Rich has that name recognition that made him a great emissary for drums-but even he acknowledged all the players that influenced him ( Gene Krupa, Jo Jones, Chick Webb, Ray McKinley, Ray Bauduc and Sid Catlett ) during his era of jazz and big band music. Now there is even a greater pool of great drummers to choose from, and sometimes it's just a great performance.
 

Traditional Grip

Senior Member
I challenge anyone here to imitate Buddy's playing.

Get with a big band and try to sound like Buddy. Have audience members close their eyes and see if they can imagine Buddy being behind the set.

I guarantee nobody can do it.

Jojo Mayer tried to do a tribute in this way. He did OK, but he just couldn't capture Buddy's musicianship, especially during his solo.

Buddy was one of the fastest, arguably the cleanest, arguably the most musical, and certainly had the most stage presence of any drummer that's ever lived!

Buddy is the greatest.
 

8Mile

Platinum Member
Not really related to the question about the greatest drummer, but it does get me thinking about something I've been contemplating lately.

There aren't many physical feats that aren't surpassed over time. Athletes get faster and stronger. One of the few things in drumming that I feel has not really been done better would be Buddy's single-stroke roll. Another is Tony's ride cymbal playing, those crazy five-note groupings at blazing tempos. I guess it's not so shocking when you think about the relatively low demand for those particular skills in modern music. But still, they have stood the test of time.

For Buddy, the specific thing I'm amazed by is that single-stroke roll thing he did, where he starts slow and builds it up, moves it to the rim of the snare and then back, from pianissimo to forte. I don't think anyone has the technique to do that like him, even today. Play faster? Sure. But the power, control and speed combined needed to pull that off so cleanly across tempos and dynamics is what sets Buddy apart. I've watched Mangini, Jojo and others try it and I don't think they come all that close. The speed is there, but the gradual build-up, the power to go from a whisper to a roar, their techniques don't seem to quite work the same way. There are players who can play more notes in a minute, but the complete command of it is something I don't think has been done better in all the decades since.

Again, nothing to do with the topic of who the greatest drummer is. Just saying.
 

CommanderRoss

Silver Member
BR was hungry to the end, he always played in the red, and no matter what he played everyone knew he owned it, in a suit and tie most of the time.
It's this hunger that many of today are lacking. Sure, they go through the motions well and have more chops than a butcher shop, but if that hunger and absolute joy of playing isn't shown on stage, then you've still got work to do.
This IMO is what sets Buddy apart from many. He inspires others to be not only a good player, but a showman too.
 
This argument has already been settled. Buddy Rich is the 15th best drummer of all time.
Source: Rolling Stone 100 Greatest Drummers of All Time, May 2016.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Dave Weckl wouldn't agree with you..
I was giving a slight nod to the op about the youngin’s moving faster. Buddy’s facility is mind bending to me. When I look st the context of the music, you didn’t need to be “faster” than that. I’ve noticed in the metal drumming world, as the drums got faster, the music tempo gets slower, so they can fit in more notes. In jazz, the whole band plays faster.
 

J-Boogie

Gold Member
Very interesting 8mile, good points. Dont know why but reading this thread a quote came to mind, 'if you cant do it better, do it faster." I dont subscribe to "greatests" but Buddy would sure be at the top of my list of greats.
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
I think he (and Gene Krupa) were the best drummers of their time.

In their time, most everything revolved around hand work.

Today, there's much more balance between hand and foot work.

But yes - as others have alluded to - without specific objective parameters
and specifications, there is no 'best'.
 

Peppermint_Sanders

Junior Member
It's art, and it's subjective. There is no way to prove, even if he was still living, if Buddy was better than (insert drummer) is or was. His body of work is amazing, but if you grew up having never seen/heard him play (live or recorded) then what frame of reference are you drawing from? This is a ridiculous argument, and one that can't be proven wrong or right...not even in a Rolling Stone article.
 

Polska

Member
"Greatest" or "Top 5, 10, 25 etc" are absolutely ridiculous and impossible to measure. Change it to "favorite" and you have a discussion.

Sure, Peart can't swing the Buddy Rich Big Band - big deal. Rich absolutely wouldn't have been able to sit in on Tom Sawyer. Who cares??

There's just no point to these types of comparisons. Rich, Williams, Ringo, Bonham influenced hundreds of young kids to play. Now there are dozens of players influencing the next generation. Maybe not with the same impact, but it's not the same world it was.

Recognize and respect who the good players were and leave it at that. And by "good" I mean who contributed as a drummer to the band(s) they are/were in and left an impression on anyone.
 

TheElectricCompany

Senior Member
Buddy Rich didn't need to play in two different time signatures across four limbs, he needed to be the engine of the music. He needed people to dance, to feel something. His musicianship reached people all around the world- not just other drummers- and he made his chops, his ooh-and-aw moments, fit into that musicianship. He didn't need people to decode his playing because it was an extension of the music. It was that simple, but it took immense talent. He was one of very few drummers in history who made mainstream music unique because of the drummer, and he did it in every group he played with.

Drumming doesn't exist in a vacuum. Deciding that today's musical gymnastics surpass what people did fifty years ago is a disservice to what people of that day accomplished. Today's top-level technical players are still influenced by Buddy, even if their playing doesn't reflect it, but just because they're pushing the boundaries in areas that weren't yet thought of during Buddy's time doesn't mean they've surpassed him. Not in the slightest.
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
It's art, and it's subjective. There is no way to prove, even if he was still living, if Buddy was better than (insert drummer) is or was. His body of work is amazing, but if you grew up having never seen/heard him play (live or recorded) then what frame of reference are you drawing from? This is a ridiculous argument, and one that can't be proven wrong or right...not even in a Rolling Stone article.
...and does it really matter??? Actually he was the 2nd best drummer. They are still looking for the best!!!!
 
G

gf2564

Guest
Buddy Rich didn't need to play in two different time signatures across four limbs, he needed to be the engine of the music. He needed people to dance, to feel something. His musicianship reached people all around the world- not just other drummers- and he made his chops, his ooh-and-aw moments, fit into that musicianship. He didn't need people to decode his playing because it was an extension of the music. It was that simple, but it took immense talent. He was one of very few drummers in history who made mainstream music unique because of the drummer, and he did it in every group he played with.

Drumming doesn't exist in a vacuum. Deciding that today's musical gymnastics surpass what people did fifty years ago is a disservice to what people of that day accomplished. Today's top-level technical players are still influenced by Buddy, even if their playing doesn't reflect it, but just because they're pushing the boundaries in areas that weren't yet thought of during Buddy's time doesn't mean they've surpassed him. Not in the slightest.
Hear, hear! As others have said, I am not a fan of trying to label/identify who is "best", but.........I agree with your assessment of his talents, dedication and influence 100%!
 
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