The World's Greatest Drummer in the Sault

Posted: Sunday, May 16, 2010 by •»¶hê ƒRëq»•-)•–––– in

Many may not know this and might not care but many years ago, the one, the only Buddy Rich and his Swingin' Big Band graced the stage of the White Pines Auditorium back in the 1980's.   Who is Buddy Rich you ask?
Buddy is said to be the world's greatest drummers and if you do a history check on him and read articles of other famous drummers, you know this to be true.  One just has to listen to his vast music contributions or even watch videos of his stunning playing with his band to get what people are talking about.  Buddy Rich is said to have been a true natural on a drum kit.   Having started to play at the age of 2 in a Vaudeville stage act, he quickly became a jazz music icon with almost supernatural talent.   His technique on the drums eclipses most drummers to this day.   With his orchestra he was able to focus on and hear every instrument playing on stage and knew if  certain musicians weren't pulling their weight.  His mind was able to grasp all these players performances plus give a stellar one himself.  You can see him doing that  on some videos when he's looking around at his band members.. He ran his bands strictly and was easily a perfectionist.  Many of us discovered Buddy Rich on his many visits on the Johnny Carson show back in the 1970's.    For me, it was a ritual of sorts as when I knew he was on, I'd have my old Sears hand held tape deck recording his performance off the T.V. speaker. No multitasking systems back then.   I would then try to learn some of what he did.   For any drummer, just to learn one small thing by Buddy Rich was a challenge.   It is said that drummers around the world are still trying to figure out some things he did and I've even read artilcles by the famous drummers Dave Weckl and Steve Smith who state this.   It is also said Buddy took many of his drumming secrets to his grave.

I was so lucky in my life to have seen Buddy Rich perform HERE in Sault Ste. Marie back in 1980.
Buddy was at his peak in popularity at that time but as a drummer, he was always at his peak.  I've just never seen anyone play that consistently in my life before or since seeing Buddy live.    My seat was so close
to the front of the stage that I could see him clear as day.   Yes, I wish I was dead center but I had great seats none the less.  The first thing I remember about the show was the power of his band when they kicked into the first song.   It shocked the hell out of me.   What a force of music.   The audience was in awe almost immediately. I couldn't take my eyes off that stage as for me and I'm sure a lot of others it was like a religious experience.  Yes, we were in front of the god of drums. ;-)   During his band's performance he featured numerous members in his band as they had their solo spots.  Buddy himself  was featured in 3 absolutely stunning solos and all 3 solos were drastically different.   Most of us can barely come up with one |O|.  During the performance though, Buddy stopped his band in the middle of a song to actually tell the person running the spot light to focus on the musician soloing and not just him.   Buddy was upset that the spotlight focus was always on him.   You could tell he was ticked off but anyone who knew about Buddy's history, knew he would let you have it if you ticked him off or weren't doing something right.  Like I said, he was a perfectionist.   The show was truly amazing and the aura of that show has never ever left me.  It has inspired me to this day and Buddy's playing still inspires me like 1000's of others.

What saddens me is that  Buddy died too soon.   One of his final series of performances was with Frank Sinatra and he had not lost his stride one bit.   He was still amazing in a live video of this show even though he was physically frail.   Buddy had so many heart attacks and heart surgeries in his life and none of that affected him or his playing.  It actually made him up his performance.   He was inhuman.   It is said that after his 2nd heart attack, he was back on stage only a few days later, ripping up the drums.

What angers me about the younger generation of musicians is that they never seem to research the history of music.   Many people love drummers like John Bonham, Neil Peart,  Dave Weckl and more but don't realize how much these people ripped off Buddy Rich's licks.  Some have even taken credit for something that was clearly Buddy Rich.   One of these is Tommy Lee of Motley Crue who did the spinning drumset thing.   This is a Buddy Rich gimmick that was done a bit more crudely but it was still Buddy Rich.   His drumset rolled to the side where as Tommy Lee's rolled foward.  Still, it's Buddy who did it first.   Buddy did this for a fun thing as he didn't need gimmicks with the talent he had.  Some have said John Bonham had the greatest bass drum foot for what he used to do.  He is great BUT Buddy did all that long before Bonham.   My key point is research your music history and see where your favourite drummer or musicians influences take you.  Buddy Rich had his influences but the difference is that Buddy was a leader and an innovator.  It is stated in the book  " Traps, the Drum Wonder: The Life of Buddy Rich" by Mel Torme that Buddy Rich was the greatest drummer to have ever drawn breath.  To the many thousands of people who saw him live, you know this to be true.   I am happy to say that I saw him live and I agree with Mel. ;-)

The ticket shown above is my own from 1980 and it's one of my most prized possessions.

Glen "the Freq".


  1. Donna says:

    I was at that show! I met Buddy. Although an extremely talented musician, he was a massive dickhead...

    My father was part of the Sault Jazz Society and was instrumental in bringing Buddy here.

  1. oh yes. Buddy has been known to be a dickhead and more|O| There are quite some stories about him out there. ;-)