MILES OF MUSIC
by Michael Buffalo Smith
Buddy Miles career spans over 49 years including 70 albums, six World tours, television specials, charity events, TV commercials and music videos. Buddy has performed with the biggest names in music Stevie Wonder, Muddy Waters, Barry White, David Bowie, George Clinton, Santana and Bootsy Collins.
He started in music at age eleven performing with his fathers band "The Bebops" and played for the jazz-influenced combo for several years before moving on to play for The Delfonics, The Ink Spots and Wilson Pickett.
Buddy is a Co-founding father of fusion rock with the band Electric Flag. He also Co-founded the legendary Band of Gypsys with Jimi Hendrix and Billy Cox.
Buddy recorded the California Raisins commercial featuring claymation dancing raisins. It's the most successful commercial in television history. Buddy recorded and produced and performed on three more California Raisins albums.
Buddy produced and performed in a series of commercials for Caribbean Kiss, Cadillac and Harley Davidson just to name a few. Currently Buddy Miles is touring the USA, helping to raise money for several organizations and sponsors that support Hurricane / Disaster Relief efforts and The Children's Craniofacial Association.
We spoke to Buddy by phone from his home in Texas.
Thanks for agreeing to chat with us Buddy.
My pleasure, Michael. Where are you from?
I live in Greenville, South Carolina, but I was born 30 miles down the road in Spartanburg.
Oh yeah, Spartanburg. I’ve been there many times when I was younger. Greenville and Spartanburg, all over the Carolinas.
Well, looking over your resume, it’s almost hard to decide where to begin. I suppose you’re best known for playing with Jinni Hendrix. Do you have any fond memories of those days?
Well, everything that I do is kind of like a fond memory. If I get into particulars, it’ll sound x-rated, and I don’t want to do that. There’s been way too much of that, that has taken Jimi out of the ball park. And I certainly don’t want to be the one to start any more controversy. But the only things I remember are the good times. Especially when we met. I was playing with Wilson Pickett, he was playing with the Isley Brothers. This was like in the 1960’s. The funny thing about it was her and I had more hair than anybody else in either band. The man was superb. Thank God the world hasn’t forgotten him.
And I couldn’t leave myself out, because I believe I had something to do with him and myself being two different individuals that stood for the same thing, love, peace and happiness. Which I stand for today. All of this craziness that is happening over in these foreign countries- I never stood for that, and neither did Jimi. And that goes all the way back to the Vietnam war. So much for that. I don’t know how much longer I am going to be here, but I want to keep my ocean in motion so that Jimi can feel me every time.
I don’t know of any other way to express myself. I play with good musicians, like Rocky Athas. But my most favorite guitarist to this day is Billy Gibbons. Billy is one of the boss hogs of the world. (Laughs) And right after I got to meet Jimi, I met the man from Chicago, and boy was he weird. Michael Bloomfield. You know, “Michael” is a Jewish word for “crazy.” (Laughs) He was the greatest white blues guitarist I ever knew. Him and a guy by the name of Lonnie Mack. And Roy Buchanan.
One of the big festivals you played was Monterey Pop. What was it like to play a festival that size?
It was a total get off! Are you kidding me? I’d never done anything like that before in my life. And to be up there, this big guy in this Beatles type suit I had made with a paisley tie on, and you couldn’t tell me I wasn’t Dapper Dan. (Laughs) Everybody else had on jeans and beads and this and that. I think The Electric Flag, even more so than Jimi, was my greatest attribute. The music was a lot more personal. We cared about the public, I think a little more with that band. Not to put Jimi down in any sort of way.
When you recorded Them Changes in 1971, did you have any idea how big that song would be?
No I did not. And I got accused of stealing the song. I got accused of stealing my own song, by this band called The New York Rock Ensemble. So I got in touch with them. I said, if you feel that way, play it for me. How you gonna copy r&b and soul, my brother?
I used to love the Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles Live album.
Oh, Carlos can play. But he’s not my favorite guitarist. Peter Green is.
I read a book called The Uncensored History of Rolling Stone Magazine, and there’s a great story in there about you paying a visit to the office after they panned one of your records.
That was Jann Wenner.
They say he ran and hid.
Oh, I caught him. He tried to disappear.
Tell me more about working with Mike Bloomfield.
There were many bands that were a part of my life, but to me, The Electric Flag was the epitome. I don’t know why Mike decided to turn over and forget about his peers, but it crushed me. The Electric Flag was everything to me. But then I went on and played with Jimi, and that was fantastic. But what was strange was I felt more at home playing with Michael. And I don’t have any idea why, but I did.
When I lived in San Francisco, I always had a great time. Drivin down the Haight. I had me a bad Vette, and I’d park it and all the little chickies would come running up and saying, “Who is this big niggra?” (Laughs) I’d tell ‘em, I’m Mike Bloomfield’s drummer. Michael didn’t like me saying that, but I did.
I remember when we played our first show, we got creamed all over the place, by The Cream. (Laughs) What made them so great wasn’t just that they played contemporary blues - listen to “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” listen to “Toad”- and the format in which they introduced them. See, what me and Michael and the band didn’t sit down and do, in my opinion...we could have sat down and went over the music more. But we were young and crazy back then. If you doin’t believe me, read Jerry Garcia’s books. (Laughs) I was hooked up in Frisco. I went over to so many people's houses and they said...well Michael, you saw me back then, what did you think?
I thought, what a good lookin’ man beating the hell out of those drums? (Laughs)
(Laughs) Good lookin’ man? Well, yeah, it’s true. (Laughs) Nah, but I’ll take that.
Tell me about the History Channel Special coming up called Hippies.
Yeah, they did a great job. They wanted to see where I fit in. (Laughs) I loved San Francisco man, especially going down to North Beach and seeing all the topless dancers, and going down to Haight-Ashbury and jamming. I jammed with everybody including The Flamin’ Groovies, Janis Joplin...
I was going to ask about Janis Joplin.
We went out five times. We were scared to death of each other. She was really cute. I don’t know what happened to her. Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies, I don’t know. I don’t know why Janis got this obsession to think she was ugly. But I had to sit her down and say “Janis, you are not ugly. Would it make you feel better if I went and got a bag to put over your head? I’d still go out with you.” She laughed and said, “Buddy Miles, you wouldn’t.” I said “Yes I would to.” I like to try and keep things light and humorous.
She could really rip it on stage.
Oh yeah! My Pearlie May? She was the best. I still love you baby. Forever and a day.
I have a friend and musical hero named Bonnie Bramlett. Did you ever work with her?
Bonnie is an old, dear friend of mine. I was one of the first people she hung with when she came to Los Angeles to play, her and her old man at the time Delaney. They were playing with Eric Clapton. That woman can sing. We used to chirp together. I think in her career she was just presented wrong. They had her singing with all these different people. She was always the best.
What have you got coming up.
I’m working on a new album, but we are doing it right. I’m tired of the big record companies messing up shit, getting in the way. Damn you, money man, get out of the way! It’ll probably be a 14-song album. I’d like to have Bonnie on it. I'm also writing a biography.
Cool. Thanks for talking to us Buddy.
Anytime, Michael. Anytime.