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Buddy Miles Dies at Home in Texas

Posted: Feb 28, 2008

GRITZ has lost another good friend. The legendary drummer Buddy Miles passed on this past Tuesday, February 26, 2008 at the age of 60 from congestive heart failure at his home in Austin, Texas.

Back in 1999 I was scheduled to conduct a telephone interview with Miles. When I called, he was soaking in a bubble bath, and asked to reschedule the interview. We ended up talking for 30 minutes while he soaked, although no tape was running. A week later, I interviewed him for an hour and a half, only to discover that my tape recorder was broken and the only voice on the tape was mine. I was devastated.

It was just a couple of years ago we hooked back up with Miles by way of his friend and photographer Duane Lee, who set up our interview with Buddy.

Buddy Miles is perhaps best known as the drummer for Jimi Hendrix and Band of Gypsys. Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll called them "the first black rock group." Miles had earlier played with Hendrix on the guitarist's influential "Electric Ladyland" album released in 1968.

The Band of Gypsys made just one album, a live set recorded on New Year's Eve in 1969-70, and two of Miles' songs, "Them Changes" and "We Got to Live Together," were included on the album. He gave the recording a memorable drum riff on one of Hendrix's signature songs, "Machine Gun."

While playing with Wilson Pickett in 1967, he was approached by guitarist Mike Bloomfield, who asked him to join the blues, rock and soul group Electric Flag. Miles played on three of the band's albums before forming his own group, the Buddy Miles Express, in 1968. Next came his association with Hendrix.

Over the years, Miles recorded two albums with Carlos Santana, one of which went platinum, and worked with other leading music figures, including Muddy Waters and John McLaughlin. He re-formed the Buddy Miles Express in the mid-1970s and had a hit with his song "Them Changes."

By the late 1970s, however, Miles' career came to a halt over convictions for grand theft and auto theft. He served time in the California Institution for Men at Chino and at San Quentin State Prison. He was incarcerated until 1985 and formed bands at both prisons.

After he was released, he sang with Santana's group and got the raisin gig while working on an album with the guitarist. The popular television commercials featured a quartet of singing and dancing Claymation figures with Miles, as Buddy Raisin, doing the lead singing covering Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."

The commercial's popularity spawned a million-selling offshoot album of remakes of rock and soul oldies, "The California Raisins Sing the Hit Songs."

We love you Buddy. You will be missed big man.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern.

GRITZ contributor Derek Halsey adds the following:

"For me, as a teeanger in the 1970's, Buddy Miles was the sh*t, and an all time favorite musician of mine. Living and growing up in an inter-racial neighborhood in Cincinnati not far from where the Isley Brothers grew up, cats like Buddy Miles, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Mother's Finest, Graham Central Station, and the Isley Brothers mixed the FUNK with the ROCK music and made it work and brought my musical influences together. To me, my favorite Hendrix album, and the best one he ever did in my opinion, was Band Of Gypsys Live, and there was Buddy Miles slinging that bottom on it. Buddy's live album with Santana was also a lot of fun, with a bunch of Free Form Funkified Filth thrown everywhere in Hawaii.

But to me, a great album by him that is sadly overlooked is his Message To The People record. There is a song on there called "The Way I feel Tonight" which is simply gorgeous and amazing. The cut called "Joe Tex" is smoking, and the album ending cut, "That's The way Life Is," is beautiful. But, also on that album are two cuts that represent the best versions of Allman Brothers songs that non-Allman Brothers musicians have ever recorded. Side two starts in with a rocking, horn section-filled version of the Allman Brothers' "Don't Keep Me Wondering" that scorches. Then, "Don't Keep Me Wondering" segues directly into "Midnight Rider." Buddy's version of "Midnight Rider" is as good or better than the Allman Brothers' version in my opinion. Overall, it is a great album, and one to be cranked the hell up. I'll say it again, musicians like Buddy Miles was a part of the incredible music scene from 1954 to 1976 that no time period or music movement since has rivaled. Looking back, to be there when some of these albums were coming out NEW was the coolest. God bless a True Funk Master- RIP BUDDY!!"

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stellaguitar says...

This is seriously messed up. I am a drummer and Miles was my number one man. I had hoped to some day meet him. I enjoyed the interview.

sarasmile says...

So sad. I saw Buddy Miles Express sveral times. What a loss.

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