given name Bernard Rich
birth Sept. 30, 1917, Brooklyn, NY
death Apr. 2, 1987, cardiac arrest
physical description 5'9", 160 lbs., brown hair, hazel eyes
father Robert Rich, b.Dec. 2, 1886?, a vaudevillian, d.Oct. 1976?
mother Bess Skolnik Rich, b.1889, m.1907?, d.1948, cancer
sister Marjorie "Marge" Rich Ritchie, b.May 24, 1910, a dancer, m.1933?
sister Jo Rich Corday, b.Jul. 30, 1914, an actress
brother Martin "Mickey" Rich, b.Nov. 24, 1923, a tenor saxophonist, d.Jul. 18, 1989
wife Marie Allison Rich, m.Apr. 24, 1953, a showgirl and dancer
daughter Cathy Rich Arnold, b.May 11, 1954
grandson Nicholas "Nick" Rich, b.Sept. 21, 1984
military service U.S. Marine Corps, 1942-44
interests a black belt in karate; a fan of the New York Yankees and Mets baseball teams
residences 1777 E. 27th St., Brooklyn, NY [ childhood ]; Ocean Ave., Brooklyn, NY [ family
home, late 1940s ]; Warwick Hotel, 54th St., New York, NY [ 1953 ]; 450 E. 63rd St.,
New York, NY [ 1955 ]; 105-07 66th Rd., Forest Hills, Long Island, NY [ late 1950s ]; Sky
Lake Estates, N. Miami Beach, FL [ ca.1960 ]; Sombrero Rd., Las Vegas, NV [ 1962 ];
Mission Rd., Palm Springs, CA [ 1970 ]; One Lincoln Plaza, New York, NY [ 1970s ]
automobiles blue Lincoln Continental convertible [ 1940 ]; yellow Lincoln Continental
convertible [ 1944 ] ; MG-TC [ 1947 ]; Cadillac convertible [ 1948 ]; Jaguar XK-120
convertible [ 1953 ]; Porsche 928S [ 1980s ]
Rich assembled another big band of his own in 1966, but this time, it was driven by new music performed by young players, and with this format he continued to tour and perform in colleges, high schools, concert halls, and other venues for another 20 years.
Among Rich's best-known showstoppers was a more than 10-minute medley from Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story," arranged by Bill Reddie, that utilized constantly-shifting tempos and a climactic, extended drum solo; the Channel 1 Suite, composed and arranged by Reddie; Love for Sale, a Cole Porter standard; and Big Swing Face, a Bill Potts original.
By concentrating on a fresh repertoire, with many other jazz originals and rock-laced charts, Rich found a satisfying showcase for himself as well as for such featured players as saxophonists Pat LaBarbera (with him from 1966-74) and Steve Marcus (on the band during 1975-87).
Rich always decried nostalgia and kept a contemporary beat to his music, though he did agree to a 1982 "Kool Jazz Festival" retrospective in his honor.
Ironically, his final public performance turned out to be as a guest star on a 1987 PBS-TV special with The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra at the Hollywood Palladium.
Buddy Rich – In His Own Words
"This is what I play; take it or leave it . . . if you know anything about me, you know I don't give a
damn about anybody's opinion. I do exactly what I think is right for me."
"In the old days, when a drummer was hired in a band, he was expected to do anything that was
called for: if the arrangements required the power of a marching band, that's the way you played;
if it called for the drummer to be as gentle as a mouse, that's the way you played; and if there was
a combo within the band, if you had to play with a sextet-you know, like Gene Krupa did with Benny
Goodman's band-you just did it. I can't see a guy with a big band make the announcement, 'Now
we're going to do some combo numbers, so now I'd like to present my combo drummer.' Man,
what the hell is that-the two-platoon system?"
“ . . . what good is security if you're not happy, and especially if you know you can do better, be
more creative, and let your personality come out? But if you're being held down, so to speak, in
somebody else's band, what good is it taking home a heavy check every week? So when the
opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it."
"People always say to me are the big bands coming back. I don't know about them coming back
like they did, that's the nostalgic thing. That's out of my bag completely. My band doesn't try to
relate to the past at all as far as we are concerned, no. But we are back and totally successful.
Musically we are successful, financially we're successful, and in terms of audience participation
we're successful. We have shown you can take the contemporary music of today and join it to the
big band form quite properly. It's an unusual thing. Who says bands have always got to be tied to
“You can't fool the public . . . You can't go on saying, 'This is the original Glenn Miller Band,' or
'This is the original Tommy Dorsey Band.' You just can't continue putting people on like that."
"I try to be better than the night before. I take great pride in what we do . . . I sweep me away.
I'm responsible for all I do. I can't afford to let down. My ego's too great."
Rich had suffered a heart attack in 1959 and underwent bypass surgery in 1983 after apparently having another attack.
Yet, in the face of illness or other challenges, he stayed focused and kept up a demanding performance schedule.
For example, his cocky and opinionated persona made him a welcome and frequent guest on NBC-TV's "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," especially in the 1970s (he was said to have appeared on the show more than 75 times!).
Even at the very end of his life, after he had underwent surgery for removal of a brain tumor in 1987, Rich vowed to get better, and insisted that, following his chemotherapy treatments, his band be ready to go back on the road.
Asked at one point by a hospital nurse whether he was allergic to anything, he supposedly replied, "Yes, country and western music."
Leonard Feather, "Rich, Bernard 'Buddy,'" in The Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York City:
Horizon Press, 1955), p.396.
---, "Rich, Bernard (Buddy)," in The New Edition of the Encyclopedia of Jazz (New York City:
Horizon Press, 1960), p.396.
Peter Keepnews, "Buddy Rich Dead At 69," Billboard, Apr. 18, 1987, p.6+.
John McDonough, "Raging Brilliance: Those Who played with Buddy Rich Remember His
Temper, but Recount Numerous Tales of Musical Genius," DownBeat, Nov. 2004, p.39+.
"Obituaries: Buddy Rich, 69, legendary jazz drummer, leader of big bands," Chicago
Sun-Times, Apr. 3, 1987, p.60.
"The Official Web Site of Buddy Rich," buddyrich.com.
John Shaw, "The Buddy Rich Experience," Jazz Journal, Feb. 1972, pp.12-13.
Harvey Siders, "The Nouveau Rich," DownBeat, Apr. 20, 1967, pp.19-21.
Social Security Death Index.
Mel Torme, Traps the Drum Wonder: The Life of Buddy Rich (New York City: Oxford
University Press, 1991).
Craig Wilson, "Buddy Rich: At 68, he's still beating the drum for his brand of hot and hip
jazz," USA Today, June 25, 1986, p.5D.
John S. Wilson, "Buddy Rich Flashback: Friends Replay Career," New York Times,
June 29, 1982, p.C16.
I would like to expand this tribute, if possible, with a new interview of someone who was important to Buddy Rich's life and career. Are you an alumnus of his band, a member of his family, or a collector who is knowledgeable about his accomplishments? Please contact me via e-mail