Buddy Miles, Drummer For Hendrix, Dies at 60

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The New York Sun

The great rock drummer Buddy Miles, who was best known as the backbone of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys but also enjoyed a long and fruitful solo career, has died at the age of 60. The cause was congestive heart failure, according to his publicist, Duane Lee.

Miles was widely recognized for his forceful yet dexterous style of drumming, which was ideal for laying the rhythmic foundation beneath virtuosic guitar players such as Hendrix and Carlos Santana. For Miles, every seemingly subtle shift from the hi-hat cymbal to the crash, or from the kick drum to the snare, altered the dynamic of the song he was playing and sent it hurtling in another, no less assured direction. He was also an accomplished singer and front man, and though he may never have upstaged Hendrix with the Band of Gypsys, he certainly provided the more classically soulful tenor whenever he took the lead vocal.

Born George Miles in Omaha, Neb., on September 5, 1947, Miles began playing the drums at age 9, and joined his father’s jazz band, the Bebops, at 12. As a teenager, he played with several jazz and R&B outfits, notably backing vocal groups such as Ruby & the Romantics, the Ink Spots, and the Delfonics. In 1966, he joined Wilson Pickett’s touring revue, where he was spotted by the white blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield. The two formed the Electric Flag, an ambitious fusion of rock, blues, soul, and jazz that made its debut at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. When the group collapsed the following year, Miles quickly formed his own group, the similarly eclectic Buddy Miles Express.

Another fan of Miles’s, Hendrix, produced the Express’s first album, and Miles in turn played on Hendrix’s final studio record with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Electric Ladyland.” After Hendrix disbanded the Experience in 1969, he, Miles, and the bassist Billy Cox formed Band of Gypsys, one of the first all-black rock bands. Bluesier, funkier, and, thanks to Miles, tighter than Hendrix’s work to that point, Band of Gypsys didn’t last long in its original incarnation; Miles departed in 1970, but not before his powerhouse work was featured on the group’s lone album, the live “Band of Gypsys,” which was recorded on the eve of the 1970s.

In the years to follow, Miles found some success as a bandleader (his 1971 album, “Them Changes,” stayed on the charts for more than a year) and also collaborated with Mr. Santana. In the mid-1980s, after battling various personal demons, Miles rejoined Mr. Santana as the official lead vocalist of Santana.

In 2004, Miles was inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame. He is survived by his partner, Sherrilae Chambers, a niece, a nephew, and stepchildren.

The New York Sun

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