I never knew that Buddy Miles was a member of the California Raisins. I learned this immediately after I learned that Buddy had passed away today while listening to N.P.R. on yet another snow covered commute home from work.
He was only sixty, which means that he was barely twenty-one when he joined Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, which means that he was twenty when he played in Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield and that puts him at a mere nineteen during his tenure with Wilson Pickett.
Buddy Miles was the kind of dude that rub shoulders with more cool people before the age of twenty-five than you or I ever hope to meet in our entire lifetime.
There was a time when I would have pegged Miles as Hendrix’s best drummer ever, particularly after hearing “Machine Gun,” perhaps my favorite Jimi song. Mitch Mitchell is a fine, jazzy drummer who keeps ups and keeps busy with the greatest guitar player ever, but Buddy fucking nails “Machine Gun” to the point where you know that any other drummer would just take away from the song’s power.
Ultimately, I understand why Miles only worked on one album and that’s the same reason why Buddy only managed to work with Bloomfield on one album.
And Carlos Santana.
And John McLaughlin.
Buddy Miles sat behind the kit, behind the rest of the band, but his heart and his ego always wanted to be out in front.
Hell, even his afro commanded your attention!
I owned Buddy’s A Message To The People when I was a kid, but I didn’t listen to it that much. To be honest, I was more entranced with the cover: a huge fro’d Buddy blowing out a stream of lava that contained naked black ladies that oozed all the way to the back cover.
The last I heard about him was on the documentary I bought on the Band of Gypsys. He seemed larger than life (including his head, figuratively this time as the afro was gone!) but genuinely humbled by the opportunity to have worked with Hendrix, albeit briefly.
And every time I hear “Machine Gun,” I know exactly why Jimi wanted to work with him too.