George Allen "Buddy" Miles passed away late last night in Austin, Texas after a long fight with congestive heart disease.
Born in Omaha in 1947, Buddy was a child prodigy, initially playing drums with his father George,Sr.'s band The Bebops. His nickname – given to him by his aunt - came from his tremendous love for his idol, Buddy Rich (they once played on stage together).
He played in a variety of bands as a teenager including the Ink Spots and the Delfonics; at 14 years old, he played with Wilson Pickett. In 1967, together with Mike Bloomfield, he founded the Electric Flag, one of the first, if not the first, mixed race electric blues bands. With Bloomfield's searing guitar licks and the high wail of a terrific horn section, the Flag was a raving celebration, especially with Buddy's voice ringing o'er the top. After only two albums, the group broke up and Buddy formed the infamous Buddy Miles Express.
Soon thereafter, Buddy began his legendary collaboration with Jimi Hendrix, participating in the famous Electric Ladyland sessions on "Rainy Day, Dream Away" and "Still Raining, Still Dreaming," and taking his place with Billy Cox in the all-black, short-lived but extremely influential Band of Gypsys. Their classic Live at the Fillmore East recording from New Years' Eve 1969/70 – in its initial release – featured a spot where Hendrix broke a guitar string, and during the 5 or so minutes it took Jimi to replace the string, Buddy carried on singing an improvised solo (replete with mouth-made wah-wah sounds) over the bass and drums until Hendrix slyly slipped back in the mix.
The moment bears testimony to Buddy's capacity to carry the band himself with an energy which was all his own. This live session also feat red an early version of "Them Changes," a composition recorded and played by countless artists over time, which has safely entered the pantheon of rock music.
Buddy went on famously to work with Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin and many others and he was the voice on the best-selling California Raisins albums (and commercials) including a wondrous version of "I Heard it Through the Grapevine."