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George "Buddy" Miles was born in Omaha, Nebraska on September 5, 1947. He was known as a child prodigy, originally playing drums in his father, George Miles, Sr.'s, jazz band, The Bebops, beginning at age 12. Miles Sr. had played upright bass with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon.
In his teens Miles Jr. was often seen hanging out as well as recording at the Universal Promotions Corporation (U.P.C.) recording studios, which later became Rainbow Recording Studios
Miles was given the nickname "Buddy" by his aunt after the drummer Buddy Rich.
Miles said of his first meeting with Hendrix: "He was playing in the Isley Brothers band and I was in Ruby and the Romantics ... [Jimi] had his hair in a pony-tail with long sideburns. Even though he was shy I could tell this guy was different. He looked rather strange, because everyone else was wearing uniforms and he was eating his guitar, doing flip-flops and wearing chains."
This prefaced a later friendship that would result in varied collaborations between the two artists. In 1967, Hendrix and Miles jammed at the Malibu home of Stephen Stills, and went on to play together again at various times, in both Los Angeles and New York in 1968. Hendrix occasionally joined Electric Flag on stage. Soon after, Jimi Hendrix started opening his recording style to include guest artists. And in this mode Hendrix was working in, Buddy Miles quite naturally was invited to participate. Miles took part in the session recordings for Electric Ladyland, playing on the songs "Rainy Day, Dream Away" and "Still Raining, Still Dreaming".
In 1969 an extremely busy Hendrix would somehow find time to produce the first two albums released by Buddy Miles' own band, Buddy Miles Express - Expressway To Your Skull and Electric Church. There was obvious public curiosity as to whether the name of the band "Buddy Miles Express" was influenced by Hendrix's act, "The Jimi Hendrix Experience".
Soon after the release of the groundbreaking Electric Ladyland album, Noel Redding (original Experience bass player) and Mitch Mitchell (the Experience drummer) had both parted company with Hendrix, not least because of constant wrangling between Hendrix's manager (Michael Jeffery) and his producer (Alan Douglas), both vying for control of his career. Everyone wanted a piece of Hendrix's success.
As Buddy Miles explained: "Jimi was not happy. He felt powerless. He couldn't do what he wanted to do.". Hendrix's solution to the problem was to found a short-lived band called Band of Gypsys, and Miles was brought in to join him. One of the notable features for his audience at the time was the fact that all of the players were black. This was a first for Hendrix as an international recording star – although he had, of course, played with the Isley Brothers in his early days – and this choice reflected a move toward reconnecting with his soul roots. It also had the effect of re-associating rock with its African American roots. Originally it was a solo lp , but in the last ten years or so additional cuts from the concerts were released on a three piece cassette box. The band was based in New York City where Hendrix was spending the majority of his time. Hendrix, who was tangled in legal litigation concerning contracts he had signed prior to his becoming internationally recognized, was required to release a record to the Capitol Records label as part of the agreement in court. This fact led to the live recording of his collaboration with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox.
However during a follow up performance a month later, Hendrix had a minor, drug-related meltdown on stage which has also been speculated to have been an act of sabotage on the part of a very frustrated manager Michael Jeffery, who was not a fan of the Band of Gypsys all-black line-up and strong R&B roots. Miles had this to say about the incident years later:
"Jeffery slipped [Jimi] two half-tabs of acid on stage as he went on ... [Jimi] just freaked out. I told Jeffery he was an out-and-out complete idiot and a fucking asshole to boot. One of the biggest reasons why Jimi is dead is because of that guy." Miles and Jeffery already had a strained relationship, as Jeffery was always uncomfortable with Hendrix and Miles' close friendship. After this performance at Madison Square Garden in January 1970, Jeffery fired Buddy Miles and the Band of Gypsys was no more.
Miles continued to work with Hendrix during early and mid 1970 after the Jimi Hendrix Experience had failed to re-form to record. Miles would share recording studio drumming duties on songs "Room Full of Mirrors", "Izabella", "Ezy Ryder" and the first version of "Stepping Stone" (for which Mitchell played a final drum track). These songs have been released in several posthumous Hendrix albums.Ironically, the album Band of Gypsys — released in May 1970 — made the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic, and stayed in the US charts for over a year. Hendrix died in September 18, 1970, prompting the album to sell even better. There are now videos of Buddy and Randy Hansen covering several of Jimi's songs on a major website.
In 1970, while recording the album We Got To Live Together Buddy Miles learned of the death of Hendrix, which he mentions on the inner cover of the album. Released in 1971, We Got To Live Together is produced by Buddy Miles and Robin McBride. It comprises 5 songs including the instrumental "Easy Greasy". High energy drumming with funky overtones and big horns make this album quintessential Buddy. The other cuts on the album are: "Runaway Child (Little Miss Nothin)", "Walking Down the Highway", "We Got To Live Together", "Take It Off Him and Put It On Me". All the songs were written by Buddy Miles with C.Karp except for "Take it Off...".
Buddy also contributed to a number of Cheech and Chong songs. One was "Lost Due To Incompetence (Theme For A Big Green Van) 1978" from the film Up In Smoke. Buddy did an album with Adrian Gurvitz (from The Gun) in 1973 called Chapter VII (this album has photos of Buddy and his family along with some shots of Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone). Buddy had major success with Them Changes, a soul and pop hit in 70-71.
Miles would see the song released yet a fourth time on a collaborative live record he made with Carlos Santana. This particular version was particularly notable for its intense energy, horn lines and blazing guitar work supplied by a very young and energetic Santana. Miles would then go on to be signed by the '70s-'80s era record label, Casablanca Records, best known for their rock act KISS. Miles' work for the label included the excellent album released under his own name, Bicentennial Gathering Of The Tribes. It would include on its liner notes a quote from President John F Kennedy concerning the American Indians. That quote would include the line "When we neglect the heroic past of the American Indian, we thereby weaken our own heritage." This was interesting in relationship to his former friendship and collaborations with Jimi Hendrix who, in fact, had much American Indian blood in his family line. From 1994 - 1999 Buddy Miles formulated an excellent group in the N.Y.C./area featuring Charlie Torres on Bass Guitar and Vocals . Rod Kohn on Guitar and vocals . Kenn Moutenot on drums / vocals /management . Mark " Muggy Doo " Leach on Hammond B3 and Keyboards. They toured non stop in the United States and over seas with almost one thousand concerts and festivals to their credit. Buddy also composed and recorded many songs with this new version of " The Buddy Miles Express " that is yet to be released.It was Buddy's most enduring live band throughout his illustrious career. This popular touring line up lasted for six fruitful years together with the same members. Part of Miles' appeal as a rock musician was his physical appearance. He drew many stares and smiles as he held court from the drumset in the Electric Flag days, with his American flag or sequined shirts, his high-brushed Afro, and his massive frame and smile. Buddy was an eyeful for the hippies and concertgoers of the day. Once guitarist for the band SNAIL (Cream Records), JOHN ROCKER was guitarist for THE BUDDY MILES EXPRESS too for about 5 - 6 years as well touring throughout North America...
The Unknown Work of Buddy Miles - The Club Fed Sessions
In 1996, he sat in with rock band Phish at Madison Square Garden. also in 1996 Miles did several dates with the NJ based blues band Rock'n Daddy, that also included former Tv Toy guitarist Bob "BIG BUD" solberg, drummer Paul "fergy" Ferguson, and bassist Phil "catfish" Endean, Through the late 1990s, Miles' charitable side was seen in his band's playing pro bono at several annual tribute concerts for local friend and fan Linda Gillespie, who had been killed in a car accident in the Spring of 1994 in Winthrop Harbor, IL.
Buddy Miles was seen in the Hendrix-family-owned, official video release The Making of Electric Ladyland on Rhino Records. That video featured interviews with the majority of players who were involved in recording the legendary Hendrix album. Miles even went as far as to be video recorded playing his same drum tracks yet again in the studio to the original multi-track recordings of Hendrix. In 1999 Miles appeared on the late Bruce Cameron's album, Midnight Daydream that included other Hendrix alumni Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell along with Jack Bruce and others.
In 2004 Miles reunited yet again with Billy Cox of the Band of Gypsys to re-record songs from the original live album of 1970 with guitarists Eric Gales, Kenny Olsen, Sheldon Reynolds, Andy Aledort, and Gary Serkin. The album, titled The Band Of Gypsys Return, was released in 2006. Until his death, Buddy Miles continued to be active musically and performed many shows with proceeds going to help support victims of natural disasters and other noble causes.
Buddy Miles is credited on sessions with George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic.
In 2005 Buddy Miles began collaborating with Florida based Guitar Virtuoso Tony Smotherman in which the two toured the Southeast with a Blues-Rock Band performing various pieces from Miles' Collaborations with Jimi Hendrix. Miles and Smotherman last performed at the Austin Convention Center at the 2007 Summer NAMM Show with Vernon Reid of Living Colour.
Buddy Miles played his last live dates in 2007, on the West Coast of the United States with special assistance.Also in Texas with Lance Lopez & Collin freekin Keeton. He was forced to cancel the remaining dates because of heart problems.
There was a history of congestive heart failure in his family. His sister and mother both died of the same illness. It is known that his heart had certainly been struggling, working at only 15%, and his health had been consistently deteriorating over the past few months. According to friends, "he had turned off his defibrillator and was ready for heaven."There was no funeral; Miles was cremated.
The day before Buddy died, he heard Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton playing 'Them Changes' at Madison Square Garden through his cell phone. 'Them Changes' is now part of Clapton's set on tour as a tribute to Buddy. The UK-based newspaper The Independent ran an almost full-page obituary for Buddy Miles in its Friday February 29, 2008 edition. The title for the piece was "Buddy Miles: Flamboyant Hendrix drummer", and can be found on page 47.
Asked how he would like to be remembered by the American music magazine Seconds in 1995, Miles simply said: "The baddest of the bad. People say I'm the baddest drummer. If that's true, thank you world."A memorial concert took place on March 30, 2008 at Threadgill’s on Riverside Drive, South Austin.