Buddy Miles, Hendrix Drummer, Dies
Buddy Miles, the drummer in Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys and a hitmaker under his own name with the song “Them Changes,” died on at his home in Austin, Tex. He was 60.
Mr. Miles suffered from congestive heat failure, his publicist, Duane Lee, said, according to Reuters. Mr. Lee said he did not know the official cause of death.
Mr. Miles played with a brisk, assertive, deeply funky attack that made him an apt partner for Hendrix. With his luxuriant Afro and his American-flag shirts, he was a prime mover in the psychedelic blues-rock of the late 1960’s, not only with Hendrix but also as a founder, drummer and occasional lead singer for the Electric Flag. During the 1980’s, he was widely heard as the lead voice of the California Raisins in television commercials
George Allen Miles Jr., whose aunt nicknamed him after the big-band drummer Buddy Rich, was born in Omaha and began playing drums as a child. He was 12 years old when he joined his father’s jazz group, the Bebops. As a teenager he also worked with soul and rhythm-and-blues acts, among them the Ink Spots, the Delfonics and Wilson Pickett. By 1967, he had moved to Chicago, where he was a founding member of the Electric Flag.
That band included a horn section and played blues, soul and rock; it made its debut at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and released its first album in 1968. But the Electric Flag was short-lived. Mr. Miles formed the Buddy Miles Express, and its first album, “Electric Church,” was produced by Hendrix, whom he had met when both were sidemen on the rhythm-and-blues circuit. Mr. Miles appeared on two songs on the Hendrix album “Electric Ladyland.” When Hendrix disbanded the Jimi Hendrix Experience and replaced his trio’s British musicians with African-Americans, Mr. Miles joined him in the Band of Gypsys along with Billy Cox on bass.
On the last night of the 1960s, a New Year’s Eve show, they recorded “Band of Gypsys,” an album that included “Them Changes.” Mr. Miles also worked in the studio with Hendrix, and appears on “Cry of Love,” released after Hendrix died in 1970.
He re-recorded “Them Changes” with his own band, and it became a hit and a blues-rock staple; Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood performed it on Monday at Madison Square Garden. Through the 1970s, Mr. Miles made albums with his own bands. He also made a live album with Carlos Santana in 1972, and sang on the 1987 Santana album “Freedom.” During his career he appeared on more than 70 albums and worked with musicians including Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Barry White and George Clinton.
He was imprisoned on drug-related convictions during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, but when he emerged, advertising recharged his career. He sang the lead vocal for the California Raisins, whose Claymation commercials were so popular that they led to a string of albums by the fictional group. Two of them, “California Raisins” and “Meet the Raisins,” shipped a million copies. Mr. Miles also produced and performed commercials for Cadillac and Harley Davidson.
He and Mr. Cox recorded a live album, “The Band of Gypsys Return,” in 2004. Mr. Miles continued to perform even after suffering a stroke in 2005. Survivors include his partner, Sherrilae Chambers.