SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT – “BAND OF GYPSYS” LIKELY THE BEST FUNK-ROCK ALBUM EVER, AND BUDDY MILES IS THE REASON WHY (OH YEAH, AND JIMI PLAYED ON THE RECORD AS WELL)
So this week we lost another extremely solid musician. For those of you who don’t know, Buddy Miles was a super-thick backbone groove drummer who played early on with The Delfonics and Wilson Pickett, but was ultimately best known for his contributions (not only behind the trap kit, but with vocals on a few tracks as well) on the seminal live recording Band of Gypsys, which also featured some dude named Jimi Hendrix on guitar and the always-dependable Billy Cox on bass.
The 6-track album was culled together from parts of the last two sets the trio did over their New Year’s Eve/Day 1969-70 four performance-run held at the Fillmore East, and Band of Gypsys was the last Hendrix-authorized album to be released before his unexpected death in September 1970.
Rumor has it that just before the second (and final) Band of Gypsys appearance at an anti-Vietnam benefit at Madison Square Garden on January 28th, 1970, Hendrix was dosed with LSD by either his girlfriend at the time or manager Michael Jeffery (who Buddy Miles suspected was trying to sabotage the band), leading him, very early into the band’s delayed-to-3am set, to apparently stop playing mid-song and tell the crowd “That’s what happens when earth fucks with space—never forget that.” He then sat down on the drum riser for a moment, and subsequently walked offstage.
Jeffery used this seemingly inexplicable event to bury the band’s reputation and replace Cox and Miles with The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s original rhythm section, Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. Cox soon officially rejoined forces with Hendrix, but Buddy Miles stayed behind the scenes, only appearing on scattered studio recordings by Hendrix that would be featured on various posthumous compilation releases.
Miles went on to reform his own band (whose original incarnation’s first album was produced by Hendrix in 1969, just before the Band of Gypsys hit the scene), and subsequently went to collaborate with Carlos Santana, The Monkees, and yes — you guessed it — Cheech & Chong. How’d you know? (and whilst we’re on the subject of Hendrix-related near-collaborations, check out this list of prolific randoms that JH himself supposedly jammed with back in the day: Steve Winwood, Jim Morrison, Gil Evans, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, and more — ahh, what could have been…)
In the mid-80s, Buddy Miles’ soulful vocals were featured in the original California Raisins ad campaign, and Miles was hired on to record two Raisins albums of R&B classics, cementing his place in claymation-to-iconic-pop-culture-fame-osity. But don’t let this gig fool you — Buddy Miles was clearly a purveyor of all things authentically soulful and funky, and he will truly be missed.
“With the power of soul…anything is possible.” RImfP.
BAND OF GYPSYS – “Power to Love”, from Band of Gypsys (1970)
BAND OF GYPSYS – “Who Knows”, from Band of Gypsys (1970)
BUDDY MILES (covering NEIL YOUNG) – “Down by the River”, from Them Changes (1970)
BUDDY MILES & CARLOS SANTANA – “Them Changes (live)”, from a little concert called WOODSTOCK, you bastard!
Jimi & Buddy Miles (sans afro), keepin it real in ’69