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Buddy Miles — legendary drummer, vocalist and close friend of Jimi Hendrix passed away on February 26, 2008 in Austin, TX. He was 60.

Born George A. Miles on September 5, 1947 in Omaha, Nebraska, Buddy started playing the drum at age nine and joined his first band-The Bebops, a jazz band led by his father-at age 12. "We typically did our own stuff, but I really enjoyed doing other people's music out of respect," recalled Buddy during a 1997 interview.

After a few years of playing with his father, Miles left Nebraska and toured the Chitlin' Circuit as a backup drummer. "I did a lot of pit band work as a backup drummer, which I became noted for," explained Miles. "After playing the Circuit, I worked with Wilson Picket, Sam & Dave and others. We worked between Newark, Montreal, Toronto and New York."

"It was in Montreal, Canada sometime just after winter or early spring in 1963 or 1964 when I first met Jimi Hendrix. He was with the Isley Brothers and I was with Ruby & The Romantics. I got to do a little jamming with Jimi at the time, but not much."

From the first time Buddy and Jimi met, Miles knew that Jimi was a real Bluesman. "Jimi was a Bluesman before anything else! That's one thing you could tell about his playing-he was definitely crying out about something."

The two became friends and remained close until Hendrix's 1970 passing. "We had a love and compassion for each other. Brotherhood. Divine Brotherhood, that's all. That's all you really need there for all of that to work."

Following his stint with Ruby & The Romantics, Miles joined Wilson Pickett's traveling revue in 1966 where he was spotted by guitarist Mike Bloomfield who later recruited the impressionable drummer for his new group, The Electric Flag. The group would make its performance debut at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. It was during that fabled event that Miles' path once again crossed Hendrix's as Jimi was leading The Experience through their US homecoming at the same event.

Although The Electric Flag was on shaky ground following the departure of Bloomfield, Miles' relationship with Hendrix was strengthening with Hendrix inviting Miles to participate in recordings for The Experience's third studio release Electric Ladyland (1968).

Later that same year, Buddy Miles ventured off onto his own when he formed his own group-The Buddy Miles Express, which featured the original horn section from The Electric Flag. The group's debut release, Expressway To Your Skull once again reunited Miles with Hendrix, with Jimi taking the reigns as Producer on the release. Hendrix also produced the group's sophomore effort, 1969's Electric Church.

Following Hendrix's appearance at Woodstock in August 1969, Jimi, Buddy Miles and fellow musician Billy Cox joined to form the trio, Band Of Gypsys. "I had a hell of a lot to do with it," explained Miles during a 1997 interview. "I persuaded him to do it. It was time for him to do the Band Of Gypsys." The trio performed a series of five concerts including four shows during New Year's at Bill Graham's famed Fillmore East Theatre in New York City. The concerts were recorded and were later released as the self-titled project Band Of Gypsys in March 1970. An additional expanded collection of recordings from these performances was released in 1999 as Hendrix: Live At The Fillmore East.

Long hailed as a touchstone of blues, funk, fusion, and rock, the Band Of Gypsys performances continue to be regarded as some of the most significant live concert recordings ever laid to tape. "It was one of the single greatest single things I've ever done!" exclaims Miles. "Everybody always says that the Band Of Gypsys was the bible."

Following the break-up of the Band Of Gypsys, Miles forged ahead with The Buddy Miles Express. At the same time, Hendrix reformed The Jimi Hendrix Experience with Billy Cox replacing original bassist, Noel Redding. When The Experience made its April 25, 1970 debut at the LA Forum, Hendrix invited the Buddy Miles Express to open the show that night, a role that the group would repeat the following night in Sacramento.

Over the coming years, Miles would continue his work as drummer, vocalist and band leader on projects with John McLaughlin, including 1970s' Devotion. Plus two hugely popular solo releases Them Changes (1971) and Carlos Santana & Buddy Miles! Live! (1972) which was the result of four-month Santana/Miles concert tour from December 1971 through April 1972. Throughout the Seventies, Miles continued to release albums and even re-united the Electric Flag briefly in 1974.

In 1986, Buddy Miles returned to the public eye as the lead voice in a series of television ad campaigns as the Calfornia Raisins where Miles could be heard singing "I Heard It Through The Grapevine." The commercials were a huge success and were quickly spun off into a series of popular albums primarily featuring R&B; covers, and a Christmas Special that aired on TV. The Eighties also included return stints with Carlos Santana, this time serving as lead vocalist for the guitarist; and in 1987, Miles' solo debut, Freedom hit the streets.

More recently, Buddy Miles continued to record music and maintain and very regular touring schedule. In 1994, Miles reformed The Express and recorded the CD Hell And Back. Miles Away From Home, released by Experience Hendrix and Hip-O Records was released in 1997. In 1998, Buddy Miles reprised his role in the Band Of Gypsys when the group was reformed alongside bassist Billy Cox for the Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Festival in Seattle. Miles would participate in several other Jimi Hendrix tribute concerts in the coming years throughout the country, and in 2006, his recent recordings with fellow Band Of Gypsys alumnus, Billy Cox were released as the deluxe CD/DVD release Billy Cox & Buddy Miles: The Band Of Gypsys Return-a collection of 10 studio and concert recordings made during several Jimi Hendrix tribute projects.

The music of Buddy Miles shall always shine on.

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LEGENDARY DRUMMER, BUDDY MILES PASSSES AWAY AT AGE 60

SOURCE: EXPERIENCE HENDRIX, L.L.C.
DATE: February 27, 2008

© 1995-2008 Experience Hendrix, L.L.C. All Rights Reserved.
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