Rock and R&B drummer Buddy Miles has taken his Final Taxi at the age of 60.
A singer and songwriter as well as a drummer, Miles had stints playing with Jimmy Hendrix, John McLaughlin, Carlos Santana, Bootsy Collins and Cheech and Chong.
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, band, The Bebops, beginning at age 12. Miles Sr. had played upright bass with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon. Miles was given the nickname “Buddy” by his aunt after the drummer Buddy Rich.
Miles played in a variety of rhythm and blues and soul acts as a teenager, including Ruby & the Romantics, the Ink Spots, the Delfonics and Wilson Pickett. He played on the session that produced the Jaynetts’ 1963 hit “Sally Go Round the Roses,” and by 1967 he moved to Chicago where he formed the Electric Flag with guitarist Mike Bloomfield.
After creating the Buddy Miles Express band, he was most popular when he joined Jimi Hendrix and bassist Billy Cox to form Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, dubbed “the first black rock group” by the New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll. In 1968, Miles had played on Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album.
The Band of Gypsys’ sole album was a live set recorded on New Year’s Eve in 1969-70. It included two songs by Miles, “Them Changes” and “We Got to Live Together.” On one of Hendrix’s signature songs, “Machine Gun,” featured a strong drum riff by Miles.
However, Miles’ association with the Band of Gypsys association was short, the drummer himself said. In a 1988 Los Angeles Times interview, he said that Hendrix’s management — not the guitarist — fired him within a month of the concert.
Miles thinks that Hendrix’s managers didn’t want to stay with an all-black group. “It had to be a racial thing. I think it had to scare them because of the political aspect at the time,” he told the Times.
Miles worked with such major music figures as Muddy Waters and John McLaughlin, and recorded two albums — one of which went platinum — with Carlos Santana. In the mid-1970s, he put the Buddy Miles Express back together, turning out another hit song ,”Them Changes.”
Buddy contributed to a number of Cheech and Chong songs. Most notably was Lost Due To Incompetence (Theme For A Big Green Van) 1978 from the film Up In Smoke.
He was also part of the California Raisins, the four singing and dancing Claymation figures who became hugely popular advertising mascots in the late 1980s.
As Buddy Raisin, Miles was the lead singer in the TV commercials for the California Raisin Advisory Board. He covered Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
The success of the commercial led to a million-selling spinoff album of remakes of rock and soul oldies, The California Raisins Sing the Hit Songs.
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 Color.