Filmed in 1970, the video above displays the rare combination of technique and musicianship that made Buddy Rich the King of Drumming. With speed like hummingbird wings and a level of control that allowed for a smooth yet powerful execution, Rich could drive a band like no other, a talent that easily and often put him in the role of bandleader.
A child prodigy, Rich started playing the drums at 18 months old. By 11, the self-taught American jazz drummer was performing as a bandleader in vaudeville, despite lack of formal instruction. During his time in vaudeville, Rich also became a decent singer and tap dancer, but drumming was his calling. Rich went on to play in, form, and lead major jazz and big band groups from 1937 until his death in 1987.
While Rich could play using both the matched grip and traditional grip, he typically held his sticks using the traditional grip. His technique, including speed, power, and smooth execution, became the most coveted and standardized in the world of drumming. Rich often used his technique to impress crowds with tricks, including crossing over his arms while drumming and the "stick-trick," a fast roll performed by slapping two sticks together in a circular motion. He also used contrasting techniques to keep long drum solos interesting.