Conservatory Special Collections > Buddy Rich Audio Collection, 1929-1986 and undated

Buddy Rich Audio Collection, 1929-1986 and undated

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Overview | Inventory | History | Using The Collection


Bernard “Buddy” Rich (1917-1987) was a jazz drummer and bandleader with a musical career spanning seven decades, from the vaudeville stage to the big band era and beyond. The collection consists of seventy-five audio cassette tapes of Rich’s performances, both solo and on tour with The Buddy Rich Big Band. The tapes span multiple decades, beginning as early as 1929, when Rich was 12, but are primarily from the late 1970s and 1980s. The majority of the tapes record Rich’s performances from venues across Ohio and Pennsylvania, from major theaters in Cleveland and Columbus, to smaller jazz clubs and rural high schools. Also included are performances from Rich’s many television and talk show appearances, where he played alongside some of the era’s most accomplished jazz musicians. Within the collection are two sets of tapes originally compiled by Clarence Hintze, author of two Buddy Rich discographies, Mister, I am the Band, and We Don’t Play Requests.


A complete inventory of the collection is available as a pdf. The collection was inventoried by Robert Bartels in January 2017.


The son of two vaudeville performers, Buddy Rich was born into a world of music and performance in New York City on September 30, 1917. Rich's musical talent was evident from an early age, and by the time he was two years old he was singing, dancing, and playing drums on stage with his family, billed as “Baby Traps the Drum Wonder.” Rich led his first stage band at the age of eleven, and he soon began touring the world. He was both a prodigy and an autodidact, and he worked his way to being one of the highest-paid child performers of the 1930s in the United States.

As an adult, Rich was always an in-demand drummer, and he performed with many of the greatest bandleaders of the era. In 1937 he began touring with Joe Marsala’s band, and he also briefly toured with Bunny Berigan and Artie Shaw. From 1939 to 1942 Rich was a member of Tommy Dorsey's band, before joining the United States Marine Corps in World War II. After the war he toured with Dorsey again, as well as Harry James, Les Brown, Charlie Ventura, and Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic. In the recording studio, Rich played with top musical talents, including Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie on the 1950 Bird and Diz studio album. Rich also led his own big band starting in the late 1950s. His second band, formed in 1966, achieved great international success for nearly a decade. Rich dissolved the band in 1974 and opened up a club in Manhattan, Buddy’s Place, where he performed regularly. In the 1970s and 80s he again toured across the country with a new group of young musicians, performing in smaller venues, such as high schools and community centers. Rich died on April 2, 1987 from complications following the removal of a brain tumor.

Although Rich was a child of the vaudeville era, he applied his formidable drumming technique to a variety of musical styles and became one of the premier drummers of the twentieth century. Rich was known for his speed and dexterity, but also for his impeccable timing and sense of tempo. Queen drummer Roger Taylor said of Rich, “I would say of just sheer technique he's the best I've ever seen,” and Gene Krupa called him “the greatest drummer ever to have drawn breath.”

Using the Collection

Restrictions: All original audiocassettes are CLOSED to patron listening. Unless otherwise noted, use copies must be made for access to audio content.

Rights: The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Oberlin College.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Buddy Rich Audio Collection, Oberlin Conservatory Library

Last updated:
October 11, 2017