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Buddy Rich (Drummer Profile) – One of The Greatest Drummers of All Time

There aren’t many drummers in the world more famous than Buddy Rich. He was one of the first few drumming celebrities, and he’s still considered one of the greatest drummers to ever live.

He had a long and successful musical career that saw him performing with jazz legends and then becoming one himself. To this day, people still analyze his playing to figure out all the crazy things he did. 

We’re going to give you a brief breakdown of Buddy Rich’s life, the artists he worked with, his gear, and his playing style.

Notable For

  • Being a world-famous drummer throughout the 20th century 
  • Having incredible speed behind the drum kit 
  • Being a strong advocate for traditional grip
  • Playing mind-blowing drum solos
  • Influencing thousands of drummers 
  • Having a short temper and being unlikeable to many people who worked with him


Buddy was born in Brooklyn, New York, and he was playing drums by the time he was a toddler. He was already touring with bands when he was a teenager, and he ended up becoming the second-highest-paid child entertainer in the United States

He performed all over the world for the rest of his life, playing big band gigs and appearing in movies and TV shows. 

He was primarily a jazz drummer, and he performed with several jazz legends over his lifespan. 

Unfortunately, he died from a brain tumor in 1987, which was discovered in the middle of a tour. He was playing gigs right until the end, and his legacy has remained larger than ever in the drumming industry since his death.

Notable Artists That Buddy Rich Played With

Gene Krupa

Gene Krupa was the other largely famous jazz drummer that appeared on TV shows alongside Buddy Rich. The two of them worked on several projects together, and they’re typically noted as two of the earliest influences when it comes to drum kit playing.

Dizzy Gillespie

Dizzy Gillespie was an incredible trumpet player, and he performed with Buddy Rich on a few projects. Their gig together at the Grande Parade du Jazz festival in 1978 is a particular highlight.

Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald

While Buddy Rich was always the center of every band he played in during his later years, there was one album that he did with Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, where he mostly played brushes

It’s called Ella and Louis, and it’s a bit of a hidden gem. You see a different side of Buddy’s playing, and it’s highly musical.

The Buddy Rich Big Band

The Buddy Rich Big Band was the most notable project that Buddy was a part of. This was his band, and dozens of guest jazz artists came to perform with him. 

He would travel the world with this band, and people ended up coming to the shows just to see Buddy Rich’s skills in action

The Buddy Rich Big Band is still going strong, and they typically get guest drummers to perform with them.

Drumming Style

Buddy Rich’s drumming style showed a combination of immense speed, exciting power, and immaculate control over his technique. When watching videos of him playing, it’s amazing to see how much control he has over everything he is doing. 

While he’s mostly known as the drummer who played crazy things all the time, he was a tremendous timekeeper as well. When you listen to albums where he sits in the background, you can hear how tightly he keeps all the musicians together.

The one aspect of his playing that most people always go back to is his speed. He was known for playing lengthy drum solos, and he always played fast patterns around the kit that would turn anyone’s head when hearing or seeing them. 

Buddy Rich was a big advocator of traditional grip. While he occasionally used matched grip, he was very strong in his opinion that using traditional grip was the “correct” way of playing the drum set.


While Buddy Rich was always using Zildjian cymbals, he played a few different drum brands throughout his career. 

He was mostly playing Ludwig drums toward the end of his career, and he played Slingerland and Rogers drum kits before that. He also regularly used a Fibes snare drum.


One of the downsides of Buddy Rich’s legacy is that many people have stated that he was an awful person to be around. He was very hardheaded, and his perfectionist approach often came across as arrogant and brash

He would regularly get into fights with people that he worked with, and the members of his big band came out and said that he was quite militant in his ways

With that being said, a lot of the people that he fought with still had a great appreciation for him. One of the most notable artists with this view was Frank Sinatra.

Notable Performances

Buddy Rich Impossible Drum Solo

This is perhaps one of the most famous videos of Buddy Rich playing the drums. He played drum solos like this all the time, and throughout the whole thing, you can see his incredible skills being displayed. 

It’s also crazy to think that he was ripping solos like this at retirement age.



Here’s a clip of Buddy Rich playing with a big band. He takes more of a supportive role here, but you can still see how effective his playing was within a band setup.

Buddy Rich - Birdland - 14 July 1978 • World of Jazz

Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich Drum Battle 

Here’s one of the collaborations between Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. It’s a special part of drumming history, as these are two of the most famous drummers to play the instrument performing together on stage

Gene Krupa & Buddy Rich Famous Drum Battle

Final Thoughts on Buddy Rich

Buddy Rich isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. A lot of drummers prefer to take influence from jazz drummers like Max Roach and Elvin Jones. However, you can’t understate just how much of an effect Buddy Rich had on the music industry

He may have had a difficult personality to deal with, but his playing ability was out of this world at the time. Many people still consider him to be the best drummer to ever live, and that’s saying something, considering the large number of drummers that are well-known these days.