Sometimes the best musicians at their instrument are also the most dangerous. My earliest memory of hearing about drummer Buddy Rich wasn’t about his playing, but his temper, which his outbursts have been legendary. Make note, these audio files below have some strong language, so gotta say it’s NSFW, ok? The tapes were created by a band member or two, who hid a Walkman in their clothes between the sets to capture Buddy.
(In a dressing room for the band)
BR- You think I’m runnin’ fifteen fuckin’…Close that door. (musician slams door) What kind of playing is being played here the past two nights? What is this? New phrasing, new bending, new sounds, no time! What the fuck do you think I’m running here? What kind of playing do you call this? What kinda shit is going on in the fuckin’…(turns to the bass player) What kinda, what kinda setting do you got on the bass tonight?
Bass Player- Setting?
BR– I feel that’s fairly much English.
Bass Player- It’s the same as I’ve always had out there.
BR– What’s with this, what’s with the bending?
Bass Player– I decided…
BR- (interrupting) Who decided?
Bass Player- I did.
BR- Your deciding is wrong !
Bass Player- I didn’t do it on purpose. I…
BR- (interrupting again) You’re deciding what kind of phrasing. You’re deciding who and what the leader is. You’re gonna watch who you wanna watch…(turns to the rest of the band). Everybody’s on two weeks notice tonight. I’m telling you, everybody gets two weeks notice tonight. I can’t handle this anymore. You’re all…(pauses thoughtfully) you’re not my kind of people, at all. I don’t understand this fuckin’ kind of music at all. I don’t understand what anybody is doing up there. I’m workin’ my fuckin’ ass off…(turns to a trumpet player) You put that fuckin’ mouthpiece into that bell again, I’m gonna take that fuckin’ horn and break it across my knee! Do you understand that?
Trumpet Player- I’ll stay away. You can’t hear a note though…
BR- I can hear everything! I don’t give a fuck what you hear. I hear it, and all I know is that you’re blowin’ my fuckin’ eardrum out! (turns to the saxophones) The saxophones, you can play the flute, there’s no sound in flutes. All I hear is noise. If you get any fuckin’ closer you’ll electrocute yourselves. What do you think I got a man with a sound system out there for? Sit down and play some fuckin’ music! You afraid you won’t be heard, is that it? I’ll turn the motherfucker off all of you, then see what kind of a band you got up there, without all the assistance. You can’t play shit! I’m accustomed to working with number one musicians. I’m not accustomed to working with half-assed fuckin’ kids who think they wrote the fuckin’ music business. You got a long way to go. You got a long way to go. Every one of you got a long fuckin’ way to go. Do you understand what I’m sayin’? You can’t play shit up there for me. What the fuck you’re doin’ up there doesn’t deserve to be called a “name” band. The fuckin’ kids out at the park there, they sounded fifty times better than any one of you! And that’s without a rhythm section. Maybe they enjoy what they are doin’ here. If you don’t enjoy it here, fuck you! And get off my band. Or we can find other ways to settle it. I’m just so fuckin’ tired of having to go through speeches with you guys. You’re all a fuckin’ bunch of children. There’s not a man among you, not one man who can go out there and play the job like a man. You’re all up there, fuckin’ high school, bullshit jive artists. You jived me for the last fuckin’ time. You got two sets to make up your fuckin’ mind or I get me an all L.A. band tomorrow night. Don’t think that’s not impossible. It’s very fuckin’ possible. I’ve had it with you guys. I ought to give each one of you motherfuckers a cut in salary before I get out of this fuckin’ room!
(Exit Buddy, slamming the door behind him)
(In the bus between sets)
BR- You guys are gonna be back in New York on the bread line so fast you won’t even know that you were on this fuckin’ band. How dare you play a fuckin’ set like that. Since when did the fuckin’ trumpet players become the leader of this fuckin’ band and decide how long they’re gonna hold a chord? What the fuck do you think you’re doin’? You think you’re playin’ with some kid up there? I expect one-hundred-and-ten percent fucking perfection every fuckin’ tune, you got that? If you can’t do it, get off my fuckin’ band to-NIGHT! You had a day off yesterday and you come back like this and you suck! What the fuck kind of music do you think you’re playing here anyhow? And who do you think you’re playing for? You think I’ll tolerate that shit? You’re worse than any fuckin’ high school band I ever heard. You come in wrong because you leave one fuckin’ beat out, you can’t find one!?
I don’t know what kind of drummers you think you’re playin’ with, but you’ll play with me or you’ll get out! And I mean NOW! I don’t need this shit. I have a home in Palm Springs and I can go sit on my ass the rest of my life and not worry about a fuckin’ thing…and don’t have to meet your fuckin’ payroll, and pay you for playin’ like a fuckin’ high school dropout! How dare you do that! ASSHOLES!! You can’t play a simple fuckin’ tune; you can’t hold a chord; you can’t play time when you play solos. What kind of solos am I hearing tonight?
(as he turns to the Trombonist)
You want to rehearse and practice, get a fuckin’ band in Sydney and play the kind of shit you want. Over here you play TIME! You don’t like what I play get the fuck out. I’m tired of putting up with you, I’m tired of signing for ya, I’m tired of you period! And I’m tired of you all you guys that can’t go up and play a fuckin job for 45 fuckin minutes.
You got it too fuckin easy goddam it. I’ll make it so fuckin tough, you won’t be able to breath around here. How many fuckin bands you think you got to go to work in? If I decide to quite, you’d all suck. You got nothin. Try it. You think I’m foolin you can quite tonight. I’m up there knockin my fuckin brains and I gotta carry you and pay you at the same time? Fuck you!
When I go back in side, I better hear one hundred and ten percent perfection. Or I’ll leave ya here. I’ll take you as far as Detroit and you got it. Try me. Fuckers. Try me this next set and see if you get away with one piece of shit. You try it. I’ll fire ya on the fuckin band stand. You don’t only insult me but you insult yourselves. Don’t you have any more pride? Where’s your fuckin pride, where’s your professionalism? Assholes. That’s what…that’s what you play like. Where’s your own fuckin pride in yourself? Or don’t you have any cause your so fuckin dumb that you don’t have any pride? Get outta here, right now. I’ll have nothin to do with you. You get up on that band stand and you play your ass off.
(In the bus between sets)
BR- What the fuck do you think is goin’ on here? You had too many fuckin’ days off and you think this is a fuckin’ game!? You think I’m the only one that’s gonna work up there while you motherfuckers sit out there and clam all over this fuckin’ joint!? What do you think this is anyhow? What kind of playing do you think this is? What kinda miscues do you call this? What fuckin’ band do you think you’re playin’ on, motherfuckers? You wanna fuck with me on the bandstand?
…Shut that fuckin’ door! I’m up there working my balls off, trying to do somebody a favor, and you motherfuckers are suckin’ all over this joint. What kind of trumpet section do you call this tonight? And saxophones…you gotta fuckin’ be kidding me! How dare you call yourselves professionals. Assholes! You’re playin’ like fucking children up there. You got your fuc…(distracted momentarily) where the fuck are you?
Where is Peneke? (turns to the Trombonist) You’ve got your fuckin’ horn so far deep in the fuckin’ bell, we don’t need to have a band here tonight. You afraid you won’t be heard? Everybody can hear your fuckin’ clams out there. You don’t need a mike for that. You’re takin’ up too much fuckin’ time blowin’ what? Shit!! You stand out here all night tryin’ to blow your fuckin’ brains out; when it comes time to play, what do you play? Clams!! You got nowhere to fuckin’ go tonight the next set because if I hear one fuckin’ clam from anybody, you’ve had it! One clam and this whole fuckin’ band is through…tonight!! Try me! You got some fuckin’ nerve. Nights off, nothin’ to do, and you come in and play this kind of shit for me…Fuck all of you!!
You’re not doin’ me any fuckin’ favors, you’re breakin’ my heart up there. I gotta go up there and be embarrassed by you motherfuckers? I’ve played with the greatest musicians in the world. How dare you play like that for me! How dare you try to play like that for me. Assholes!! I get fifteen fuckin’ kids in rehearsal. The fuckin’ time in this band is incredible! We don’t play two fuckin’ bars in one fuckin’ tempo. Not one! You can’t keep fuckin’ time and play, there’s too many things to do, isn’t there? You can’t pat your fuckin’ foot and play. You’re all over the fuckin’ place. Miscue after miscue…You try one fuck up the next set, and when you get back to New York you’ll need another fuckin’ job. Count on it! Now get out of my fuckin’ bus! Right now!
(Band members shuffle out)
(In a tour bus traveling to the next gig. Buddy is pacing up and down the aisle of the bus)
BR-Two fuckin’ weeks to make up your mind whether you want a beard or you want a job. I’ll not have this trouble with this band. This is not the goddamn House of David fuckin’ baseball team. This is the Buddy Rich Band; young people…with faces! No more fuckin’ beards. That’s out! If you decide to do it, you’re through. Right now! This is the last time I make this announcement. No more fucking beards. I don’t want to see it. If you guys don’t want to shave it off, I’ll treat you just like they treat you in the fuckin’ Marine Corps. This is the way I want my band to look. If you don’t like it, get out! You’ve got two weeks to make up your mind. This is no idle request. I’m telling you how my band is gonna look. You’re not telling me how you’re gonna look, I’m telling you. You’ve got two weeks to make up your fucking mind, if you have any mind. (pause) There’s too much freedom in this band. It’s taken away. You’re not going to do what you want to do, but what I want to do, as long as you’re takin’ my fuckin’ money. I’m presenting my kind of band. The image I present is what I want, not what you want (turns to Dave Peneke, one of the trombonists).
You seem to be giving me more trouble than anyone else. Do you want to do something about it? It’s up to you. Do you want to do something about it?
Trombonist-(in an Australian accent) I would definitely not suggest you touch me.
BR-Then I definitely tell you one thing. You keep your fuckin’ mouth shut, get the fuckin’ beard off, or get off the band, right now. Now what do you think of that? Now that’s a definite suggestion. When you go to work tonight, if I catch the fuckin’ beard on you, i’ll throw you off the fuckin’ bandstand, O.K.?
Trombonist– I’m not taking it off.
Trombonist– I’m not taking it off.
BR– You’re through.
BR– Right now. You don’t tell me what to do, I tell you. You don’t like it, get off.
Trombonist-When and where?
BR– Get off! Get your fuckin’ clothes and get off! Right now! (to the bus driver) Pull the fuckin’ bus over!
Trombonist– Have you got two weeks pay for me?
BR– Have I got what?
Trombonist– Two weeks pay for me.
BR I got nothin’ for you. I got a right hand to your fuckin’ brain if you want it. I’ll give you two weeks…two weeks for what? You learn the rules of my band. You don’t like it, that’s it. You get off. And try to take me to the fuckin’ union. I’d love it. You get no two weeks pay, you get two weeks time. Get off. (aside) He was waiting for this for a long fuckin’ time.
Trombonist– No I haven’t.
BR– Yes you have…
Trombonist– No I haven’t at all.
BR– …ever since you opened your fuckin’ mouth because I don’t like the way you write…(pausing), and I still play your fuckin’ charts, for you. You understand that…not for me.
Trombonist– I think you play my charts becau…
BR– Because what?
Trombonist– …because, in particular, “Manhattan” is the best chart in the book.
BR– It is?
BR– Then take “Manhattan” and get off. I’m a success without you and without your writing.
Trombonist– I know that.
BR– Alright. So don’t tell me what the best chart in my book is.
Trombonist– Well, it certainly goes over the best.
BR– Goes over the best?
Trombonist– Sure it does. People appreciate..
BR– (interrupting) Go back to Sydney and, uh, whatever you do over there, good luck. Not over here. (to others in the area) I want him off my fuckin’ bus right now.
Trombonist– It’s a pleasure to be off.
BR– Keep talkin’…keep talkin’. (Buddy’s voice begins to tremble with rage) You wanna, you wanna start some shit with me? Hmm? Keep talkin’…
Trombonist– Not particularly.
BR– Then keep your fuckin’ mouth shut! Right now! Or I’ll close it for you. Keep it shut…or try me!
Trombonist– I don’t need to try you, Buddy.
BR– Then shut up!
Trombonist– Well, I’d just appreciate, you know, being talked to like a human being.
BR– I try to talk to you like a human being and you talk back all the time…
Trombonist– I don’t think you do
BR– …now keep your fuckin’ mouth shut or I’ll show you what it’s like! That’s all!
Trombonist– O.K., but you have no right to threaten me.
BR– I’m not threatening you, I’m telling you. You don’t want to do what I want in my band. I’m telling you!
BR– Then shut up!
Trombonist– I will
BR– Alright. (turns to the rest of the band) Let’s get that understood by everybody. I want him off. I don’t want him on the bandstand tonight. Two bones…(Buddy resumes cruising the aisle, looking for other targets of opportunity) I’m warning you for the last time. You wanna…right now…anytime you’re ready…Close your fuckin’ eyes. I’ve done had it with you. Sit down and keep your fuckin’ eyes and your mouth to yourself. Grow up. You’re not a tough guy so why don’t you just sit down. You better start learning to act like one. (Eyes the trombonist) I am one, you are not. So shut up!
Trombonist– Don’t threaten me
BR- Fuckin’ asshole, fuckin’ with me. I’ve got one for you. I own this fuckin’ band.