Drummer Buddy Miles, who played with Jimi Hendrix in his short-lived group, Band of Gypsys, died at his home in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, his publicist said. Miles, who was 60, suffered from congestive heart failure, Duane Lee said on Wednesday. He did not know the official cause of death.
With his bombastic style, the former teen prodigy helped develop such musical forms as funk metal and acid jazz thanks to his work with such guitarists as John McLaughlin, Mike Bloomfield and Carlos Santana.
In 1967, he and Bloomfield co-founded Electric Flag, whose rock-brass sound influenced Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears.
But Miles is probably best known for his stint with Band of Gypsys, an all-black group put together by Hendrix in 1969 after the dissolution of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Miles and bass player Billy Cox, an old Army buddy of Hendrix’s, kicked the guitarist into a higher gear with an Afrocentric, polyrhythmic groove.
The funky sound marked a strong contrast from the melodic stylings of Hendrix’s English bandmates in the Experience, drummer Mitch Mitchell and bass player Noel Redding.
The Band of Gypsys are immortalized on an acclaimed album of the same name, which drew from four shows performed on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 1970 at the Fillmore East in New York City. Miles contributed two of his own compositions, “We Gotta Live Together” and “Changes.”
“All the shows were bad-ass,” Miles told Seconds magazine in 1995. “It was the highlight of my life, and I had a good time playing those shows. That was vintage James Marshall Hendrix.”
But the group crumbled following a disastrous performance at Madison Square Garden later in January. Hendrix eventually reunited with Mitchell and started work on a new album before dying of an accidental overdose in September 1970.
Miles kept busy working with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Muddy Waters, Barry White and David Bowie.
In a statement, Cox described Miles as “an unsung musical genius.” He said they had worked together on a recording session in October, and were planning a Band of Gypsys reunion in the late spring.
“Jimi Hendrix no longer has to hold auditions as the right drummer has just flown in,” Cox said.
Asked by Seconds how he would like to be remembered, Miles said: “The baddest of the bad. People say I’m the baddest drummer. If that’s true, thank you world.”