Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

New Documentary Planned on Buddy Rich, Legendary Jewish Drummer

September 9, 2012 4:49 am 2 comments

The cover of "Welcome to Nutville," the documentary on Buddy Rich's life. Photo: Courtesy Brian Morgan.

To the late Buddy Rich, playing drums in jazz bands was everything—so much so that when he was in his last days, he asked his only daughter to keep his legacy alive.

After the legendary drummer passed on in 1987, his daughter Cathy worked tirelessly to preserve her dad’s memory, organizing memorial concerts and touring with his band. Now, she is embarking on a new project—a documentary film about the great drummer’s life called “Welcome to Nutville.”

Since the documentary requires a lot of work—researching Buddy’s multi-layered life, editing hours of footage of his pyrotechnics on the drum kit, and interviewing surviving friends and relatives—Cathy partnered with filmmaker Brian Morgan and opened a Kickstarter account to raise money for the project.

Many experts say Buddy—born in Brooklyn, NY, to Jewish vaudevillians Robert and Bess Rich—was the greatest drummer who ever lived. However, there has never been a full-length documentary on his life and continued influence. Cathy Rich and Morgan hope to change that.

A Chicago-area native, Morgan has worked for CBS as a cameraman handling music segments and concerts and has been the director of photography for feature documentaries. After an introduction through mutual friends, Cathy Rich asked Morgan to take pictures of the Buddy Rich Big Band. After seeing his style, Cathy decided he was the man for the job.

“When I came across a bunch of drummers on YouTube I saw Buddy on video and thought wow, this man was incredible,” Morgan told JNS.org.

The online videos show Buddy driving many of the bands he played with over a career that spanned nearly his entire life of 70 years. According to the book Traps The Drum Wonder: The Life of Buddy Rich, written by singer Mel Torme, his life was full of adventures in the music business as well as in his personal relationships.

“No one who ever played the drums, with the possible exception of Gene Krupa, achieved the popularity, respect, and adulation that Rich enjoyed,” Torme wrote. “Rightfully so. Like a few other ‘originals,’ he stood out in bas relief as a genius-grade musician.”

Torme noted that young Buddy began to play a drum in perfect rhythm when his parents took him on the vaudeville circuit—at the tender age of 18 months.

Cathy told JNS.org that her father started playing even before that. “As the legend goes, Buddy was sitting in his high-chair and the radio was on,” she said. “He was playing along with his spoon and fork and keeping perfect time. My grandfather noticed this and would change the dial on the radio to see if this was a fluke. Every time he changed it to different music Buddy played perfectly to every single thing.”

During his long career, Buddy played with Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Ella Fitzgerald and Harry James as well as leading his own bands and playing with Jazz at the Philharmonic. He was known for his technique, power and speed. Although on the road constantly, he took time out to return home to attend Cathy’s recitals.

“He did everything for me,” she said. “Before he passed on, he asked me to keep the band and the music going. He knew that jazz was America’s only original art form and he wanted to keep it going. It took a while for me to figure out how to do this. We did scholarship concerts and memorial concerts. Every major drummer in the world came out to play in the band to pay tribute to Buddy.”

The Boston-based Berklee College of Music has a running Buddy Rich Scholarship. Known as the Jazz Masters Scholarship Funds, they were established in conjunction with the appearance at the Berklee Performance Center. Varying amounts are awarded annually to outstanding upper-semester students.

A singer who now fronts her father’s band, Cathy is known for singing the Sonny and Cher song “The Beat Goes On” in a 1967 recording made by her father on his Big Swing album. She was 12 at the time.

Preserving the legacy of her father propelled Cathy into organizing the Buddy Rich Memorial Concerts. The next one is planned for November at the Arcada Theatre in Illinois. As in the past, the program includes many top-tier drummers inspired by Buddy.

According to Cathy, Buddy was proud of his Jewish heritage.

“He kept the High Holy days and would fast [on Yom Kippur],” she told JNS.org. “When he would go to Germany to play he would check into a hotel and the man behind the desk was the age where he could have been in the war. Buddy wore a Star of David around his neck and he would look at the man and make sure he saw the star.”

Part of his heritage was giving back. Cathy said her father performed the highest form of philanthropy—anonymously.

“He did charity work for the underprivileged and he played at prisons,” she said. “He did not invite the press. He was a true humanitarian.”

When completed, Morgan said the film will be taken to the Chicago Midwest Independent Film Festival and that he is also “in talks with the film festival in Palm Springs California, where Buddy lived and his wife still lives.”

Morgan is “technologically savvy, knows the medium and knows how to get the film out there,” Cathy said.

The film’s Kickstarter website—calls Buddy the most inspirational drummer the world has ever seen.

“Some people are born to do what they do, like Picasso and Mozart,” Cathy told JNS.org. “Buddy influenced generations of drummers, but it didn’t stop there.”

“He has inspired so many people and that is what will be in this film,” she said. “His influence was overwhelming.”

2 Comments

  • MARVIN OSTROFF

    I Met buddy when i was with gene krupa in 1956 58 .when he came to steel pier in ac nj itook him to all the good places Irvs music store boomies brother in law harlem club,globe burleques etc

  • how is this project going? I hope I didn’t miss it! thanks. Marc

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Blogs North American Studios Look to Israel for Next Animation Hit

    North American Studios Look to Israel for Next Animation Hit

    JNS.org – In 2008, Yoram Honig was a producer and director living in Jerusalem, fresh off his first international hit, when the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) came to him with a challenge: build a film industry from scratch in Israel’s capital. “When we started here, was nothing in Jerusalem,” he said during an interview in his office in the Talbiya neighborhood. Now, the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, which Honig heads as an arm of the JDA, pumps 9 million shekels […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas will wear a leotard bearing Hebrew lettering when she competes at the P&G Gymnastics Championships over the weekend. Douglas’ Swarovski-outlined outfit will feature the Hebrew word “Elohim,” meaning God, on its left sleeve. The Hebrew detailing honors the athlete’s “rich heritage of faith,” according to apparel manufacturer GK Elite, which produced the leotard and released a preview of it on Wednesday. The company said Douglas’ sister, Joyelle “Joy” Douglas, created the Hebrew design. The outcome of the P&G Championships will help […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    Britain’s world heavyweight champion, Taylor Fury, should be banned from boxing for making Nazi-like comments, a former world champion from the Ukraine said on Thursday, ahead of their upcoming match. “I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people, he sounded like Hitler,” Wladimir Klitschko told British media, according to Reuters. “We cannot have a champion like that. Either he needs to be shut up or shut down in the ring, or […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Hanoch Hecht just made television history; but, unfortunately, he couldn’t have his rugelach and eat it too. Hecht became the first rabbi to compete on the hit show “Chopped,” where contestants are forced to use four random ingredients in their recipes, and have 20-30 minutes to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. A contestant is eliminated after each round. Hecht, 32, said that while the dishes and utensils were new, the kitchen was not kosher, so he couldn’t taste […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox singer and entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer is starring in a new Pepsi Max commercial for the company’s campaign in Israel. The commercial begins with a bunch of Jewish men eating at a restaurant, when Schmeltzer walks in and tries to decide what to order. An employee at the obviously Israeli eatery offers him a variety of foods, but the entertainer in the end decides on a bottle of Pepsi. Everyone in the restaurant then joins him, drinking Pepsi Max and dancing to […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Book Reviews Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    JNS.org – “Writing is a messy process,” says author Elizabeth Poliner. “People who don’t write fiction would be surprised to see what early drafts could look like.” But readers wouldn’t know “what a mess it was for the longest time,” as the Jewish author puts it, when reading Poliner’s critically acclaimed latest book, As Close to Us as Breathing. The volume garnered Amazon’s “Best Book” designation in March 2016 as well as rave reviews from the New York Times,W Magazine, NPR, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    Sundance Tour Features Short Film About Elderly Jewish Woman’s Decision to Eat Bacon for First Time

    The Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour, which started on Friday in New York City, features a mini-documentary about an elderly Jewish woman whose journey away from Orthodoxy leads her to taste forbidden food for the first time in her life. In Canadian director Sol Friedman’s Bacon & God’s Wrath, Razie Brownstone talks about ending her lifelong observance of keeping kosher as her 90th birthday approaches. The recently declared atheist said the discovery of the search engine Google spurred a lapse in her Jewish faith and made her decide to […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Food Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    Chabad Rabbi From New York Competes on Food Network’s ‘Chopped’ Cooking Competition

    A Chabad rabbi from Rhinebeck, NY, will face off a priest, a pastor and a nun-in-training in an upcoming episode of the Food Network‘s reality show, “Chopped,” Lubavitch.com reported. Rabbi Hanoch Hecht – who teaches up-and-coming chefs about the intricacies of kosher dietary laws at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) — was nominated for the show by a professional chef, and went through a rigorous interview process at the Food Network’s studios in Chelsea, NY. Months later, he was informed he had been accepted as a contestant in the popular TV cooking competition. “I thought […]

    Read more →