I wanted to speak on the passing of one of the drumming pioneers, Buddy Harman. Most may not be familiar with the name (and unfortunately, that includes most drummers), but Country/Pop music could've ended up in a different place without his contributions.
Credited with playing on over 18,000 recordings, Buddy is remembered for his work on such timeless hits as:
Buddy recorded between 500-600 projects a year in the heyday of his session work. That is a high number of sessions even by today's standards, but more so considering this was during the birth of the record industry. He used to have his hair cut at the studio because he didn't have time to visit the barber... now that is busy!
It is taken for granted that you can now see and hear drums on The Grand Ole Opry stage, but it wasn’t always that way. In 1958, Buddy was the first house drummer at The Opry but had to adhere to certain restrictions. “Generally, they didn’t allow drums or even a snare on The Opry stage,” recalls Buddy. “I played a few times behind the stage curtain and also played behind hay bales when they did TV shows in the 50s”. Once, he even performed on stage with brushes on a drum head applied on a stand-up bass and said he felt silly doing it! By the time he returned triumphantly as The Opry’s Staff Drummer in 1991, drums had been a mainstay of The Opry stage plot.
In 2003, Pearl introduced a line of Masters Series drums named RetroSpec with vintage-style coverings. Our Ad Department asked for four artists that would best represent the series - classic drummers who made a mark on their respective genres and the music community. I immediately put Buddy on my list of names (along with Billy Hart, Stix Hooper, and Ian Paice), and they would be featured in the upcoming ads.
Once the ad was completed, I called Buddy to tell him that he would appear in an upcoming ad, and he was tickled. He came to the office to see the advertisement for himself and catch up with everyone. We went to the showroom, and I had hoped to hear some classic shuffles, but he just did a walk-through of the gear and said, “Yeah, looks good....” like an experienced drill sergeant approving of the newest recruits. Before exiting, he stopped and said, “It seems since I’m in an ad with these drums, I should have a set.” When history speaks, you listen, so he received one of the new kits soon after that!
It was a great visit, and as he wrapped it up, he mentioned that it was nice to be featured since he didn’t receive as much admiration these days. I reminded him that without him, the Country music landscape would be completely different and not for the best. He shrugged and said, “Aw, we were just havin’ fun.” If having fun means creating a genre of music and being THE architect for drumming in Nashville, then he must have had an absolute ball.
He was 79 years young when he passed on Thursday, August 21st, at his home in Nashville, TN. He left a vast body of work and was a pleasant man to be around. Along with fans of music, his absence will be felt within the Nashville community and the Pearl Family.
Thanks for everything, Buddy!
**UPDATE 8.28.08** Thanks to Modern Drummer Magazine for picking up the article and posting it on their website.... this helps spread Buddy’s story to drummers worldwide. Stay tuned for MD’s tribute to Buddy in an upcoming issue on bookstands soon.