I wanted to speak on the passing of one of the pioneers of drumming, Buddy Harman. Most may not be familiar with the name (and unfortunately that includes most drummers as well) but without his contributions, there would be a massive gap in Country/Pop music.
In the heyday of his session work, he’s said to have been recording between 500-600 projects a year... which is an amazing feat considering this was during the infancy of the record industry. Another great story is that he used to have his hair cut at the studio because he didn’t have time to visit the barber..... now that’s busy!
It is certainly taken for granted that you can 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 50’s”. Once he even performed on stage with brushes on a drum head that was applied to the stand-up bass... and he said he felt silly doing it! By the time he made his triumphant return as The Opry’s staff drummer in 1991, drums had been a mainstay of The Opry stage plot.
During 2003, Pearl introduced a line of Masters Series drums named RetroSpec with the vintage style coverings. Our Ad Department asked for four artists that would best represent the series.... classic drummers that made a mark on their respective genre and the music community. I immediately put Buddy on my list of names (along with Billy Hart, Stix Hooper, and Ian Paice) and they all would eventually be featured in the upcoming ads.
Once the ad was done, I called Buddy to let him know that he was to be featured in an upcoming ad and he was tickled. He came to the office to see the ad 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 giving his approval to the young bucks. 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 a kit 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 adulation these days. I reminded him that without him the Country music landscape would be completely different... and not for the best. He shrugged his shoulders 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. He left an amazing body of work and was an incredibly pleasant man... his absence will be felt within the Nashville community, the Pearl Family, and the music world.
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.