Spirit of the Music  ~ George Allen "Buddy" Miles - 1947-2008

Even though he caught his biggest break when he played drums with Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys, Buddy Miles had a long history of playing and recording. He was a founding member of The Electric Flag, The Buddy Miles Express, The Buddy Miles Band, and recorded with Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, and Mike Bloomfield. His signature song, “Them Changes,” is a rock classic. Many would know his voice as the California Raisins lead singer on “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

Born in Omaha, NE, Buddy lived many of his teen years in Sioux Falls, attending Axtell Park Junior High and Washington High School, which now houses the SDRRMA Museum. His dad, George Frances Miles, played bass with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Charlie Parker. Classmates recall that Buddy, who was named after drummer Buddy Rich, had drumsticks with him at all times and played on everything.

Buddy and friends loved listening to groups playing at the Peppermint Lounge, which later housed Ming Wah. According to music historian Ken Mills, Buddy was caught stealing from a vending machine. Initially slated to go to the state training school in Plankinton, he ended up in Boys Town in Omaha. A staff member there took an interest in Buddy’s passion for music, taking him to local venues. Wilson Pickett heard Buddy play, and when Miles was released from Boys Town, Pickett hired him.

The Ink Spots hired Buddy when he was 15. Soon after he met Jimi Hendrix at a show in Montreal, Canada. The two later jammed at Stephen Stills’ Malibu home. Buddy joined The Electric Flag both as their drummer and sometimes as their lead singer.

Toward the end of his career, Miles moved to Austin, TX. It was there at the age of 60 he died from congestive heart failure. The day before, Buddy had listened to Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood playing “Them Changes” at Madison Square Garden through his cell phone. In 1995, the American music magazine Seconds asked Buddy how he would like to be remembered. His reply: “The baddest of the bad. People say I’m the baddest drummer. If that’s true, thank you, world.”


2017Spirit of the Music Award