Voice of California Raisins played with Hendrix
Buddy Miles, the rock and R&B drummer who worked with Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and was best known for the song “Them Changes,” died Tuesday at his home in Austin, Texas, according to a report on Miles’ website. He was 60.
Among the first artists to fuse psychedelic rock with soul, blues and jazz, Miles got his start performing with his father George’s jazz band the BeBops at the age of 12 in and around their hometown of Omaha, Neb. He played with a number of performers and toured with Ruby & the Romantics, the Ink Spots and Wilson Pickett. It was after a gig in Brooklyn, N.Y., where guitarist Michael Bloomfield, who had just left the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, inquired if Miles would be interested in forming a new band. The band became the Electric Flag, which issued only one album with Bloomfield and Miles.
After the break up of the Electric Flag, Miles created the first edition of Buddy Miles Express and recorded “Expressway to Your Skull,” with Hendrix producing. The two alternated in returning favors: Miles played on Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland”; Hendrix produced Miles’ “Electric Church”; and the two created Band of Gypsys after Hendrix broke up his trio, the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
The Express was curtailed when Miles formed Band of Gypsys with Hendrix and Billy Cox; that band only made one album, a live disc recorded in New York.
Following Hendrix’s death in 1970, Miles restarted the Express and had considerable success. Their album “Them Changes” was on the pop music chart for 74 weeks; the act had hits such as “Them Changes,” a cover of Neil Young’s “Down By the River” and a disco number “Rockin’ and Rollin’ on the Streets of Hollywood.”
Miles recorded a live album in Hawaii with Santana in 1974 that became a top seller. Much of his work after that pairing was in the studio, often with superstar acts such as Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and Bootsy Collins.
He kept a relatively low profile until the mid-1980s when he was the talent behind the California Raisins, producing and singing on the three albums released by the animated characters. Their popularity led to him rejoining Santana as lead singer and, in 1994, creating a new edition of Buddy Miles Express.
Over the past 15 years, Miles has been key in sustaining the legacy of Hendrix, making promotional appearances on behalf of Hendrix projects and appearing in Hendrix tribute concerts.
At the time of his death, Miles was working on three album projects and helping to raise money for several organizations and sponsors that support hurricane-disaster relief efforts and the Children’s Craniofacial Assn.