TRAPS, THE DRUM WONDER by Mel Torme

TRAPS, THE DRUM WONDER

The Life of Buddy Rich
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 From jazz singer TormÇ (It Wasn't All Velvet, 1988, etc.)--an engaging warts-and-all life of the world's greatest drummer, Buddy Rich. A life of Rich has its problems, particularly his terrible mouth, which stripped flesh from bone without a second's notice and for next to no reason. At 18 months, Rich joined his parents on the vaudeville stage as a wonderchild of the drums. Soon ``Traps'' was a featured act, at last getting top billing wherever he played. Completely lacking a formal education, Rich spent his whole life on the road. An adulated jazz drummer who drew shouting audiences to their feet daily and became the featured soloist of famed swing bands led by Harry James, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, etc., the performer lived an emotionally surreal life. On top of this, though he didn't drink (it would have ruined his timing), he smoked pot daily from age 18 onward. As with heavy dope-smoker Bob Marley, TormÇ wonders whether pot contributed to the brain tumors that finally killed Rich. In some ways, the drummer's greatest successes were with others' big bands. His own big band (first underwritten by fellow Dorseyite Frank Sinatra) folded time and time again. Rich made many movies and became a regular on The Tonight Show, his acerbic barbs delighting drum-lover Johnny Carson. But he lost friend after friend, his vitriol scarring all without reservation, though he mellowed late in life when the birth of a grandchild somehow freed him to love himself through the baby. Otherwise, he seemed entirely without feeling, until one day he dragged TormÇ to see his favorite film, Norma Shearer's Smilin' Through. TormÇ got MGM to put the movie on videocassette as a present for Rich, but Rich alienated TormÇ by vilely insulting him at the very moment the present was given. Exceptional on music biz and drum techniques while humanizing an emotional monster. A labor of love.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-19-507038-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991