Starting out in vaudeville before he was aged two, he tap danced and played drums, toured internationally and led a band before he entered his teens. Playing jazz, he was with Joe Marsala, then joined the big band of Bunny Berigan in 1938. During the swing era, he was with the bands of Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Carter. He formed his own big band in 1946, had a brief spell with Les Brown, and also appeared with Jazz At The Philharmonic, Charlie Ventura’s Big Four and in a trio with Lester Young and Nat King Cole. For most of the 50s, Rich was with Harry James but, shrugging off a 1959 heart attack, he formed another big band in the mid-60s. He folded the band in the mid-70s, only to start up another in 1980. In later years, his big band was usually filled with youngsters although they were mostly gifted and eager to learn. Rich occasionally sang in a warm, Frank Sinatra-inspired style, and albums such as Buddy Just Sings (1957) feature him in this role. A striking musician, Rich was always a key figure in a rhythm section and could transform any band. His solos were displays of often astonishing dexterity and skill. A witty raconteur, in later years he became a popular guest on chat shows. In private, he could be verbally destructive, especially with any member of his band he thought inadequate.
Followers: Bob Leatherbarrow, Pete Cater, Ginger Baker
Influenced By: Jo Jones...