Born Murrey Mizell Harman, Jr., 23 December 1928, Nashville, Tennessee
Buddy Harman is probably the most recorded drummer in music history He is reputed to have played on some 17,000 Nashville sessions during five decades. The list of artists that he has recorded with reads like a Who’s Who of popular music. Harman is usually seen as a country musician, but he also made many contributions to rock ’n’ roll and to recordings by mainstream pop performers like Perry Como, Ann-Margret, Simon and Garfunkel, Nancy Sinatra, Connie Francis and many others. That says enough about his versatility as a drummer.
Harman’s parents had their own part-time band in Nashville, with his mother on drums. Jazz drummers Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich inspired him to become a professional drummer. After playing in high school and navy bands, he dropped out of college to study for three years at Chicago’s Roy Knapp School of Percussion. Upon his return to Nashville in 1952, he learned that, contrary to protocol before his departure, country artists were now asking for drums on their records.
Gradually, Harman worked his way into Nashville’s emerging recording scene and took up full-time studio work about 1955. Initially some country producers were reluctant to give him much leeway but his solid, tasteful playing on sessions with artists such as Ray Price, Moon Mullican and Martha Carson helped to expand the role of drums in country music.
By 1957 he had become the first-call drummer for Nashville sessions and Nashville’s first full-time studio session drummer. Thus Harman became a member of the famous Nashville A-Team, along with Grady Martin, Hank Garland, Ray Edenton, Bob Moore, Floyd Cramer, Boots Randolph and a few others. Buddy has played on some of the biggest hits of Grand Ole Opry performers, including Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Marty Robbins, Ray Price, Billy Walker, Roy Clark, Don Gibson, Johnny Horton, Chet Atkins, Loretta Lynn and countless others. Apart from scores of number ones on the country charts, Harman can also be heard on at least eighteen # 1 hits on the pop charts, for instance “Wake Up Little Susie”, “Cathy’s Clown” (Everly Brothers), “The Battle Of New Orleans” (Johnny Horton), “Big Bad John” (Jimmy Dean), “The Three Bells” (The Browns), “Running Scared”, “Oh, Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison), “I’m Sorry” (Brenda Lee). Also five chart toppers by Elvis Presley, who usually worked with two drummers, D.J. Fontana and Buddy Harman (at least in the first half of the 1960s). When Elvis recorded in Los Angeles, D.J. Fontana went along with him, but not Harman (with one or two exceptions). He was replaced by Hal Blaine on the West Coast sessions.
In 1959 Buddy became the Grand Ole Opry’s first staff drummer. By the mid-1960s, Harman was working some 600 sessions a year. This number declined by the late 1970s, as the influx of pickers from other cities and Nashville’s growing recording activity reduced the dominance he had once enjoyed. Harman remained active in the studio, however, and toured as a member of the Nashville Super Pickers in the late seventies and the early 1980s.
In 1991 he returned to the stool of house drummer at the Grand Ole Opry. He continued to play occasional sessions and served as a business agent for the Nashville local of the American Federation of Musicians.
Buddy released only a handful of recordings under his own name : two singles and an EP for Warner Bros (1960-61), two singles for Mercury (1962-63), and in 2001, a self-produced album, “Buddy Harman Plays the Classic Rock ’n’ Roll Hits Of Yesteryear”. Harman states : “One of the highlights of my career was having the privilege of performing for four of our nation’s presidents”. They were : John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
Buddy Harman died at the Hospice Center in Nashville from congestive heart failure in August 2008, at the age of 79. Fortunately, he was still around in 2007, when the Nashville A-Team was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. Some of Harman’s other accolades include “Drummer of the Year” in 1981 from the Academy of Country Music, “Super Picker” Award for drums on the most # 1 recordings from the Nashville NARAS chapter in 1975 and 1976, and the Nashville Super Picker nomination for “Best Country Instrumental Performance” in 1979 for the “Live From Austin City Limits” album by the Nashville Super Pickers.
Obituary : http://www.theguardian.com/music/2008/oct/13/buddy-harman
Discography / sessionography of his solo recordings :
Acknowledgements : John Humble, Steve Kurutz, Shaun Mather
Dik, November 2015
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