Buddy Rich

Revisited

by Cheech Iero

Buddy Rich is the most exciting, hippest and consistently swinging player to ever sit behind a set of drums. Paralleling his personality, Rich’s playing is always in absolute command; a quality which lifts the potential artistry of every musician in his band. Although “tell it like it is” characteristics often leave acquaintances with a wise guy impression, a bluntly truthful side seasoned with the saltiness of a keen sense of humor, are also part of this same person. 

I wanted this interview to be different than the others Buddy has been asked to do. It is. The pure candidness of his remarks provides us with an inside glimpse of the personality of a legendary man. A man whose playing will ultimately affect all future generations of drummers.

CI: I really don’t want this to be a run of the mill type interview, with questions like, “Who’s your favorite drummer?” Of all the interviews you’ve had, how many times have you been asked questions like that?

BR: I don’t really answer them seriously, because they’re such inconsequential questions. Who’s your favorite drummer. Who’s your favorite baseball player. Anybody that does something well is a favorite. You like Reggie Jackson one day and Lee Mazzilli the next. It’s a question of immediacy, of what’s happening. You go to the game and the team you’re cheering wins. Then it’s good. If the team falls apart, it stinks. The next day you go back and you like them again. It’s pretty hard to say which guy is a favorite, whether it’s drums or anything else. It’s a matter of taste.

CI: But when you were growing up, there must have been some guys you looked up to.

BR: When you’re growing up and you have a feeling for music, you listen to everybody. You don’t just listen to one person. When you decide that music is going to be your life’s endeavor, not your life’s work, your life’s endeavor, then you have to listen to everybody to see what everybody else has done. You know what to shoot for. You don’t want to be like anybody else if you’re serious about your own talent. You want to be like you. So you listen to everyone else and you say this is good, this is better, that’s not so good, that’s fair, that’s different. A composite of everybody. The shell opens up, and you evolve into what you are.

CI: A composite of what’s been fed in.

BR: Of course. It’s like a memory bank. Everything that you have ever heard. If it’s good, it has a lasting impression. But it doesn’t mean that you want to be that. It means that you’ve been influenced by everything you’ve ever heard. Whether it’s the study of UFO’s, the study of music, or the study of digging a ditch. But there may be ways of doing it that make it easier to do than the way it’s been done. It may be the same job, but you found a way to do it that’s better for you. And that’s what comes out. Not to do it like anybody else, but at least to have learned a little bit from watching this guy, listening to that guy, talking to another guy. Getting feelings. Having an understanding of why you want to do certain things a certain way. What is correct, what is incorrect. What makes it right for you and wrong for other people. What makes it right for other people and wrong for you. After years of that you finally become your own person. It has nothing to do with being like anybodBuddy Rich 1y else. You be you first. Why try to be anybody else? We’re not clones. We’re all individuals. To like somebody to a point where you imitate him is cheating the public, because all you are, no matter how good an imitation, is an imitation of an original. You have an original Picasso hanging, and you have an imitation Picasso. If you’re tuned in at all, you know immediately which is the real one and which is the fake. No matter how good the fake one is, it’s still a fake. My life is really quite simple because I have my own direction. I don’t rely on anyone else for my personality. Whatever it is, I’m responsible. Whatever the repercussion, the responsibility has to be on me and I’m willing to take that stand. This is what I believe. If you don’t like it, it’s too bad because it’s right for me. I do exactly as I want to do. I have to make decisions that please me. I won’t hurt anybody trying to reach those goals and I’ll never step on anyone, but if I find a direct route to that goal, that’s the one I’ll take. I don’t circumvent. It’s straight ahead in my life.

CI: You really don’t pull any punches do you?

BR: Look, you have one life. And you have to live it on your own honor standards. Not the accepted format of honesty; not bullshitting people by patting them on the back when you feel like punching them in the mouth. That kind of double personality I find difficult to accept. Those are the things I resent in other people and I don’t want to be a part of that. It’s not something I’ve learned in the past twenty years. I’ve been this way since I was old enough to make a decision. Sometimes it’s difficult, because you don’t necessarily want to hurt other people. I don’t like to go around hurting other people, but by the same token, I’m not going to be a punching bag and take a lot of abuse even though it might be meant in a helpful way. I have to decide for me. The same with my band. No one else makes judgments for my band.

CI: You’re the Captain, and your word is law!

BR: That’s right, I pay a lot of money every week to a lot of musicians, and the only reason the band is such a success is because I choose the people that play for me. I choose the music they play and I choose the style in which it’s played. If it’s a failure, I have nobody to blame except me, which is absolutely the way it should be. You should never have to say, “Well, it’s not my fault, so and so is responsible for it.” That’s the biggest cop out in the world. When it’s a failure, I’m more than willing to accept the responsibility for it. But I also take the responsibility for its success. I find that to be the only way to live, whether it’s my personal life or my business life. My decision is the final decision.

CI: When you got your first band together in 1947, did Sinatra back you financially?

BR: Frank put up $50,000 in 1947 for my first band. I had just gotten out of the Marines. I went back with Tommy Dorsey for almost a year, but I couldn’t handle it. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. Frank was playing the Paramount Theatre and my band was in rehearsal. He came to us one afternoon and said, “I want to back the band.” That’s the way it went down.

CI: Didn’t you have a falling out with Sinatra at one point?

BR: Oh, I’ve had falling outs with everyone. Frank and I were roommates when we were with Dorsey and when you have two strong personalities, you’ll always have conflicts. Each one wants to be the top man. That causes friction, arguments and fights. But then it’s over. As intelligent people, it’s over and you shake hands. It’s like being married. I’ll be married going on 29 years. I’ve had all kinds of difficulties with my wife. But it doesn’t mean I don’t love her. We’re still married and we’ll stay married. You go through life like that and maintain a level of understanding with people on two levels; their’s and your’s. Whatever difficulties you come across, once they’re rectified, it’s lovely all over again. I saw Frank last night. I hadn’t seen him in a year, but when we met, it was like we had just been together. Hugging and talking. It was beautiful. It’s a continuation of friendship. That’s the only way. If they’re your friends, they’ll understand your moods. I’m a moody guy, and a lot of people misinterpret my moods as, “Oh, that s.o.b. is arrogant, he’s this or that.” I have to understand other people’s positions, but they also have to understand mine. If I worked until three o’clock in the morning and I don’t get to bed until five and somebody calls me at nine and says, “I want to talk to you”, I say, “Listen, you’ve been sleeping nine hours, I’ve been sleeping three. Hey, screw man, I’m tired!” As a working musician I have to have time to reevaluate what happened the night before, and to plan the next day. A lot of people don’t understand this and when you’re not available to them, the first thing is, “Who the hell does he think he is?” I know who I am, and it has nothing to do with success and with who you are. To know what you are is the only important thing. Not who you are because who you are is bullshit. One day you’re a star and the next you’re in the bread line. Knowing what you are is the thing that gets you through life.

CI: Do you know what you are?

BR: I am my own person, my own man. I very seldom ask for favors. I very seldom impose my will on other people. Knowing those things up front, saves you the embarrassment of having to go through all that, and being rejected or being told, “Forget about it”, or whatever. If you are what you are, and you know that, you can sail through life because all the responsibilities lay on you. The outside interpretation of a Buddy Rich is, “Oh, who does he think he is? He walks around like this or he does this.” That’s not to impress anybody. It’s what I do. I sit in this apartment and if I have three days off, I may never get out of this apartment. I may stay here and catch up on things, watch T.V., take things off records. I’m on the phone most of the day. So I’m not socially inclined. I’m not a social man. I don’t go to parties or celebrity jive things. If I have people up, they are people I choose to have because there is a relationship between us. We can get along good, or we can just sit and not say anything. And when you can do that with people, that’s the only thing that counts. You don’t have to be on stage with people. It’s that way outside too, it’s my entire attitude. If you’re my friend, you can have anything I’ve got. If you’re an acquaintance, I have to take time to evaluate that acquaintance. If you’re a potential enemy, the best thing is to stay away from me. I’m dangerous, not in the physical sense, but I can make you feel uncomfortable.

CI: Tell me a little about The Muppet Show in London.

BR: They called me from London a few days ago and asked how I would feel about doing a comedy karate match with Miss Piggy. I thought it would be very funny, so I’m doing that, and also a drum battle with Animal which should be funny.

CI: Will you sing to Kermit?

BR: They asked me about doing a vocal on “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” I did a recording on that so I may sing it to Kermit. Maybe we’ll become the new Boswell Sisters or something.

CI: Are you happy from a musical standpoint at this stage in your life?Buddy Rich 2

BR: I’m an up and down happy. When my band sounds good, and I can find prolific writers and people who understand what I’m trying to do, then I’m happy. When I hear my band sound tired and bad, and I’m not playing as good as I want to play, I’m my own worst critic. No matter what anybody tells me, whether they say I sounded good or bad, I’ll be the first one to tell you if I sounded good. If I sounded bad, I’ll beat you to that too and tell you I sounded bad. No one knows better than me when I play good or bad. I don’t have a false ego. I can’t overcome playing bad by telling you it’s good. I’m lying to myself, not to the public. I can’t lie to me. I’ve got to live with me! When I play bad I come off the bandstand and call myself every kind of name there is. Because there’s no reason. I come off the bandstand and say, “Why did I do that, why didn’t this happen or why did I try this?” If that happens the first set, by the time I play the second set I’ll go out there and find out why. And the next time I do it, it’ll be right. But it’s that first time when it doesn’t happen that I’ll put a hole through a wall with my own temper. That’s good though, because the only opinion I can honestly respect is my own. If twelve critics came in and heard me play and all of them said, “Gee, you sounded better than ever”, well, if I know I didn’t, then I know they’re jiving me. I’m going to tell them, “Hey, you’re full of shit”. Because I know I didn’t play good. By the same token, if that’s reversed and I’m playing good and four critics write, “He sounded terrible,” well I’ll also tell them they’re full of shit. I know I played good. Consequently, that’s the only barometer for my playing. I don’t go around criticizing other people unless I’m asked, and if I have a valid complaint about someone’s playing, I’ll express it. I won’t put down another player for no other reason than to put him down. I won’t do that. A lot of guys I really admire, like Steve Gadd, and Bobby Colomby with the original Blood Sweat and Tears. I thought he was really great because he was the first drummer I heard that made some kind of transition from jazz to rock and put the two together. Danny Seraphine is another excellent drummer. Harvey Mason is an excellent drummer. But there’s only half a dozen guys that I put in a category of truly good players. And every time I do that I have to remember that every guy that I ever heard was not a good drummer, but a great drummer. Papa Jo Jones laid the ground work. Not only is he a friend of mine, but he’s a man I look up to and admire. I always have since we first met in 1939. I feel the same about all the guys I’ve known in my life time because each one was an individual player and an individual stylist. They didn’t steal what they heard from another guy. Jo sounded like Jo, and Gene sounded like Gene, Philly Joe sounded like Philly, and Max sounded like Max. You can go down the line and you’ll see that every drummer had a distinct personality, and you knew exactly who you were listening to. If you put on six records today, the same drummer could have been on all six records. There’s no variation of sound. Every drummer has the exact same sound. You can’t really differentiate. They all play the same stupid licks. When you find someone who has just that little bit of something extra he becomes outstanding.

CI: How’s your health, particularly in light of the schedule you keep?

BR: Fine. I know what my body needs and I know how my body reacts. When I don’t feel good I stop everything and when I feel good, I do everything. I think all a doctor can do is if he cures you then the advice always is, “I think you should do this and I think you should do that.” When kids come up to me and say, “Give me some advice”, the only advice I give them is no advice. Because when you give somebody advice, especially in music, if it’s wrong, you get the blame. “Oh, that s.o.b. told me this is what to do”. Rather than put up with that, I just say, “If you’re really interested in your art, my advice won’t help you. Only you can help you.” That’s the way I run my life. Doctors give you advice, mechanics give you advice on how to run your car. It’s my car and I know how my car runs, like I know how my heart runs.

CI: As long as we’re on the subject of health and doctors, didn’t Johnny Carson come into your hospital room one night and do his Carnac bit?

BR: If there was ever a time I could say I had a great time in the hospital, that was it. They bring me down from the operating room and I’m sedated, laying there in pretty bad pain. Comes evening and they turn me over on my side and the next thing I know some people walk in the room. I look up and it’s Ed McMahon and a lady, and they say, “There’s some people here to see you”. The next thing I see is Carson in the complete Carnac outfit, turbin and cape. And he stood at the foot of the bed for about 15 minutes dropping lines, reading the questions and answers. They were afraid I was going to break the stitches because I laughed and I cried at the same time. It was the single most beautiful gesture that one guy could possibly do for another guy. He just stood there and ran these jokes down one after another. Then we sat and talked for awhile. That had to be one of the highlights of my life. That’s a real friend, because he cared. I’m sensitive about things like that. I love the man. If there ever was a one of a kind guy, Carson is it. There’s nobody else like him. If I could parallel his talent to a musician, he’d be the Art Tatum, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Oscar Peterson of the world. If he did any one of those single instruments, he’d be the master, because he’s the master of the night time television.

CI: Do you think that karate has helped your playing at all?

BR: No. Karate has nothing to do with playing. There’s one position and one way of playing for me. The parts of the body used in the martial arts are totally different. What karate can do for you is extend your stamina and give you a little more energy. But as far as your hands or feet are concerned, they’re totally different muscles. Totally different exercises and totally different ways of using your hands.

CI: I ask because when you play around on the cymbals, you move so fast, but so delicately, underneath and over the top. You barely touch them and it would appear as though karate might have influenced that.

BR: What you have to understand is this. I’ve been into karate for 17 years, but I’ve been playing drums for 50. When I slide off a cymbal like that, well I did that long before I went into karate. All that is is total control of your mind and your physical being. The idea of playing, is to be able to mentally and physically execute at that instant. As the thought occurs, it must be executed. No pause between thought and execution. That’s the difference. If you think, “Now I’m going to hit the cymbal but lightly”, then you think, “How am I going to do it?” As the thought flashes through your mind, it’s executed. All you have to know is that you don’t want to whack the cymbal, you want to brush it. You brush it at that instant because if you wait to say, “I better pull back a little bit”, you’re going to screw it up. Drumming is the most concerted kind of involvement. Total involvement at that split second. Concentration is the most essential part of playing, and proper execution comes with concentration. I’ve seen a thousand drummers in my lifetime, really fast, and can get around a set of drums. But everything is at the same volume. Everything is done at the same pace. There’s no delicacy.

CI: Let’s talk about your approach to the instrument for a moment.

BR: My approach to the instrument is the same as my approach to life. There’s no difference. I approach my drums when I go to work the same way I wake up in the morning. Whatever I decide to do that day, I approach it with the same attitude. Just out of personal curiosity, when you talk to other drummers, young people in their early and late 20’s, I’d like to know how they feel about things. I was looking at Modern Drummer the other night, and I see different guys talking about their approach to drums. What have they found? What do they tell you? What is their insight into playing?

CI: Well, everBuddy Rich 3y one has their own opinion.

BR: I’m not talking about opinion. Opinion means nothing to me. Again, it’s like who do you like, the Yanks or the Mets. I mean what is their insight into playing. What is the mystique as far as they’re concerned about playing drums? What goals have they set for themselves? Do they have a goal? Why take up any instrument unless you intend to make it your life’s work. You can’t go through life unless you have a goal to be the best. To go into a rock group and make $50,000 a night is not being creative. Now I’m not from the school that says you have to suffer to become somebody, but you must pay your dues. What these guys don’t realize is that without paying dues, you’re taking everything out of a business. When you’re making that kind of money at 19 or 20, you’re giving nothing to that business. What do you intend to be at 25? The richest out of work drummer, or the richest out of work piano player? Or do you intend to intellectualize what you’re doing and then decide, ok, I’ve made so much money doing this, now what I really want to do is play? Do other drummers ever talk about their next step in the art of playing?

CI: Half of the drummers I’ve spoken to have some sort of artistic goal.

BR: I bring this up because over the past ten years, I’ve heard about so many guys. This guy is the greatest and so on. Well ten years later I haven’t heard from any of them. Now if you’re that great in 1970, how come you’re not that great in 1980? That’s an awfully short time span. I often wonder what becomes of the people who sold millions of records in 1965 who now tend gas stations?

CI: How much money did Ludwig give you to endorse their drums?

BR: That’s really none of your business, is it?

CI: Can I ask you why you left Slingerland?

BR: Because Ludwig makes a better drum. It had nothing to do with money. When I was having difficulty with Slingerland, I said to them if you don’t give me a snare drum that’s playable, that projects past the first row, forget about me. I’ll go out and buy a set of drums that have the quality and sound I’m looking for. They kept sending me snare drums that weren’t right. I was using a Fibes snare drum at the time with the rest of the Slingerland stuff. Fibes made a hell of a good snare drum, great projection. The response was immediate. Well, unknown to me, someone took a picture during a T.V. show while we were in London and the picture, from the side view, clearly showed the Fibes snare. I got a lot of heat about that. I tried explaining that people take pictures, and I don’t tell them how to shoot. Well, they were upset I had a Fibes drum up there. When I came back, I asked the Slingerland general manager, “Honestly, do you make a drum as good as the drum I’m using?” He said, “No”. I said then, “Why should I use something inferior to what I ‘m playing on to please the company? I don’t work on inferior equipment and you’re admitting that your drum is inferior. If you can make a drum as good as that, I’ll be happy to play it.” Well, it just got ridiculous from there. I was willing to go out and buy a set of drums when I split with Slingerland. Then I made arrangements with Ludwig, and I’ll tell you something. This set will be three years old in December. The same set. I haven’t changed one thing on that set and it’s standing up. I’ve never used a set of drums more than 3 or 4 months without the rods falling off, drums cracking, pearl snaps. This set of drums sounds right. I just happened to luck out with this set. That’s a compliment to the company as far as making drums are concerned. Financially, well that’s a business deal. But if they gave me threequarters of the company and called them Buddy Rich Drums, well if the drums are no good, there’s no deal. The money is just the icing on the cake. I happen to be happy with the drums, but if I get a bad set one time, it would be the same thing. I’d say you’re going to have to make a better set for me. That’s really what it’s all about. I’m more concerned with a good drum that I am about a good deal. We were playing outside of Chicago one night. Now I never touch the drums. I don’t come in turning, tuning, and tightening loosening and all that. My guy sets the drums up and I play. I know they’re right. As long as it sounds good, I don’t do anything. So we played the first set and I go back on the bus. I’m sitting there about five minutes when Mr. Ludwig comes running on the bus. I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “Do you know you have a wrinkle in the front head?” I said no, I didn’t know that but so what? I guess the lug wasn’t tight or something. I asked, “You didn’t tighten it, did you?” He said, “Of course”. I said. “Why man, now you might have messed up the whole sound. Why’d you do that?” He said, “My God, you, with a wrinkled drum”? I said, “Bill, you don’t understand. I probably haven’t tuned those drums since I got the set. How did it sound to you?” He said, “It sounded great!” I said, “Well now I got to go out and get that wrinkle all over again, right?” As long as they’re clean, I play them. I don’t have to tighten them.

Guys always ask me how do you tune a drum. You don’t, you tension a drum. When we used calf heads, you’d put a new head on, tighten it, and it sounded terrific. An hour later there’s 3,000 people in the place and it’s humid outside, and you go up to play the first bar and your stick gets lost in the head, it’s so loose. Well, the same thing applies to plastic. It still goes up and down, though not as much. But I see guys tuning, hitting the bass drum. What does all that mean? Either you’re going to play Dardinello, or you’re going to play the damn drum. All this give me an A, I’m a little sharp, I’m a little flat shit. You’re a little sick is what you are! What are you doing? Get out a here!

CI: Do you use the Billy Gladstone method of playing?Buddy Rich 4

BR: Billy Gladstone’s concept was totally legitimate. He was a great snare drum artist. I used to listen to him at Radio City. Great wrists! I’m opposed to all that talk about finger control and all that nonsense. The same with this matched grip business. I don’t understand that at all. I’ve yet to hear a guy play a closed roll with the matched grip. It seems to be terribly awkward to play that way. It goes against the position of your hands. Your left hand falls to the left, not to the right. I’ve seen guys play snare drum with the head facing towards them. Wow! That’s a good trick! That’s as good a trick as some of these guys with cymbal stands five feet high with the cymbal on backwards. That’s an interesting picture! Looks like a sick giraffe with a very large head! That’s modern, I suppose. It’s not exactly playing, but it’s modern. I’m more into a simple way of playing. My playing is simple because there’s very little exertion or effort that goes with it. What I do is play natural. The upper part of my body is totally relaxed, and I can manipulate the sticks so I don’t have to use full arm strokes to get from the snare drum to a tom-tom. My wrists are flexible enough without having to use a lot of arm motion. It’s tiring lifting up the whole arm to get one movement from the lower part of the wrists. I can flex my wrists and it’s natural. From side to side, up and down, or striking the cymbal from underneath. It’s a matter of being flexible enough to control the stick. You can’t control the stick with your fingers. Try it. It’ll fall right out of your hand. You must get a grip on the stick and allow the stick freedom within that grip because you control it with your hand. And when you grip the stick, you don’t choke it. You let it breathe so there’s room in there for letting the stick bounce. It’s all very natural stuff. But it’s not something that’s taught. No drum teacher will tell you “Ok, let the stick bounce three times”. What are you going to do, sit there and say 1-2-3, 1-2-3! No. You have to control the motion of the stick. It’s not hard.

CI: Is that all part of Billy Gladstone’s method?

BR: No, that’s all part of my method. I don’t think Billy ever played a ride cymbal in his life. He wasn’t a jazz drummer by any stretch of the imagination. He was a totally legitimate drummer. Not that jazz drummers are illegitimate, you understand. I heard him play Ravel’s Bolero one time and he was phenomenal. I used to sit in the last seat in the last row of the balcony at Radio City Music Hall and listen to him articulate off the snare drum. Every stroke was like an arrow, and he used a wrist motion. He had his drums very high and flat, because he was a showman and he would raise his hands, but the actual playing was done more from a forearm and wrist motion rather than the whole arm. I imagine if he had to sit down behind a set of drums and play something “smokin,” he would have been ill at ease. But from the other aspect he was a true giant. He built a great snare drum which I owned at one time. He presented me with one which was quite an honor.

CI: What can you pass on about your absolutely electrifying solos?

BR: You know what I say about solos? Solos don’t mean a thing. First you have to play. When I do a clinic, one of the things the kids will ask is, “How do you play fast”. They never ask about playing with a band, or for a band. They always want to know how to play solos. The function of a drummer is to play time behind a band. The solo is extra. The solo comes after you’ve learned how to play. You’re not going to sit up in front of a band and play solos all night. You notice I only play one solo a set. Unless you have a terrifically tuned ear for drumming, or unless it’s very visual, people loose the context of what you’re playing. I try to play a solo as if I were playing a horn. I try to construct some kind of melody. Some kind of direction whether it’s a 3, a 5, a 4, whatever. When I do change the time things, they’re distinct, they’re purposeful. It’s not just going from one thing to another. It has to lead into something that fits in another surrounding. There’s always a musical content to a solo instead of just banging on the tomtoms. My solos are constructed fairly simply. A funny thing happened to me on the way to the theatre, and so on. Then the punch line. It’s a simple form.

CI: There’s so much fire in the way you accompany a soloist.

buddy-rich-5BR: That’s what I’m talking about. When a guy is standing up to play a solo, it’s your function to make him play. To boot him in the ass! Not to lay back, but not to overshadow him either. It’s a fine line between being intrusive, and subtly hip. I say that for the benefit of all the guys. I’m not subtly hip. I’m not subtle in any way. But I like to think that behind a soloist, if I’m listening to what he’s playing, I’ll get the most out of him. Not the most out of me. I’ll try to do something that’ll give him some kind of forward motion. When I hear the applause he gets, I’m totally satisfied. I have the good sense to let guys play for the benefit of the audience. Sure, you can throw four bars of drums in, but that’s not why I’m there. I’m there to play because when the band sounds good, I become a fan of the band. I listen to it and I simply accompany it. When the band sounds bad, there’s a lot of work to do to try to overcome sloppiness and mistakes. But that’s very seldom. When it does happen, it’s a memorable occasion. The band always maintains a very high level of continuity. It’s always there. When the band sounds good, I’ll listen to it, and applaud and carry on. It’s my baby, and I don’t think of myself as the guy with the drums. I think of myself as a guy in that band and when it’s good, I feel lucky to be in the band.

CI: Did you ever use a guitar in the band?

BR: I used to use guitar. I had guys that could play all the rock things you could think of. But come time to play straight ahead quarter notes for me, forget it. I had two guys in the band who could really play. I had a kid in the first band in 1966 who’s been doing the Dinah Shore Show. I’ve had some good guys but when they left and the new crop came up, well they could play blues all night long, but when they had to read something we were in a lot of trouble. I prefer not to go through all that. If I could find one that was a bitch, I’d use him.

CI: Is retirement something you ever consider? You’ve been known to say, “I’m not finished until they close the lid.”

BR: Let me answer your question with a question. Do you think it’s proper for anyone who feels there’s a reason to live, is in total command of his faculties, is creative and healthy, to decide to sit back in the sun for the rest of his life because he gets to a certain age? I think that’s a criminal thing to do. It’s like self execution. I can’t possibly imagine myself retiring at any age. I love what I do. First, I’m sincerely involved with what I do. Second, the only thing that would ever make me seriously consider retirement is if one day I get up, and I can’t play at the standard which I’ve set. I don’t think I could handle somebody saying “Your playing stinks.” Again, I say, I’m very critical about my own playing. And the first night that I feel it’s not happening because I can’t make it, that’s the night I’ll quit. That would be the only plausible reason to quit. If somebody says, “Man, your hands are gone”. That would hurt even from a non-knowledgeable person. It would hurt and before I’d take that kind of abuse, I’d quit. But I don’t see that happening in the next three or four nights. I may just stay in this business another week or so.