You've all heard the expression "wired for it," meaning how someone is so very naturally talented that they seem to effortlessly do something that 99.9% of population couldn't do with 20 years of instruction and a gun to their heads. There is some kind of exceptional difference in the brain and body in wired-for-it people; then it is a matter of motivation, opportunity, and a little luck for that innate talent to be fully realized. When I see a really good drummer -- and I mean REALLY REALLY REALLY good -- "wired for it" just immediately comes to mind. One of those RRR drummers was Buddy Rich. I will go so far as to say that he may well have been the best ever.

I count myself fortunate to have been exposed to Buddy Rich's musicality very early in life, via my jazzman dad. Of course, Dad knew I loved music, and enjoyed having me hear what he thought was real excellence. He would play me records, or point out pieces of songs on the radio, and sometimes let me stay up late on school nights to watch "The Tonight Show" if there was something extra-special on. And that is where I first saw Buddy Rich play and was blown away by what he could do, just like everyone else watching him. What a delight. Rich would come on, maybe a couple times a year, chat with Johnny Carson, and then sit in with the crack Tonight Show band, and always delivered. He seemed to me to be this very odd combination of smooth smiling Cheshire cat, all controlled and tight, yet also very aggressive and almost kind of dangerous as he played. As I came to find out over the years, drummers are a particular breed. They are all somewhere high up on the crazy scale. (I am a pretty lousy drummer, which perhaps correlates well to sanity.)

Anyway, what I would like to share with you now are several clips of Buddy Rich's "Drum Battles" -- the pair-offs he often did with some of the other best drummers of the time. You don't have to be a jazz person to love these -- you don't even have to know anything about music. You show this to a cattleherder in Africa or a schoolkid in Japan or a Grandma in Finland, and each one of them will smile. Pay attention to how truly precise Rich is -- master of the snare drum. Enjoy.

Here's Buddy with Gene Krupa, another amaaaaazing drum peer of Rich's, on the Sammy Davis Jr. show in 1966. (There's a pretty fair chance I would have seen this at the time. SAMMAY!) I think Keith Moon caught more than a little of Krupa's big bang and swagger.

One of the "Tonight Show" appearances...this time, Buddy plays against Ed Shaughnessy, the "Tonight Show" band drummer. Jaw-dropping good, and so much fun.

In this short battle, Buddy is back with Krupa AND singer Mel Torme AND vibraphone master Lionel Hampton. Who knew?

Comedian Jerry Lewis played drums, too. But...

Finally, Buddy in the "drum battle of the century" meets up with a famous crazy hairy hippie on a chain. Was the outcome ever in doubt?

Wired for it? Oh, yes.

Buddy Rich, Age 6.