When you hear “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison, you’re hearing Buddy Harman on drums!
When you hear “Cathy’s Clown” by the Everly Brothers, you’re hearing Buddy on drums.
When you hear the light brushwork on Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, you’re hearing Buddy.
When you hear “Little Sister” by Elvis Presley you are hearing…well, you get the point! It’s Buddy Harman on drums!
When you hear the following iconic songs, you are also hearing the legendary studio drummer known as the backbone of the A Team session players in Nashville:
Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,”
Roger Miller’s “King of the Road”
Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man,”
Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miners Daughter”
Buddy Harman played on over 18,000 recording sessions (approximately 72,000 songs!!) as the go-to drummer in Nashville. Buddy was part of the group of studio musicians known as The A Team, which also included Boots Randolph and Harold Bradley, just to name two members who were also interviewed for the NAMM Oral History program. Buddy provided the steady beat and was the man who set the tempo on countless hit recordings. He was also a good friend who always invited me to dinner whenever I attended The Summer NAMM Show in Nashville.
Like most artists, Buddy was modest about his talent but would talk all day about his family and his beloved drum kits. I remember one evening where we exclusively talked about cymbals. After over an hour, he paused to ask if I wanted any ice cream and then continued. He wasn’t much for talking about his own career, but he did acknowledge to me, as Harold Bradley told me earlier, that Buddy was the first house drummer for the Grand Ole Opry, a fact he was proud of. Drums just weren't an instrument utilized in early country bands. Buddy was also proud that his two sons are musicians and followed in his footsteps.
Buddy was creative, a good listener who was not afraid of taking direction, always on time (if not early), and able to focus on the artist, no matter who they were or the style of music they played.
In the introduction of this blog, I found that I was torn. I wanted to list one example of hits Buddy played on by some of the legendary performers he worked with such as Patsy, Elvis, the Everly Brothers, and Roy. However the truth is, for those artists he recorded several other major hits including Patsy’s “She’s Got You,” and “Faded Love;” Elvis’ Big Hunk O Love,” “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “It’s Now Or Never,” and “Viva Las Vegas;” The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” and “(Till) I Kissed You”; Roy Orbison’s “Only The Lonely,” “It’s Over,” “In Dreams,” and “Crying!” Buddy also played on Brenda Lee’s first string of hits including “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” “Sweet Nothin’,” “Jambalaya” and “I’m Sorry.” As you can see by these songs, he was also diverse.
As I walked to my rental car on my last visit to his home, Buddy said, “I’ll see you next time.” He passed away before I would return to Nashville but when I did return, I felt empty not getting to see him. The following year I felt a little better having stopped by his grave to pay my respects. I have made that stop every year since. In the last two years my wife came with me and this year I asked if she would take my photograph. I felt it was important to document the fact that some friendships never end. I am still learning from Buddy and I am still promoting my pal’s many accomplishments whenever I have the chance.
See you next time Buddy.
To view Buddy's Oral History clip please click here.
Dan Del Fiorentino