Last Tuesday, August 24, the great Charlie Watts died with no cause of death yet released. He was 80 years old. On Sunday, August 29, Ron Bushy passed away from esophageal cancer at the age of 79.
Ron Bushy of Iron ButterflyRon Bushy was the menacing drummer who will always be remembered for the epic drum solo that consumed almost all of Side 2 on the Iron Butterfly’s magnum opus album, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Bushy was the only member of the band to appear on all six official Iron Butterfly albums.
And Bushy was the perfect name for Ron’s looks with his bushy eyebrows, dark hair, dark moustache and goatee. He looked a bit too much like Charles Manson before we had even heard of Charles Manson. After Manson’s infamy, Bushy would change the looks that belied his sweet nature. When asked about having to stay isolated due to COVID-19, he responded with, “We have been home and going out only when need. I’ve been fortunate, because I’m happily married, and I actually enjoy being with my wife Nancy.”
Ron Bushy in later years, still playing with Iron ButterflyIn-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was the first album I bought with my own money. It was 1968 and I was 10 years old. Truth be told, although I was fascinated by Bushy’s thunderous drumming, it was the keyboardist, Doug Ingle, who grabbed my attention. Ingle’s father had been a church organist and that influence showed on the son’s Rock musicianship.
But almost every boy I knew memorized that drum solo from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. We could all bang along on the table in synch with the Bushy beats. The album stayed on the charts for 140 weeks, 81 weeks in the top ten. The album has sold over 30 million copies and was actually the very first album to be certified Platinum when it sold 8 million copies.
In March of this year, Bushy donated his iconic drum set to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This drum set was created for Ron Bushy in 1969 by Bill Zickos. It is the very first set the company built and the first clear, acrylic drum kit in the world.
Of the band members on In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, only Doug Ingle remains. The Official Twitter account for the band issued this statement on Bushy’s death: “Ron Bushy, our beloved legendary drummer of Iron Butterfly, has passed away peacefully, with his wife Nancy by his side, at 12:05am on August 29th at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital," the band said in a statement. "All three of his daughters were also with him. He was a real fighter. He was born Dec 23, 1941. He will be deeply missed!”
On Tuesday, we received word that Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones had passed. His death sent seismic shockwaves through the music world. If anyone of the Stones was expected to pass, it was not Charlie Watts.
Charlie Watts never expected to play with the Rolling Stones for 58 years. In fact, he thought that the band would play together and fade away. But America discovered the Beatles in 1964 and the Stones were never far behind.
Watts was never especially interested in Rock and Roll, either. He considered himself a Jazz drummer and you can hear that in his playing with the Stones. But he could also play with metronomic steadiness like on Miss You or with swinging savvy like on Rock and Hard Place. He could play the Motown tunes like he was an original Funk Brother or carry on in straight-up Jazz like Elvin Jones or Jack DeJohnette.
Very recently, I saw a video of the Stone touring their old neighborhood. Guitarist Keith Richards said, “Oh, man. It’s great to see old friends. And to make some new ones.” Singer Mick Jagger looked over at Charlie Watts, who was walking with his head down and his hands in his pockets, and said, “Whad’ya think, Charlie? Charlie lifted his head with a big smile and just said, “Yes!” The other three Stones burst into laughter and Mick put his arm around Charlie and pulled him close, saying, “Ah, my Charlie!”
That was nice to see after so many years together. And it wasn’t always that way. Here’s my favorite Charlie Watts story.
The Stones had been on tour in America and Charlie, as usual, went to the hotel and to bed before the rest of them. Sometime late in the night, Mick arrived at the hotel and, in the lobby, yelled, “Where’s my %#@*ing drummer?” He repeated it and then called up to Charlie’s room and repeated the line to Charlie.
Charlie got out of bed, washed, shaved, put on his suit, and went downstairs to the lobby. When he saw Mick, he crossed the floor of the lobby and punched Mick right in the face. Mick dropped like a …well, stone…and Charlie stood straddling the prostrate Mick and pointed his finger at Mick, saying, “I’m not your %#@*ing drummer! You’re MY %#@*ing singer!”
According to eyewitnesses, Mick just lay there giggling as Charlie went back upstairs to bed.
I was never really a Rolling Stones fan but I was always a huge Charlie Watts fan. The only reason I ever wanted to see the Stones in concert was to see Charlie.
Who can forget the now-famous video of the Stones performing Start Me Up with multiple cutaway shots to Charlie who was playing spot-on but shaking his head and laughing at the antics of Mick and Keith…and Ronnie Wood.
The Stones paid tribute to Charlie with a very sweet video that remembered Charlie’s playing and personality and declared his drum set “closed for business.”
Rest in Peace, Charlie. My world is a bit sadder without you in it.