Jazz Institute of Chicago

Barrett and Me

Barrett and Me

I have known Barrett ever since he started working Andy's (I believe 1971) and became very close friends with the man, almost letting him become a Father to me, which I never had. Barrett sort of accepted that role and would give me a lot of grief over something stupid I would be doing in his usually gruff friendly way. He tried his damnedest to make sure I would walk the straight and narrow and I completely respected him for his gruff, yet warm way of riding me.

I in turn totally respected Barrett for his incredible talent on the drums and as many times as I could I would go out of my way to hear him play. Yes, there were times I personally would have loved to beat the crap out of him, for something he would say, but after awhile I realised in his weird way, he was trying to help me so I accepted his gruffness for what it was.

In hanging out with Barret and because of him, I met some of the biggest names in the jazz business. I found out that not only that I respected him for his talent, but a hell of lot of others did too for his incredible playing ability. I can remember the time we caught Max Roach one night and after a great solo performance by Max, the audience was just loving it and gave him a standup ovation. He announced that, "... if you thought this solo was great, it was nothing compared to what Barrett could do."

Buddy Rich's "What It Is" bus had a seat with a sign on it that read, "This seat is reserved for Barrett Deems" and God help the hapless musician that mistakenly sat in it.

As I said, Barrett could be difficult to be with at times, but whenever Buddy would come into town, the first thing Buddy would do was to get ahold of Barrett and hang out. To say that Buddy could be a s.o.b. on a good day, was a mild understatement. But when those two would team up, look out! I strongly suggest that you seek shelter immediately. I can imagine the fun they're having now!!! One of the last things Buddy did while in the hospital just before he died, he talked to Barrett about going back out on the road together. Too bad it never happened....

A lot of people unfortunately were rubbed the wrong way with his acidic, sometimes gruff attitude, but I knew under that exterior facade there was a warm, humble person, that cried when one of his beloved animals would pass away or some other family misfortune would befall him.

To say the least, I will miss him tremendously, both the wild and crazy times, but also the friendship that we both developed together over the years. I could go on for days with all the memories I have and I will treasure those memories for ever.

John Miles
a friend

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