Buddy Miles proclaims “there’s nobody can even mess with Jimi”

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 19, 2001

BY STEVE NEWTON

When ’60s blues legend Willie Dixon wrote “Wang Dang Doodle” for vocalist Koko Taylor, it was pretty clear from her lusty delivery that the term was a euphemism for sex. In the ’70s, crotch-rocker Ted Nugent put his own randy spin on the phrase with “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”. But nowadays blues-rock icon Buddy Miles has his own version of the term.

“We played at the House of Blues in L.A. last night,” reports the enthusiastic drummer-vocalist, en route to Orange County via tour bus, “and we just whoopdee-whoopdee-whoopdee—you know what I’m sayin’? We just whoopdee-doo’d, man. Definitely a wang dang doodle. It’s one of the best bands I’ve ever had.”

At 53, Miles has had a few good bands. In the late ’60s, after performing as a session drummer, he hooked up with guitar great Mike Bloomfield in the Electric Flag, and according to Miles’s current bio, that was the best band he ever played in. But how can that be true when he was also a member of Band of Gypsys, along with bassist Billy Cox and a guy named Jimi Hendrix?

“Well…” He ponders, then bursts out laughing. “You caught me! I guess it’d be a tossup.”

Band of Gypsys released only one album before Hendrix’s death in September of ’70, but that disc—recorded live at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve of ’69—helped cement Miles’s name in the rock history books. He also gained a fair whack of notoriety 16 years later, when his voice was heard promoting dried fruit via the California Raisins’ hit version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”. Miles promises to perform Marvin Gaye’s golden oldie when his six-piece band plays the Commodore on Saturday (July 21).

When he’s not on the road making sure people remember tunes like “Machine Gun” and “Them Changes”, Miles embraces his charity role as the new spokesman for the Children’s Facial Cranial Foundation, an organization formed by Cher to help kids suffering from the disfiguring disease known as elephantiasis. The 300-pound rocker’s compassion for those less fortunate reflects that of another of his musical collaborators, the big-hearted Carlos Santana. He recorded a live album with Santana in ’72, and in the ’80s had a stint as the lead singer of Santana’s eponymous band. Realizing that colossal guitar heroes such as Santana and Hendrix shouldn’t be compared to one another doesn’t stop this bumbling reporter from asking Miles to do just that. “There’s no comparison,” he states bluntly. “You know that. I mean, come on, give it up, you know that there’s nobody can even mess with Jimi.”

That’s what I thought he’d say.

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