Goin' through them changes

The slow healing of Buddy Miles

"For me, John is somebody that I've known about for a long, long time," Miles had said earlier at the Greenville Bar & Grill, "and somebody that I've always wanted to work with. The man is definitely one of the state of Texas' best-kept secrets, and it's always nice for me to get together with someone as talented as John."

But though he's clearly excited about working with Nitzinger, and effusive in his praise of the guitarist, Miles is also clearly agitated about the twists of fortune in his own career.

When asked to elaborate on his earlier Hendrix comments, Miles stares menacingly and says, "[Jeffrey] was an assassin. I don't speak with forked tongue, brother." Alluding to 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky--the Life of Jimi Hendrix, David Henderson's masterful 1978 biography of the guitarist, Miles adds, "Read the Henderson book. Jeffrey was, uh, a sophisticated cop that got away with a lot of stuff. Even with death, from what I understand."

Miles adds that, aside from Jeffrey's greed--at the time of Hendrix's death, the guitarist was extremely disappointed with management and strongly considering a change, which obviously would have cut Jeffrey out of a lucrative situation--the manager was also a bigot who had Miles dismissed from the Band of Gypsies simply because he was black.

"Look, when the Band of Gypsies formed, I got singled out to be the bad guy because Michael Jeffrey did not want three blacks in the band [bassist Billy Cox, a black bass player, rounded out the Band of Gypsies]."

In a world where much of the population believes in baby-eating Satanists, angels, orifice-probing aliens and the fact that Elvis is still alive, Miles' claims about Jeffrey and his role in Hendrix's death are not so far-fetched. In any case, Jeffrey later perished in a plane crash--a situation Miles describes as a result of "bad karma."

And if the drummer sounds bitter, consider his claim that he's never been compensated for any of the work he did with Hendrix, which would certainly be aggravating. After all, in addition to having an equal partnership in the Band of Gypsies--along with performance and composition credits on the LP The Band of Gypsies--Miles appeared on Electric Ladyland and The Cry of Love without receiving any royalties on millions of units sold.

Miles claims he wasn't even paid as a session man on Electric Ladyland, or for First Rays of the New Rising Sun--the "new" Hendrix CD remastered by inveterate Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer (First Rays, a selected combination of the material from the patched-together, posthumously released records The Cry of Love, Rainbow Bridge, and War Heroes, is supposed to represent the realization of Hendrix's in-progress plans at the time of his death).

"None of them," he says assertively, punctuating each syllable with a jab of his demo tape. "None. Of. Them." He looks at the cassette and drops it on the couch. "Don't I deserve something? It really saddens me that I'm gonna have to [go to court]. But I'm older, I need it, I deserve it, and I want it.

"When you play on other people's records, you get compensated for that. You get residuals, man. It's a shame it's come to this, because Jimi was one of the most loving men ever."

His experience with Santana was less rosy; the two toured extensively together and recorded two big-selling LPs, 1972's Carlos Santana and Buddy Miles Live and 1987's Freedom. Though Miles speaks highly of Santana as a musician, he has less charitable things to say about him as a person. He describes Santana as "another schmo" who "forgot to bend his tacos right," and says the guitarist was so insecure about Miles' stage presence that he made Miles sing entire two-to-three hour shows standing on an X.

"He once asked me, 'Why are you looking at me funny?' and I told him, 'Cause there's something funny to look at,'" Miles says.

"The dude's a goddamned hypocrite," he continues. "I hate to say that, because Carlos is really a good player, man. But I don't like hypocritical shit. You know: If you get high, you get high; if you don't, you don't. I mean, God ain't gonna punish it. But God don't like ugly, and he damned sure don't give a fuck about pretty, either."

Miles elaborates on Santana's hypocrisy shortly before joining Nitzinger onstage at the rockin' blues fete. "I don't give a damn about somebody telling me, well, that I'm this and I'm that and I'm a drug addict...I'm a lot of goddamned things. But I'm one of God's people. And I consider myself a good man. [Santana] hasn't given me so much as a phone call, and I did not one but two albums with him, and he feels like, 'Hey, my name is Carlos Santana, and fuck you when I don't need you.' That's the impression I get. To me, he bullshitted me--I've never said that, but I'll bring it out now. Why not?"

Miles is referring not only to Santana's one-time predilection for drugs but also to his ignoring Miles since the drummer went to prison, an experience that he claims profoundly changed his life. But he's a bit vague as to exactly how that happened. "My [stretch in prison] gave me dialogue, it gave me format," he says simply.

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