When Battle Creek drummer Larry Ochiltree was growing up and learning to play the drums his idol was big band drummer Buddy Rich.  Many young drummers were probably following the likes of Ringo Starr and learning to play “Wipe Out” and “In a Gadda Da Vida”, but they were also well aware of the incredible things that Buddy Rich could do with a pair of drum sticks.   Many of us know him from his frequent guest appearances on his friend (and fellow drummer) Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show”.

Ochiltree saw Rich perform many times and after graduating from Lakeview High School he had a chance to buy a drum set that Rich owned and played on.  That was 1984, and he still has it, and has only taken it out of the house one time.  On Sunday, September 10th, he’ll bring it out again as he performs with the Kalamazoo Big Band at the Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival.  http://www.stjulian.com/winefest

The drum set is unique.  It’s a 1968 Slingerland Black Diamond Pearl drum kit that Rich had given to a roadie when he was done using it.  Rich usually played a white marine pearl kit.  Ochiltree says the bass drum is a bit smaller than most of the kits that Buddy Rich used.  It has a hand-painted logo because Slingerland had to get the set to him quickly, for a Chicago appearance, after he’d given away a previous set.

“He was known to do that, which ticked off the drum companies he was with, because they would have to scramble to send him another kit for the next gig”, said Ochiltree. “I heard that one company, Ludwig, always had two kits on hand to send in case Rich gave one away.”

Ochiltree says it was his dream to own a Buddy Rich set.  Three years after he bought them, Buddy Rich passed away, and a lot of collectors wanted to buy the drums.   But, 30 years later, he still has them and will be using them to “drive” the Kalamazoo Big Band, as they pay tribute to Buddy Rich.

Here’s a video of Larry playing the drum set, and talking about how he acquired them.

Here's a photo gallery of the drum set.

The Kalamazoo Big Band has been around for more than 30 years, playing the music of Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Glenn Miller, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich and others.

“I think we love the Buddy Rich arrangements the most”, says Kalamazoo Big Band co-leader Tim Culver.  “They’re real classics, they always feature soloists, and of course the drummer, and they are high energy arrangements.  They’re a real challenge to play.”

To celebrate what would have been Buddy Rich’s 100th year, and the 30th anniversary of his passing, the band will feature several of the original arrangements done by the band in the 60’s and 70’s.

“Chicago”, “Norwegian Wood”, “Love for Sale”, “The Rotten Kid”, “Ya Gotta Try”, “New Blues” “Up Tite” and “Mexicali Nose” will be sprinkled in with a variety of Big Band classics.

Culver, who co-leads the band with fellow trumpeter Dave Wells, says the band always looks forward the playing at the Wine Festival.  “We started when the festival was first being held in Bronson Park, and then made the move to Paw Paw.  It’s always a great time.”

Joining drummer Ochiltree in the rhythm section is bassist Denis Shebukhov, pianist Terry Lower and guitarist Mike Hyde.

“A lot of the big bands used guitar”, said Culver.  “Buddy Rich was one of them, but the great thing about having Mike on the band is that we can also do some Motown, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Chicago.”  West Michigan’s favorite jazz vocalist, Edye Evans Hyde will perform as well.

  • Who: The Kalamazoo Big Band, featuring Larry Ochiltree on his vintage Buddy Rich drum kit
  • What:  A Tribute to Buddy Rich, with a great mix of Big Band and Jazz Rock Music
  • When:  Sunday September 10th, from 12:30 to 4pm
  • Where: St. Julian Winery, 716 S. Kalamazoo Street, Paw Paw,  Michigan 49079
  • Why: To celebrate great music, and Michigan’s great wine industry.


Drummer Larry Ochiltree has performed with many national jazz artists, including Mark Murphy, Ira Sullivan, Bobby Watson, Phil Woods, Dominique Eade, Hendrik Meurkens, Sunny Wilkinson, Rodney Whittaker and many more. He has toured with the Drifters and the Coasters.   Larry attended Michigan State University and the Berklee College of Music.  He has recorded with Jim Cooper, Terry Lower, Dave Hay, Kerry Strayer, Hendrick Meurkens, Scott Robinson, Dave Lambert and others.  Larry is on the music faculty at Hillsdale College as Director of Drumset Studies and plays with the faculty quartet.   He has performed with the Battle Creek, Lansing, Jackson and Kalamazoo Symphonies.   Larry is a clinician for Ludwig Drums, Zildjian Cymbals, Promark Drumsticks, May Microphones, Stellar Drum Hoops and Remo Drumheads.

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