No mistake: Buddy Rich club concert created a lifetime memory

Posted on October 19th, 2020

By Joe Marrella

(World Drum Corps Hall of Fame member inducted 1989)

Even if I wasn’t a drummer, I would try to see Buddy Rich and his Big Band as often as I could. He was an awesome player and his band’s music was as driving, pulsating and emotional as he was behind those drums!

I saw him several times in Philly with John Dowlan and Eddie Gibbons, as well as in New Hope, Pa., Valley Forge, Pa. and even in Boston, Ma. 

In fact when I was in Boston for the World Open with a few drum corps, I saw an ad that said Buddy Rich was going to perform in concert at a hotel in Boston. I called and made a reservation for the tickets to his show.

When I got to the hotel desk and asked for my tickets, the young girl asked for my name.

Marrella, I replied.

Again, she asked for my name…M a r r e l l a, I spelled slowly.

As she kept looking, I stared at signs on the walls and banners welcoming all the drum corps to the World Open.

She finally said “I have a Merlino”… I said No! 

My name is MARRELLA!!!

By now the manager heard this discussion and came over to try and help. I told him I made a reservation for the Buddy Rich concert and my name was Joe Marrella.

He paused and asked, ” Are you Joe Marrella the drummer?”

Now before I answered, I remembered all the drum corps signs plastered on the walls and thought he meant Joe Marrella, the drum corps drummer.

So, I answered tentatively… “Yes.”

Now came the killer question, “Does Buddy know you are in town?”

I stammered smiling as my voice began to rise in pitch, “I don’t think so.”

At any rate, he got me my tickets and I was on my way before he could ask me any more questions about Buddy.

A few nights later, we arrived at the show and sat through a strong first half performance. As I headed to the concession stand during intermission, I was literarily grabbed by the arm.

“Thank goodness I found you… Buddy told me to bring you back to see him or I was in Big Trouble.”

Oh boy, now what Mr. Marrella?

My name has gotten me noticed before, but never by Buddy Rich. Often times when they announce my name as a judge, especially at the Meadowlands Stadium, now Giants Stadium, it sounds like Morello.

(At another time the real Joe Morello called and asked to meet me… the other Joe Marrella.)

This is a different story for another time.

Back to the frazzled Boston hotel manager…I honestly don’t remember what reason I gave him, but I begged off going to Buddy’s dressing room at that moment. I knew that had I walked into Buddy’s dressing room as Joe Morello, Buddy would have thrown a stick at me!

Let’s fast forward to a Mets baseball game and a private box next to the Mets dugout. I was with a customer from Manny’s Music and his guest, Stanley Kay. Stanley was Buddy Rich’s manager. 

Well, it was a great time for me to tell Stanley about my Boston experience and the misunderstanding regarding my like-sounding name. I always hoped that Stanley would eventually tell it to Buddy.

A few months after the Mets game, Buddy Rich was making another appearance in a club in center city Philly. As usual, I was going to be there. I was with my best friend and outstanding drummer, Eddie Gibbons.

Eddie and I had seen Buddy many, many times together. We always left the show shaking our head about his incredible ability to drive a band and to play things so fast and so precisely.

He was Super Human!

We sat at the bar on the left side of the stage. As was our custom, we arrived early to get a good view. This night was something really special…Buddy walked in and stopped by the bar. 

He was in a friendly mood and anyone who knew him or anything about him knew this was truly Unusual!

Well, here was my chance to tell him face-to-face about the Joe Morello/JoeMarrella story from Boston. When I did…he actually smiled…minor miracle.

When his performance was over, everyone was yelling “Can you play an encore”? In typical Buddy fashion, he answered, “I could… but I won’t.”

Yet, he turned to his left, pointed at me and actually asked what would I like to hear…???

Stunned, I yelled back “Channel One Suite.”

As Eddie and I walked out of the club, I turned to Eddie and proclaimed, “We will never see him again.”

In that brief moment, I had reflected on the events of the evening. I suddenly realized that because I chatted with Buddy, told him my Boston story, and got asked for an encore suggestion that the Buddy Rich/Joe Marrella circle was now complete!

Buddy passed away two months after that meeting.

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