Buddy Harman R.I.P.

August 23, 2008 - NY TIMES - By Bill Friskics-Warren
Buddy Harman, 79, Busy Nashville Drummer, Is Dead

Buddy Harman, a prolific and influential drummer whose rhythmic 
signature can be heard on thousands of recordings by the likes of 
Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Simon and Garfunkel, died 
on Thursday at his home in Nashville. He was 79.
He had been suffering from congestive heart failure, said his daughter 
Summer Harman, who confirmed his death.

Mr. Harman played on an estimated 18,000 recordings, many of them 
major hits, in a career of more than five decades. He worked most 
sessions with the celebrated “A Team” of studio musicians who shaped 
the Nashville Sound of the 1950s and ’60s, performing on Cash’s “Ring 
of Fire,” Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” and Tammy Wynette’s “Stand 
by Your Man,” along with scores of hits by Loretta Lynn, George Jones, 
Dolly Parton, Ray Price and others.

Mr. Harman also made his mark on the pop charts, making distinctive 
contributions to records like the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love,” 
Presley’s “Little Sister,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “Boxer” (as a 
percussionist) and Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” 
He played — bass, not drums — on Ringo Starr’s 1970 country album, 
“Beaucoups of Blues.”

Versatility and imagination were among Mr. Harman’s great strengths as 
a musician. He could play everything from big-beat rock ’n’ roll, as 
demonstrated by his pile-driving 4/4 on Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty 
Woman,” to intimate cocktail jazz, as heard on his empathetic 
brushwork on Cline’s “Crazy.”

Drums were not commonly used in country music when Mr. Harman started 
working sessions in Nashville in the early 1950s. Later that decade, 
when he became the first house drummer for the Grand Ole Opry, he had 
to play behind a curtain because drums were not allowed on the show’s 
stage at the time. Before long, though, Mr. Harman had established his 
instrument as an integral voice in modern country music.

Murrey Mizell Harman Jr. was born Dec. 23, 1928, in Nashville. His 
mother, who played drums in the family band, was an early musical 
inspiration, along with jazz players like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich.

Mr. Harman began drumming while in his early teens and went on to 
perform in bands while serving in the Navy. Later, after two years of 
college in Nashville, he enrolled in the Roy Knapp School of 
Percussion in Chicago. On returning to Nashville in 1952 he played in 
the band of Carl Smith, a future member of the Country Music Hall of 
Fame, and began doing studio work. By the mid-’50s, Mr. Harman had 
become the first-call drummer for recording sessions that were being 
booked on what became known as Nashville’s Music Row.

He was less active in the studio as the 1970s gave way to the ’80s. He 
eventually resumed work at the Opry, while also serving as the 
business agent for the Nashville chapter of the American Federation of 

Besides his daughter Summer, of Mount Juliet, Tenn., Mr. Harman is 
survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Marsha Harman; his sons 
Mark, of Franklin, Tenn., and Stanley and Murrey M. III, both of 
Nashville; another daughter, Autumn, also of Nashville; six 
grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Another son, Richard, 
died in 2007.

“I just went into Dad’s room,” Summer Harman said in a telephone 
conversation in June, when her father’s health had been declining, 
“and he was playing drums in his sleep. He had a smile on his face and 
was tapping on his chest.”

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