Legendary Drummer Butch Miles Dead at 78

Jazz drummer and West Virginia Hall of Fame inductee Charles "Butch" Miles has died. Miles passed away at the age of 78 earlier in February, Ludwig Drums confirmed on Facebook on Feb. 3, writing that Miles "is well known for his years with the Count Basie Band and his ability to stand out on the kit behind the bandstand" and his "40-plus years as a Ludwig artist and clinician was a treasure for us all." A cause of death was not disclosed.

Born in Ironton, Ohio in 1944, Miles' musical talents were on display at a young age, the musician already playing the snare drum at 9. After majoring in music at West Virginia State University, he went on tour with the Iris Bell Trio and served as Mel Torme's drummer for just over three years. Miles was best known, however, for his tenure in the Count Basie Orchestra from 1975 to 1979. He returned for another 10-year stint from 1997 to 2007. Butch began playing with Count Bassie after both Torme and Buddy Rich suggested Miles to the orchestra.

Outside of his work with Count Bassie Orchestra, Miles also played drums for many musical legends including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dave Brubeck, Mel Torme, Lena Horne, Joe Williams, Ella Fitzgerald, Woody Herman, Clark Terry, Gerry Mulligan, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Benny Goodman, Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Zubin Mehta, Itzak Pearlman, Dick Hyman, Willie Nelson, and more, according to his biography. He also performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, the Grande Parade De Jazz in Nice, the Montreal Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival at the Hague, the Montreux and Bern Jazz Festivals in Switzerland, and the Berlin, Munich, Cologne and Stuttgart Jazz Festivals in Germany, among many others. Miles also played a Royal Command Performance for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which was televised throughout Europe, in 1976. Throughout his decades-long career, the famed drummer recorded over 100 albums and was on three Grammy-winning albums. He was also nominated numerous times for the European equivalent of the Grammys.

In addition to his discography and festival performances, Miles' career also brought him to TV screens. He appeared on CBS 60 Minutes, The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show, The Dick Cavett Show, The Mike Douglas Show, and The Jerry Lewis Telethon. He also made international appearances on radio and television stations and appeared in three motion pictures – The Australian Jazz Fest, The Last of the Blue Devil, and Crimes and Misdemeanors – as well as performed on the soundtrack of the 2003 film The Alamo.

In 2005, Miles was honored by the State of Texas Senate for his accomplishments in music, and in 2011, he was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. He also received honors from the State of West Virginia in 2013 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Conn Selmer Institute in 2016. Towards the end of his life, Miles lived near Austin, Texas with his wife Linda and served as a faculty member in jazz studies at Texas State University.