Born: February 16, 1936 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Died: March 20, 2021 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, USA
William Deppenschmidt 1936 - 2021
Buddy Deppenschmidt, renowned jazz drummer and longtime music teacher, dies at 85
He was an inspiring music teacher and noted jazz drummer who played with, among many others, Charlie Byrd and Billy Butterfield.
Mr. Deppenschmidt studied with drummer Joe Morello of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and led his own band, Jazz Renaissance.Courtesy of the family
by Gary Miles
Published Mar 30, 2021
Buddy Deppenschmidt, 85, of Ottsville, Bucks County, a celebrated jazz drummer known for his smooth brushes and a natural-born music teacher, died Saturday, March 20, of complications due to dementia at Harborview Rehabilitation and Care Center in Doylestown.
One of two drummers on the only jazz album ever to hit No. 1 on the Billboard magazine pop chart, Mr. Deppenschmidt was born in Philadelphia, and played and taught his passionate brand of jazz in Upper Bucks County, central New Jersey, and thereabouts for more than 60 years.
He played jazz in the 1950s and ’60s with guitarist Charlie Byrd, and trumpeter Billy Butterfield. He studied with drummer Joe Morello of the Dave Brubeck Quartet in the 1970s, and later played with, among many others, noted jazz pianist John Coates Jr.
He earned biographies in several music publications, and led his own band, Jazz Renaissance, into his early 70s.
Mr. Deppenschmidt encountered bossa nova — samba music combined with jazz — while on tour in Brazil in 1961, and played with Byrd and saxophonist Stan Getz on their 1962 smash-hit album, Jazz Samba. That record, one of the first to popularize bossa nova in the United States, hit No. 1 on the pop chart and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2010.
“He loved his drums,” said his daughter Allyson Cover. “He was an incredibly gifted musician and the most intelligent man I ever knew.”
As a teacher, Mr. Deppenschmidt used his attention to detail and unending charisma to inspire countless students. He hosted clinics and taught at, among other places, the Newtown School of Music. One of his main tenets was that jazz drummers should augment the other players, not overpower them.
Many of his students and friends posted online tributes, YouTube videos, and Facebook posts about his impact on them. His schedule often included 40 students per week, and he taught until 2019, even offering lessons on Skype. He also had a music store in Flemington, N.J.
He was born William Henry Deppenschmidt III in Philadelphia on Feb. 16, 1936, but he and his father were called Buddy. His father was an accomplished saxophonist, teacher, and orchestra leader known as Buddy Williams, and the young Mr. Deppenschmidt liked to lie under his father’s piano at home and listen to him play.
His parents divorced when he was 4, and he moved with his mother back to her hometown of Richmond, Va. He started drumming in the fifth grade and by 17 was touring the country with several bands and working the local jazz scene. He played with Byrd and other musicians in Washington, then moved to New Hope in 1964.
A tireless performer, Mr. Deppenschmidt spent many nights, weekends, and holidays on stage. He played regularly at, among other places, the Union Hotel in Flemington and the Deer Head Inn in the Pocono Mountains.
He was married to Charlotte Gravatt for 18 years, and they had two daughters, Cover and Laura Thomasson. They divorced in 1977. He married and divorced Jean Apple in the 1980s. She died earlier.
Mr Deppenschmidt was an expert with the brushes on the drums.
Mr Deppenschmidt was an expert with the brushes on the drums.Courtesy of the family
When he was home, Mr. Deppenschmidt took his daughters on walks in the woods and taught them the names of the trees, plants, and flowers.
“He knew so much about so many things,” Cover said. “He was a natural teacher and poured himself into it.”
Mr. Deppenschmidt was a yo-yo champion as a boy, and a third-place finisher in a Mr. Richmond bodybuilding contest as a young man. He could identify all kinds of guns, liked to carve spoons and other objects out of wood scraps, and had a wicked sense of humor.
He could recall details of many of his performances, and, when traveling with others, would often say, “I played there.”
“He changed jazz history,” said longtime friend Marjorie Danciger. “He was a true artist in every sense of the word.”
In addition to his former wife and daughters, Mr. Deppenschmidt is survived by four brothers, a sister, three grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, and other relatives.
A service is to be held later.
Mr. Deppenschmidt continued to perform into his early 70s.
Correction: This article was edited to remove that Mr. Deppenschmidt played with Dave Brubeck.