BLACK ROCKERS UNITED MEDIA

BUDDY MILES: THE TRUTH BY CHEALSEA DAWN

INTRO | FAMILY | SHINING THROUGH TOUGH TIMES | ELECTRIC FLAG, BUDDY & JIMI | LIVING LEGACY

       

INTRODUCTION

Nicole Kali: So I'm humbled as usual that we get to connect with such special guests every #BRUTalk. This is Nicole Kali here, Black Rockers United. And Chealsea Dawn joins us today as Buddy Miles' literary manager, and dear stepdaughter.

Chealsea: Hi! How are you?

NK: Hi, Chealsea! It's good to see you, everyone's excited TO see you. How's life been? Them changes.

Chealsea: It's been a lot of change as always. That's how life goes, a lot of growth. Beat stage 3 metastatic breast cancer!

NK: Wow. Congratulations!

Chealsea: Thanks!

NK: Good, good. Wow.

Chealsea: Just dealing with that and building Buddy Miles' legacy.

NK: At the same time!

Chealsea: Yes!

NK: The power that that takes.

Chealsea: It actually gives me strength to get through it 'cause the fight...you know, life is a fight. And we're still fightin'. We're still pushing at boundaries and making sure the voice is heard.

NK: Yes! So y'all, Chealsea is a survivor on multiple fronts from cancer and just life in general, like you said because it's a journey and it's not easy [generally speaking] for any of us. There's always going to be those rough patches but I see that you're here, and you're beautiful, honey! You're kickin'!

Chealsea: Thanks.

NK: Good for you.

Chealsea: You're beautiful! It's very nice to meet you!

NK: It's nice to meet you too! This is an amazing #BRUTalk already. So I can tell that you're a very multi-faceted and talented woman. When did you first start to learn about music overall, and then Buddy's music?

Chealsea: My mother—we're from Texas, and growing up, my mother was good friends with Stevie Ray Vaughn. So the music history is there. The love of music is there.

And funny story: I joined the military at 17 and that's when she hooked up with Buddy [laughs]! So when I got out, I got to be a tour manager. And I thought that was really cool!

NK: That is fantastic, wow!

Chealsea: I thought that was the ultimate: to be able to travel and be on a tour bus, which a lot of people don't get to experience, was a huge blessing! I got to experience that and it humbled me because it...when a musician goes onstage, they give you everything. EVERYTHING they have because that's what they are.

And so it was really neat to see that, and really cool to see his influence on people, and crrossing boundaries and generations! And his music is timeless.

NK: Yeah. I would love to hear what tour manager for the Buddy Miles Express must've been like. It must've rocked, Chealsea!

Chealsea: It was cool, it was cool. Just getting out of military and being a medic helped me because when you're in a club scenario...after a few drinks, people kind of forget that you're a human being or that they are a human being at the end of the day.

So I've put a couple of people up against the wall for security and [laughs] you know, just kind of being there to help protect. And that's how I feel today. I'm still protecting! It's a nice thing. We were never rude or arrogant. Buddy always liked to interact with his fans, he kept every show intimate.

He could take it to about 100,000 and make you feel like you were sitting right next to him! So that was kind of neat.

NK: That's REALLY neat! What other insights and special glimpses did you get while you were tour manager for Buddy?

BUDDY'S FAMILY TREE

Chealsea: His compassion. A lot of people have that ego and he did but you've got to understand he was touring since he was nine years old and playing music professionally from a dad who nurtured that.

NK: Mm-hmm.

Chealsea: And a family who accepted that because he left home at 15 with a drum kit and went on tour. "Bye, Mom and Dad! I'm 15 years old and I'm gone." And he was born in 1947.

(His birthday is celebrated citywide in Omaha, NE and Austin, TX!)

NK: That's amazing, to be out on your own.

Chealsea: And he was Blackfoot Indian, and Haitian.

NK: I did not know that! He's Indigenous American, from the Caribbean as well.

Chealsea: Yes, ma'am! He is actually a descendant of a Blackfoot Indian princess, and a Haitian businessman fell in love and negotiated for his bride back then. And that's how the family started, owned their first Black-owned mortuary in Atchison, Kansas.

And...there's more to just Buddy in this story. He comes from great strength, and in that strength, he gave his musical ability. That's pretty darn cool.

NK: That's beautiful!

Chealsea: I don't feel like people appreciate that aspect of him, and that's what I wanna show.

NK: 'Cause I'm Afro-Indigenous [American, U.S. descended] as well, have passion about that ancestry because I've been talking to fellow BRU admins and people throughout my life. It's African but it's not just that. Many of us are Afro-Indigenous as well.

So we're mixing those ancestries and really speaking to power. You know, because when we play music, it's the songs of our people, and the tribes that we're from...

Chealsea: Exactly. I'm very spiritual and it's a universal sound of love. And for too long, it's been denied. On a spiritual level, I'm Cherokee, French and German. On some level, I always had a connection with the universe. To me, I always accept the individual.

There are bad people in everywhere. I mean, not to even specify anything but there's bad and good people. And on a soulful level, you gotta find the good people.

NK: Yeah.

Chealsea: And that's what we're trying to do: is reach out and say "There is still love and goodness out there".

NK: There is still love out there.

Chealsea: ...'cause all of Buddy's songs are about that!

NK: They are!

Chealsea: Reach out to people, We Got To Live Together, Them Changes, "I'm going through these changes, my mind is..." It's always continual growth. He had much love. He had much friendship. The song that he sang by Charlie Carbe, that was "I Still Love You Anyway". He sings that, your heart breaks because it's like "I love you but I know you're pushing me away".

NK: Right on, right on. Yeah...

Chealsea: And I think Buddy felt that on every level.

NK: I think he was really dealing with the growing into his identity, and understanding that a lot of people weren't going to accept him as he was, not just because he was Native American and African-American but because he was artistic. And he was making new genres and breaking new ground in many ways. People weren't going to make it easy for him.

Chealsea: Exactly.

NK: But he found a way to love and found a way to play. And that's so important.

SHINING THROUGH TOUGH TIMES

Chealsea: He shined through it all!

NK: Unreal. He played drums by nine years old and he contributed musically with his father in the jazz BeBops, right?

Chealsea: There's no recordings we can really find because they cut his part out. Little note: when he was on tour with Wilson Pickett, he was around when "Mustang Sally" was written.

We just can't prove that he had anything to participate, so I mean it's all like this [connects hands]: the history of music, where Buddy was. Buddy was involved in everybody and everything. And it was a great, big happiness.

Over the decades, I know that some of it's been put in the shadows but his music stands. And it's there for us to love.

NK: Yeah. His music, once you know that it's him? It's him. You can't really take the influence of Buddy out of music.

Chealsea: Exactly.

NK: Organically flowing conversation, I'm excited.

Chealsea: I'm excited about it too.

ELECTRIC FLAG, BUDDY MILES AND JIMI HENDRIX

NK: And I'm so proud that you get to share this history, and this ongoing musical knowledge! He's never really gonna leave us. There's always the songs and there's always the artistry that he had shared with us over the years. So Buddy's long background of groove led him to soul star Wilson Pickett like you said, and guitarist Mike Bloomfield!

And at the Monterey Pop Festival was where there was a stage for unfiltered performance, an incredible confluence between Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles. Can we hear about that origin story?

Chealsea: Well, the interesting part of that was the Electric Flag was the headliners for their day! And Jimi Hendrix was another day. So that just shows they were all friends in the same circuit. 

NK: Yeah!

Chealsea: The Electric Flag? That was their first HUGE performance, which was why Mike was so nervous. And then the group went in there with Eric Burdon and Jimi Hendrix the next day.

Buddy was just hangin' out, that's just what he liked to do after he performed and gave his all. He was there, you know, to hang out with his group, his people. Because no one really understands: once you've hit that level, how easy is it to go home? How easy is it to go to a grocery store?

NK: Right on, Chealsea.

Chealsea: That's why I think that group is so special to us. They were so young, the time period and then their natural ability to just-I mean what's the word for that?

NK: Yeah. I think about that all the time. There's no word for innovation that we have from these musicians meeting each other. It's just, it's supersonic [laughs]!

Chealsea: They enjoyed each other! They were just relaxed. I mean I was looking at pictures because it was one of the questions. And by body language alone, you can tell Jimi's relaxed and Buddy's having a good time whether he's on the drums or he's up front singing. It was natural.

And that's one of the reasons Jimi wanted Buddy, it was for his voice just to let that out there. But it's incredible because they were friends. They were friends for about a decade before the Band of Gypsys. They were friends for the entire time.

Jimi was only famous for four of those, but he was also on tour for some of those before. That's where they actually met.

NK: Wow! Oh my goodness.

Chealsea: And they supported each other, Buddy having experience, already been touring and being appreciated, and being engaged. Being told "Yes, yes, yes! You can do this" while Jimi didn't quite have that. And so the two of them, being natural friends, they leaned on each other for that. And I believe that's why they were so successful, even in the face of so much oppression.

Even today, their music stands and it shouts loud and clear as we turn up those volumes because we're the ones who are makin' 'em shout now!


☆#BRU Spotlight ☆

NK: Crank it up.

Chealsea: That's right.

NK: Crank it up for Buddy! That's right! [Laughs]

Chealsea: Electric Flag, Santana, hell, we even got the California Raisins!

NK: There you go, California Raisins, all of that. Right?

Chealsea: Well, N.W.A. can thank the California Raisins because Brian Turner used the money from Priority Records, from the sales of California Raisins and their re-release with him. And that's mainstream rap, basically. Got N.W.A. started, went on from there.

NK: Wow.

Chealsea: The incredible story of Buddy's voice.

NK: The ripple effect! Buddy Miles through music, what is it like to see? To document it as his literary manager? It must be astounding.

LIVING LEGACY

Chealsea: It's overwhelming sometimes, I'll be honest. I've hit my knees a couple of times and gone, "You did this and...[shakes head, tearful] why isn't there more?"

NK: [Sad] Yeah...

Chealsea: [Shrugs]

NK: Do you want to share more about that? I guess, why it particularly hurts you in that? Not really having his legacy be fully recognized, the way that it should?

Chealsea: Because he gave so much, and it's incredible how much the music industry, entertainment industry can dictate with someone's life. And we're seeing that. Hindsight's 20/20 and let's just say that this year has shown a lot!

In fact, his story is almost there! But you're talking about someone who would jump into a studio at any given time. I still have that [Door knocks] "Hey, I've got this tape!" [Laughs]

That's still gonna happen—where he was and who he was during those times of influence because comparing Buddy to Jimi Hendrix or Santana is apples and oranges.

NK: Yeah.

Chealsea: They worked together, not apart.

NK: Yes!

Chealsea: And a lot of people like to divide, and we like to unite.

NK: Across #BRUTalks, Chealsea, we've been speaking about how in the entertainment industry and—thank you so much for sharing that because I know that it's difficult. I respect that—definitely true.

Chealsea: That's a whole 'nother podcast: royalties! [Laughs]

NK: Yeah! Yes, see? Touching somewhat on royalties though, in the industry if you are Black especially and if you are influential in your genre, they will pit you against the people that are also influential because there's "only so much for one or three of you", right?

Chealsea: Exactly.

NK: So in that era where there was at least 10 different influential Black artists...

Chealsea: Yeah.

NK: And that's where Buddy's music, I would say, and a lot of the imprint he has left upon music was cast aside like you said.

Chealsea: Undeniable. Yes, exactly, it's undeniable. And you can go "Bing! There he is." Yeah. And that's the only thing is: they tried in the years of non-exposure, because a lot of people say "If you're not touring, then you're not famous". And that's not true about the originals. That's not true.

NK: That's not true at all.

Chealsea: You've essentially taken from them. At the end of the day no matter what, their influence is there in today's time.

NK: 100%.

Chealsea: Unfortunately a lot of people want to be the next greatest thing. But in a world of auto-tune, can there be another great thing? All these gentlemen did it before all this technology, and social media.

If you ever look at one of their tours [laughs], they're going from here to here, to here. They were never set up for great success, only confusion.


☆ #BRU Spotlight ☆

NK: Yeah.

Chealsea: I'm glad to see that at least that has been alleviated and everyone's on the same playing field. And maybe future musicians can be not as dare I say it, the mental illness that they endured, having to be at the mercy of someone else in the name of their creative soul. And that's all I'm gonna say about it.

NK: Jimi already had bipolar disorder before he became a mainstream musician, and then the industry further compounded on him already going through that. Buddy was already depressed from what I understand.

Chealsea: He was diagnosed in 2008 that he was bipolar as well. And a lot of that can be due to long-term drug use. As we know, back then you needed to wake up and you'd go to sleep.

NK: Yeah.

Chealsea: But oher than that, I mean it's like their music never suffered. I mean, that's what's incredible is no matter what they were put through, no matter what strenuous tour they were put under, degradation.

NK: I get it...

Chealsea: I mean there's some things maybe, you know, later on it will be told. They had so much to overcome, but their music still spoke of so much love. It's incredible.

NK: I listened to the song "Manic Depression" 'cause I think that's when I started realizing that I had depression? And when I heard "Them Changes" by Buddy Miles, "this is the blues". You know, they got each other's struggles! And they helped each other through them.

Chealsea: Exactly!

NK: That's one of the ways that music is therapy.

Chealsea: Oh, man, it's heavy. Sometime it's heavy but that's why we're here.

NK: Yeah! I'm here for, I'm here for it all, you know, because to only take the parts that are joyful and the happy sunshine of musicians is to not really give the full panorama of their life. You know?

Chealsea: It's not realistic. It can't be realistic, if we don't realize that part, how can we appreciate them?

NK: Yeah, and the joy that they brought to the world because to bring that joy in the face of, like you said, that pain. I mean, that's just...that's revolutionary to me. That is why their music is still here. And we still have to pay homage to it!

As the years go by and people kind of lose that connection to the history, I think the timeline should definitely honor and reflect what the pioneers like Buddy have gone through.

Chealsea: Love and laughter and get ready because next year, we're having a party!

NK: We are havin' a party, Chealsea! Yes, artistic support and maintaining community are recurring over our #BRUTalks! And beautiful legacies like Buddy Miles' grow like so. What do you think about that?

Chealsea: I love it. I love you! [Laughs]

NK: I love you too! (This really meant and taught a lot to me.) I do too.

Chealsea: Thank you so much.

NK: Yeah, you're welcome. Yeah, you matter and Buddy matters. This music, I couldn't imagine the world without it [laughs]!

Chealsea: I listened to it when I was going through radiation, actually. The doctor would put on Buddy and I heard all different kinds, you know, and it kind of helped to get me through 'cause that's when you know, you're laying there. And you're listening to it, and you're focused on it.

And you can really feel it. You can feel it. And his words are so enlightening rather than dragging you down. It was miraculous.

NK: Your stepfather saved your life.

Chealsea:  Yes, he did. I guess that's why I'm so emotional.

NK: He saved you. His music healed you, in the time that you REALLY needed it. Yeah, 'cause like, to hear it before was one thing. But then to go through that experience and have him kind of holding your hand. That's real cool.

Chealsea: After Buddy passed in 2008, my mother passed away from a heartbreak in 2013...she's in there too. But it was difficult to go through it without either of them. And so it was really helpful that he [Buddy Miles] left the gift of his music. And that's what it is, it's healing! I think a generation can heal if they just let themselves heal too, 'cause we're all in this together.

NK: We are, Chealsea. We really are.

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