Happy Birthday Bernard Purdie

June 11, 1939

Funky Grooves

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Drummer Bernard Lee “Pretty” Purdie was born on June 11, 1939, in Elkton, Maryland.

He was the last of eleven children. By the age of six, he was fascinated with rhythms, banging out beats on improvised instruments.

A favorite of James Brown and Aretha Franklin, Purdie has released over twenty albums as a leader/co-leader and has appeared on a countless number of recording sessions.

An innovative funk drummer, Bernard Purdie learned the rudiments of percussion by listening in on lessons given by Leonard Heywood, who played on cans, as a boy in Elkton, Maryland.

Among the drummers who influenced his early development were Papa Jo Jones, Joe Marshall, Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Cozy Cole, Art Blakey, and Louie Bellson.

In 1961, Purdie moved to the Big Apple where he played with saxophonist Buddy Lucas, who bestowed upon him the nickname “Mississippi Bigfoot.”

He went on to become a popular session player known for his precision and a particular groove which came to be known as “The Purdie Shuffle,” appearing on recordings in 1965 by James Brown.

Bernard Purdie became Aretha Franklin’s musical director in 1970, a position he held for five years, and also performed as a member of “King Curtis and the King Pins,” her opening act at the time.


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