Influential Bossa Nova Drummer Passes in Doylestown, Silencing His Rhythm of Life

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Image via Peabody Conservatory
Deppenschmidt behind the drums of the Charlie Byrd Trio

One of the many pop culture phenoms of the Mad Men 1960s was the bossa nova, a swaying, sultry dance step whose sexy-cool syncopated beat brought a little samba to suburban sensibilities. At the vanguard of that musical movement was the Charlie Byrd Trio, whose drummer, Buddy Deppenschmidt, passed away recently in Doylestown. He was 85 and succumbed to complications from COVID-19, reports radio station WBGO from Newark. 

With bassist Keter Betts, Deppenschmidt anchored the rhythm section of the Charlie Byrd Trio. In early 1961 they accompanied Byrd on a three-week State Department tour of Brazil and 17 other Central and South American countries. 

In Brazil’s Bahia region, Betts and Deppenschmidt made local friends and immersed themselves in the sounds and rhythms of bossa nova — a musical journey that led directly to the February 1962 recording of Jazz Samba

It is the only jazz album to ever hit No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart. 

After Jazz Samba, Deppenschmidt put down roots in Bucks County. He became a valued and dedicated teacher, spending 40 years at Pennsylvania’s Newtown School of Music. 

“Buddy was really a phenomenal teacher, above all else,” a close friend said. “It was a mission for him. His students always loved him, and some of them did very well. He was a father figure and a mentor, and that was really important to him. He was an extremely generous person in every way.” 

More on the life and career of Buddy Deppenschmidt can be found on WBGO.org

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