Bernard “Pretty” Purdie was commonly known by his nickname “Mississippi Bigfoot.” This made many to think that perhaps he came from Mississippi.
However, this prolific studio drum player was born and grew up in Mary Land. Later, he moved to New York in the early 60s, where his interesting drumming was fueled. At first, he started doing sessions with Jazz performers like Nina Simone and Gabor Szabo.
They gave Bernard Purdie the motivation he needed, which would later shape his music career. He enjoyed working on projects with them because they gave him unlimited opportunities to tap into his creativity and build something that would be remembered years to come.
However, this was not really where he got the interest to play. He had already trained and drummed in earlier years, which helped him lay the background for what would come later in later years.
He once said when interviewed by the Rolling Stone reporters, “my interest in drum started way before when I was still a little kid. I always played with drums, and my friends even gifted me a set in one of my birthdays.” It seems he was always thrilled with how jazz music was played and sound, which encouraged him to pursue this genre.
Purdie is widely known for his signature hi-hat “ghost notes.” He had a unique way of playing hi-hats that no one else could emulate. Many drummers that came after him could not really understand how he was able to deliver incredible sounds with a focus on the hi-hat, unlike the traditional snare-centered drumming.
This was just his own way of contributing to the industry, with which he hoped to leave a mark. And he was successful; he was soon marked as one of the most sort-after drummers in the industry.
Purdie was highly recognized for his work, which made him serve as Aretha Franklin’s musical director for many years whenever he found time from the studio. And when he was recording, he would be working with the likes Steely Dan, Mongo Santamaria, and Bob Marley.
Working with such big names meant Purdie had extraordinary skills in recognizing different music styles. It was his enthusiasm and love for the studio that marked his name in the industry.
There is a long list of artists who went through his hands and who were able to impress the world with top-notch productions.
However, it is not even about who Purdie played with; today, it is about who hasn’t. This is because every great musician on the market seems to have worked with the drummer. It is easier, therefore, to count those he hasn’t worked with, than those he has.
When Steely Dan’s Walter Becker Stoke about Purdie, he was quick to mention the unique stylistic things that Purdie did for every project. It was never easy for him to use the same tricks in one performance as the other. And this is the reason many artistes trusted him – it was his reliability to deliver unique content.