Why Dusty Springfield Allegedly Slapped Buddy Rich

When two outspoken, temperamental performers share the same stage, things are bound to get emotional. And that's exactly what happened when jazz drumming legend Buddy Rich and soul and pop singing icon Dusty Springfield played a residency together in New York City at the Basin Street East club in 1966 (via the Daily Express). Buddy Rich is known to this day for his wild temper and his tendency to behave abusively toward his own band. Per Track Drummer, a secret recording made by one of Rich's bandmates — known in some circles as simply "The Tape" — is filled with the bandleader's ridiculously profane and insulting rants directed at the rest of the band after a set and while riding a tour bus. Rich expected perfection from the people he played with, and when they didn't live up to his outsized demands, he'd explode and denigrate them at the top of his lungs. The very first sentence of a 1974 article in The New York Times about Rich's karate hobby that may have helped tame his wild temper noted Rich's reputation for screaming insults, breaking furniture, throwing cymbals, and getting in fights in the very first sentence.

Dusty Springfield had her own reputation for expecting perfection from her musical collaborators and behaving in an explosive, sometimes violent manner, although it doesn't come close to that of Buddy Rich. The 2019 Daily Express article noted her penchant for throwing food, dishes, and even her famous wigs when she was upset. A former girlfriend, singer Julie Felix, recalled Springfield once hitting her in a jealous, alcohol- and drug-fueled rage. 

Dusty Springfield and Buddy Rich shared a stage

In an interview that ran in the British magazine Melody Maker in 1966 (as presented by Yesterday's Papers), Dusty Springfield described her feud with Buddy Rich during their joint residency at the Basin Street East club in New York. "Mr. Rich is a little difficult to get on with — and that's the British understatement of 1966," she explained, saying that the drummer had taken up most of the rehearsal time that was supposed to apply to the both of them. This forced her to go on stage without having rehearsed half of the songs with Rich's band, who were also backing her up during her sets. 

Springfield alleged that Rich was upset that she had received top billing over him during the residency and therefore attempted to sabotage her performances, including "telling the trumpet section not to play high notes for me and standing in front of the stage shouting during my act." Springfield claimed she offered to switch places with Rich and perform first, but Rich allegedly didn't like that idea either, complaining the band would then be too tired to perform well with him. She kept her top billing but said, "I'd rather be on before him because I never know what he is going to pull or what he will tell the audience about me — his introduction is very patronizing to say the least."

When Dusty hit Buddy

Dusty Springfield didn't speak to Melody Maker about how she came to slap Buddy Rich, but the story circulated and exists to this day with few inconsistencies. In her 1999 obituary published in The Independent, journalist Keith Altham claimed that the two performers got into an argument regarding billing and the sizes of their names on the marquee outside Basin Street East, with Rich's name appearing in larger letters than Springfield's. According to The Independent, Dusty decided to take matters into her own hands and climb a ladder up to the marquee to change it, at which point Rich called her "a name," and she "whacked him one" in response. 

According to The Telegraph, the name Rich used to describe Springfield was "a f****** broad," and it made her so angry that she responded by hitting him hard enough to make his toupee fly off. Salon told a slightly different version of the story, claiming that Springfield confronted Rich in his dressing room about his tendency to insult her during his time on stage (as alluded to in the Melody Maker interview) and his refusal to give her enough rehearsal time, which ended with the slap. Whatever preceded the physical altercation, the incident made such an impression on Buddy Rich's backing band that at the end of the residency, they presented Springfield with a gift addressed to "Slugger Springfield" — a pair of boxing gloves (via the Daily Express).