Ron Bushy, Iron Butterfly Drummer, Dies at 79

by Matthew Memrick

Iron Butterfly drummer Ron Bushy, known for his iconic drum solo on 17-minute-long “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” died on Sunday after a reported battle with cancer.

The band announced Bushy’s death on Facebook as the drummer “peacefully” passed away at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital.

TMZ reported that the 79-year-old was “battling some form of cancer.”

Iron Butterfly’s Hit Owes It To Bushy

Bushy joined the band in 1966 and played on all six of their albums. He was best known for his drum solo on the 1969 hit “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” It was on the band’s second studio album. 

“After our tour, we went straight into Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead (Long Island). Don Caselle was the engineer,” Bushy told Vinyl Writer about the song earlier in 2020. 

Bushy recounted that the band set up its equipment. Caselle tells them to start playing to get “some mic levels.” The band decided to do ‘Vida’ and when on to play without stopping. Afterward, Bushy said Caselle told the group to come into the control to play. The song blew them away.

Singer/keyboardist Doug Ingle was drinking and composing the psychedelic song one day. In a 99.1 FM interview, Bushy misheard the “In The Garden Of Eden” song’s title, and the band went with it. Ingle lived with Bushy, and when Bushy asked what his roommate was working on, Ingle replied, “inagaddadavida.”

Reportedly, Bushy liked it and wrote the title down so he wouldn’t forget.

Iron Butterfly Hit Once A Slow Country Ballad

In another recent It’s Psychedelic Baby magazine story, Bushy said the song started as a slow country ballad and was only a minute and a half long. 

When the band played it, they worked to keep each member’s solo contribution in the song. Other facts behind the song include Ingle’s snippet of the Christmas jingle, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman,” and guitarist Brann’s song structure. Erik Brann based it on an African tribe mass song titled “Missa Luba.”

According to Music Tales, legendary guitarist Jeff Beck auditioned for the band. He reportedly went to an early 1967 Iron Butterfly show and saw the group extend the song to 30 minutes.

Rolling Stone said other drummers like Ringo Starr took to Bushy’s playing. Bushy said Starr and Paul McCartney saw the band play at Royal Albert Hall. The drummer went on to say Starr “stole a part of your drum solo (for the Abbey Road track “The End”).

Bushy took it as a compliment from Starr

Bushy Stayed Loyal To Band 

He played on two more albums before the band broke up in 1971.

Bushy stayed true to the group, playing with Iron Butterfly again in 1974 when they regrouped for two more albums. He kept playing with the band even after the second breakup.

It’s unclear if the band will perform in Utah for three October concerts.

“He was a real fighter,” the band shared underneath a black-and-white photograph of Bushy. “He will be deeply missed!”

Bushy is survived by his wife, children, and six grandchildren.