Skip to main content

Iron Butterfly drummer Ron Bushy dead at 79

Ron Bushy posed with Iron Butterfly
(Image credit: GAB Archive/Getty Images)

Iron Butterfly drummer Ron Bushy has died at the age of 78, after a battle with oesophageal cancer.

The news was confirmed by the band, who released a statement on Facebook that said, "Ron Bushy our beloved legendary drummer of Iron Butterfly has passed away peacefully, with his wife Nancy by his side, at 12:05am on August 29th at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital. All three of his daughters were also with him. He was a real fighter. He was born Dec 23, 1941. He will be deeply missed!"

Bushy joined Iron Butterfly in 1966, and was the only musician to appear to each of the band's six albums, from 1968's Heavy to 1975's Sun And Steel. He'll be best-remembered for In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, the 17-minute classic to which he contributed a lengthy drum solo.

Last year Bushy told It's Psychedelic, Baby about the making of the song, saying, "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was written as a slow country ballad, about one and a half minutes long. I was making a pizza at the Galaxy on Sunset Blvd., where we were playing to help support the band. We lived in Laurel Canyon off of Kirkwood Drive. I came home late one night and Doug [Ingle] had been drinking a whole gallon of Red Mountain wine. I asked him what he had done, while he has been playing a slow ballad on his Vox keyboard. 

"It was hard to understand him because he was so drunk… so I wrote it down on a napkin exactly how it sounded phonetically to me… ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’. It was suppose to be In The Garden Of Eden. About a year later with a whole new line up, Erik Braunn and Lee Dorman we took it to rehearsal and started to actually put the song together. After many months and three months of opening for Jefferson Airplane the song got longer and longer, taking on a life of its own."

Bushy left the group in 1977, but rejoined the following year and continued to drum for the band on-and-off until their second break-up in 1985. Bushy was again part of the band when they reconvened in 1987, and would perform with them regularly in the years that followed, a reassuring presence in a band that featured more than 50 musicians over the course of their career.    

Although Iron Butterfly haven't released a studio album since the 1970s, they continue to play live, with Bushy's approval.   

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor of Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 35 years in music industry, online for 22. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović. Likes cats.