Whether your musical tastes lean towards rock 'n roll, swing, jazz or classical, it's more than likely that you've been moved by the musical diversity of master drummer and former Lehighton native Denny Seiwell.
Seiwell is best known as the original drummer for Paul McCartney's post-Beatles band, Wings. In 1970, after the Fab Four separated, Paul and Linda McCarney released the McCartney album. In 1971, they came to New York and interviewed studio musicians for their second Album, Ram.
"I held some drum auditions," McCartney said. "Denny Seiwell was the best of those." McCartney hired Seiwell as a session musician, and later that year, he and guitarist Denny Laine joined Paul and Linda McCartney to form Wings.
Seiwell performed with Wings, later called Paul McCartney, for four years during the production of the Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway albums, and joined the group on three tours: a British tour, a 28-venue sold-out European tour, and a university tour.
The university tour was a lark with Paul McCartney driving a van loaded with the band and their wives and kids. "We'd go to a university and put on a show that night," Seiwell said, "and do it again the next day."
Denny Seiwell grew up in Lehighton. His father, drummer Donald Seiwell, played with several local bands, including Tommy Dorsey's when it was in Lansford, and with Mel Hill had a band known as the Ambassadors.
"I grew up listening to him play," Seiwell said. "When I was a baby, he would sit me in front of the TV with a pair of drumsticks, and by the end of the night I'd leave a hole in the rug from drumming." When Denny was one, his dad gave him a drum, and he pounded it so hard that he broke it the first day.
By the age of seven, Seiwell had sensed his drumming passion and began playing parades and concert band music with the Lehighton Boys Band Association. "Professor Charles Frohnheiser who ran the band," Seiwell said. "He was just amazing. He taught me a lot about music, not just about drumming." He also studied with Jack Reichard, who played with the Allentown Band. By the age of 12, Seiwell had a small dance band rehearsing at his home.
Denny's brother Darryl shared his musical enthusiasm, and for many years served as the band and choral director at Jim Thorpe High School. "He sings and plays about all the band instruments," Denny said.
With the Vietnam War draft looming, Seiwell auditioned for the U.S. Navy School of Music and was accepted. "I learned a lot of stuff that I couldn't learn in Lehighton," Seiwell said. "We did concerts, swing and big band music."
"While on tour with the Navy, I got to play with some heavy jazz guys," Seiwell said. With those references and help from an uncle, Seiwell joined the musician's union and began playing gigs in the Catskills and Poconos.
Around 1967, he was invited to do studio sessions in New York City and was soon hired to play six nights a week with Al Cohn and "Zoot" Sims at the Half Note jazz club. "I started getting TV commercials in the morning, record dates in the afternoon, and working in the club at night.
"That's when I met Paul McCartney. He came to town to record the Ram album in 1971. McCartney had asked Barry Kornfeld for a list of the better drummers in town-the guys doing the sessions. My name was on that list. He checked us all out and he liked my style, my playing, and my attitude. I got the job making the record."
After four years, Seiwell saw that the financial fallout from the Beatles' breakup was taking McCartney's focus away from music and he decided to leave Wings.
"It was the best and the worst of times," Seiwell said. "He's the most talented guy in the world that I ever worked with. We were family. We were making the best music that he's ever made."
While with Wings, Seiwell provided the drumming for the James Bond film Live and Let Die. He continued to work with film studios, often joining a 100-piece symphony orchestra contributing to film scores for Waterworld, The Postman, A Perfect Murder, Dinosaur, Atlantis, Picket Fences, Vertical Limit and over a dozen others. His TV scores include The Practice, Picket Fences, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Thirty Something, and many others.
The list of "A-list" musicians that Seiwell accompanied is a Who's Who of recording-entertainers including John Denver, Donovan, Art Garfunkel, Eartha Kitt, James Brown, Deniece Williams, Billy Joel, Janis Joplin, Liza Minnelli, and the list goes on and on.
Denny Seiwell's jazz trio is coming to the Mauch Chunk Opera House for a single performance on Friday, March 30, at 8 p.m. Seiwell will be joined on stage by keyboardist Joe Bagg, called, "A masterful organist" by the Los Angeles Times, and guitarist John Chiodini who's played with Frank Sinatra Jr., Natalie Cole, and Rosemary Clooney.
Seiwell grooves like few other drummers of his generation, or any other, for that matter. To add to the world-class musical performance, there will be insider accounts and stories on Wings-the songs and recording factoids-making this show an intimate storyteller's evening.
Seiwell describes the trio's jazz as "not too hot, not too cool, with a lot of melody, a lot of swing, and a lot of beat." A number of songs in the performance were written by Paul McCartney and were revamped by the trio into the jazz genre.
The Mauch Chunk Opera House is located at 14 W. Broadway in Jim Thorpe. For information call: (570) 325-4439, or visit: www.mauchchunkoperahouse.com .