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Famous drummer to perform locally

  • Denny Seiwell, a Lehighton native of performed with Paul McCartney, and remains a close friend of the former Beatles member, will be playing tonight at the Carbon County Band Festival at Palmerton High School.
    Denny Seiwell, a Lehighton native of performed with Paul McCartney, and remains a close friend of the former Beatles member, will be playing tonight at the Carbon County Band Festival at Palmerton High School.
Published March 18. 2010 05:00PM

Denny Seiwell was a drummer for Paul McCartney of the Beatles, Billy Joel, and Liza Minelli, to name a few. He played in the scores for the movies "Waterworld," "Grease II," and "Vertical Limit." His drumming was included in TV shows like "Happy Days" and "Knots Landing."

He's quick to point out that the foundation of his music ability is in Lehighton, PA.

Seiwell, a graduate of Lehighton High School, was a member of the first Carbon County Band in 1961.

Tonight, the 50th anniversary performance of the Carbon County Band Festival is being observed with a concert at Palmerton Area High School at 7 p.m.

Seiwell is flying in from his home near Los Angeles to participate in the concert.

Also scheduled to attend the concert is Ralph Schoch, who was a high school classmate of Seiwell and also performed in the first county band concert. Seiwell and Schoch both joined the U.S. Navy Band after their high school graduation. The two haven't seen each other in years, but Schoch will travel from his home in Syracuse, N.Y. for tonight's event and to get together with Seiwell.

Seiwell will sit with the band to do the selection, "Concerto for Drum Set." The number will be directed by his brother, Darryl Seiwell, who was the band director at Jim Thorpe Area High School for 35 years and who also was in that first county band.

"Both my mom and dad would have been proud of us," Denny said of the accomplishments he and his brother achieved in the field of music.

They are the sons of the late Donald Seiwell, who died in 1973, and Fay Carrigan, who died in 1996.

In addition, Seiwell will likely play drums over a symphonic piece that was done for the film "Waterworld."

Two years ago he received the "Legend Award" at a music festival in Nova Scotia. He has fulfilled a life-long dream to play with a 110 piece symphony. He has played all over the world and was invited by Paul McCartney of the Beatles to be the permanent drummer for the Wings band.

He hasn't forgotten his roots, though.

Seiwell said the key to his success was a Lehighton resident named Charles Frohnheiser, who was the director of the Lehighton Boys Band when he was a child.

"He was so generous of his time after school," said Seiwell. "How grateful I was to learn music in Lehighton for just 50 cents a week. Frohnheiser used to let Ralph Shuck and I practice together."

Shuck played tuba and string bass.

Seiwell recalled that Frohnheiser emphasized rhythm. He said the drum class would consist of three to five students. Students would read music from a book and use an old drum stick, smacking it in rhythm on the back of a chair. "After that, I had a strong sense of rhythm," Seiwell said.

He added, "Charlie also would give us a clarinet or trumpet and we learned to play."

"All that early upbringing let me go to New York with the tools they gave me," he added of the Lehighton Boys Band.

After graduating from high school, both Seiwell and Schuch were accepted into the U.S. Navy School of Music. They were assigned to different bases.

After the Navy, Seiwell played with bands in the Poconos for awhile before going to New York City. Within a year, he earned the reputation of being one of the top 10 drummers in the city.

McCartney needed a drummer for his Wings band so he gathered those top 10 and had them audition. The former Beatle hired Seiwell for the "Rams" album.

Eventually he moved to Los Angeles where he began doing TV and movie work. He cut back on having such a hectic schedule, stating, "I'm 66 now so I'm only taking the good jobs."

Last year, he did some touring with Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

After the Palmerton performance, he will be playing at a festival in the Meadowlands where a tribute to the Beatles will occur.

In May, Seiwell will take part in the Chicago Drum Show, one of the largest such exhibitions in the world.

He's featured on the cover of the current issue of Classic Drummer magazine. There is a feature on him in the latest edition of The Edge, which is a drummer magazine.

Presently Seiwell teaches drums in Los Angeles to beginner, intermediate, and experienced drummers. One of his students is the drummer for the band Matchbox 20. "Guys like that come to me if they're not sharp on reading or want to learn something specific," he said.

Seiwell said it was through his brother that he got invited to tonight's music festival.

He said that Tom Heinick, the host director, contacted Darryl Seiwell, who in turn contacted Denny.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Denny said. "I think it's going to be a lot of fun. It's great to be coming back home for such an event."

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