Ex-Wings drummer Denny Seiwell on leaving rock for jazz: ‘I’m just having more fun’

The upcoming reissue of Paul McCartney’s second solo effort Ram had us thinking about drummer Denny Seiwell, who joined McCartney’s band for that project then became a cornerstone of the original lineup of Wings.

Seiwell, you might recall, was serving as the house drummer at the legendary Half Note jazz club in New York City when McCartney called to audition him for the Ram sessions. He would play an integral role as part of Wings on 1971’s Wild Life and 1973’s Red Rose Speedway — a period that included the hit singles “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” “My Love” and “Live and Let Die,” along with three tours.

“Working with Paul, we had such a good working experience and an artistic endeavor that he asked me to come — to leave my position as a sessions drummer in New York — and move to England and form the band Wings with him. And we put Wings together,” Seiwell tells John J. Moser, of The Morning Call.

But ongoing legal difficulties as McCartney worked to extricate himself from the Beatles meant that money was tight, and a nearly penniless Seiwell eventually left on the eve of Wings’ celebrated recording Band on the Run. It was only years later, Seiwell says, that he contacted McCartney to smooth over his abrupt departure — and the former Beatle offered to compensate him as part a promised-but-never-fulfilled financial arrangement: “He did make good with all of the guys from the past,” Seiwell says. “Many, many, many years later — let’s put it that way.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Henry McCullough talks about his time with Paul McCartney and Wings, Joe Cocker and the Grease Band — and how addiction almost cost him everything.]

Seiwell went on to a successful career as a sessions drummer, working with James Brown and Billy Joel, among others. He also did TV and film work, including Disney’s “Atlantis.” These days, Seiwell has returned to his jazz roots, leading a trio featuring guitarist John Chiodini and organ player Joe Bagg. Their debut, last year’s Reckless Abandon includes several swinging updates of McCartney’s songs, including “Bip Bop,” “Dear Friend” and “Coming Up.”

“It was always a dream of mine to have an organ trio; I just liked that sound,” he tells the Morning Call. “And now that I’m retired from the mainstream recording … I’m just having more fun and I’m going back to my roots in jazz.”

The deluxe, remastered re-issue of Ram is due May 22, just in time to commemorative its 40th anniversary. Extras include a new documentary narrated by McCartney called “Ramming” about the making of the album, as well as original music videos for the songs “Heart Of The Country” and “3 Legs.”

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