Paul McCartney holds secret auditions for a drummer

Thursday, October 8, 1970
Timeline More from year 1970
Location:
43rd Street between 9th and 10th avenues, Manhattan, New York, USA

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The day after he and his family arrived in New York, Paul McCartney held secret auditions for a drummer, in anticipation of recording his new album. At the end of those auditions, he chose three drummers, including 27-year-old Denny Seiwell, but finally decided to work with Denny for all the sessions for “RAM”.

When we got to New York we started to audition musicians. I put the word out via a couple of people and some drummers came by to play. Denny Seiwell, who had been working as a session man, was the best. He’s a nice guy and we got on well, so we started the Ram sessions with him.

Paul McCartney, in Wingspan, 2002

I thought, “How do you do this? What are you going to do? Am I just going to look around the world, go to every gig and see who is great and approach a drummer and try to poach him from another band?” It didn’t seem like a good idea to me, so we hit upon the idea of doing auditions. So Linda would phone New York, and we went over, and I just held auditions and I got someone who knew the scene there, knew who the good players were, and we just got some lousy warehouse basement or something – it wasn’t even a posh rehearsal room, it was just some space. We set up a kit there – hired a kit, set it up – and then just asked people to come in, and I would kinda say, “Can you play a funky beat?” “Can you play a straight rock and roll thing?” “Can you do a reggae beat?”

Paul McCartney, in RAM archive collection, 2012

When we were in New York to do Ram, I held auditions for a drummer. It was embarrassing. I’ve never auditioned anyone before. I hired a depressing basement with a tatty drum kit in it. I’d auditioned quite a few drummers and then Denny (Seiwell) walked in. Apart from anything else, he was a lot younger than the others. Some drummers just couldn’t play in there. Denny went straight for the tom-toms and within seconds, the room began to throb. I was sold! He’s also a technically good drummer, and has a bass voice.

Paul McCartney – Interview with Disc And Music Echo, November 1971

I auditioned drummers and guitarists when I came to New York to do “Ram” [1971]. I knew I wanted to work in New York, because Linda was from New York and fancied spending some time here, and I liked the idea of working with American musicians, so I just put the word out through my office that I was in town and wanted to look at drummers. People like Bernard Purdie came along, but I was looking for a new band rather than the Blind Faith thing, so I didn’t really want heavyweights.

Denny Seiwell came along, and he was just great, the best. He had a great attitude, and we got on great; he was a real good all-arounder and he was funky, and we had a laugh.

Paul McCartney, interview for Billboard, 2001

Paul held some clandestine auditions. He and Linda found out who the happening guys in town were. They just called them in to meet them and to see what they were like as people. And he selected [guitarist David] Spinozza and me. Paul asked us to not book any dates. This is really what happened. He said, “I want your time for three weeks. Just don’t book any sessions, I’d like to hire you from nine to six daily.”

Denny Seiwell – From interview with The Morton Report, 2012

Do you think personality weighed into the selection process for Paul McCartney’s musicians?

Absolutely. We had a lot of fun during the interview process. I made him laugh a couple of times. We both seemed really comfortable with each other and he just liked my playing and my attitude. When he first hired me, he hired three drummers to do the “Ram” album and he booked each guy for a week. After the first couple of days, I was the first guy in the studio. After the first couple of days, he called the two other guys and just canceled them. He said “I’m going to use this Denny guy for the rest of the record.” We hit it off right off the bat and had a great time making that record. It was one of the highlights of my life. It is the best record that I’ve ever made of all the records I did make. “Ram” is by far the best recording.

Denny Seiwell – From interview with Classic Bands, 2013
From Paul McCartney with Linda and children. News Photo – Getty Images – UNITED STATES – OCTOBER 08: Paul McCartney with Linda and children. (Photo by James Garrett/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

Paul came to town and asked a “folky” friend of mine, guitarist Barry Kornfeld to provide him with a list of 10-12 top guys that are doing the best recordings; the “first call” players. I was on that list.

So, when Paul set up the audition, nobody knew it was audition. We got a call from our registry answering service, and they just told us that I had a demo for Barry Kornfeld.

I just had a cancellation, and I usually didn’t do demos but I had an open slot.

I got there, and it’s not a studio. It’s a brownstone way over on the west side, looking like It’s about to be renovated. What is this?!?

I go up to the lobby’s desk in this uninhabited building. This guy points me downstairs and there’s Paul and Linda sitting in a dirt floor-basement and a ratty set of drums from SIR Studios.

I say, “You’re Paul McCartney!” He say’s “Yeah, I know! We’re in town and going to record an album, so we’re looking at drummers. Do you mind playing for me? No guitar ore anything; just you. Play some rock and roll time for me.”

I went right into my Ringo bag, and he put me through the paces of a couple of different styles. We had a bunch of laughs; he could see my willingness to do whatever he needed. He liked my attitude about it all.

I then started hearing that all of the guys were getting called to do it, so I figured I’d never get it, as these other guys are great.

Three days later I get a call and it’s him! He said he wants me to do his album. I’m in shock at the time, and tell him to let me check my book!

Denny Seiwell – From DENNY SEIWELL: ON SIR PAUL’S WINGS – Jazz Weekly

Last updated on May 1, 2022

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