Whether you choose to call Chicago’s music rock, jazz, jazz-rock, rock-jazz, or fusion, it is music that is vitally important to the evolution of American music and rock and roll. And although he left the band in 1990, it was Danny Seraphine’s musical vision that set the original version of the band CTA (now known as Chicago) on track to change the path of rock and roll. With the inclusion of a horn section, and the assimilation of everything from Varese’ to Don Ellis’s Big Band to The Rascals, Chicago altered the course of rock and roll. And at the center of it all was drumming LEGEND Danny Seraphine.
His drumming fused the swinging big band influences of Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, with the elasticity and intensity of Tony Williams and Elvin Jones. He had the swing and swagger of Papa Jo Jones and Joe Dukes, and the musicality of Grady Tate and Shelly Manne. On the rock side of things Danny combined the rock drumming perfection of Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer, the perfectly crafted parts of Ringo, and the rock and roll swagger of Dino Danelli. If this sounds like an inordinate amount of musical influence to be found in just one drummer, listen to the music and read through the drumming transcriptions. It’s all there! Then read Danny’s brand new and extensive LEGENDS interview and all of his past features in this book. He details his musical evolution, the story of Chicago, and exactly what made Chicago’s music so special.
For many drummers of a certain age, the love affair with the drums and rock and roll started with The Beatles and Ringo Starr on The Ed Sullivan Show. But for a slightly later generation of musicians, it was the intrigue and the audacity of the band Chicago. Was it jazz? Was it rock? What time signature is that? What are those horn players doing on stage with a rock band? (The band) Chicago puzzled, inspired, and excited musicians, all at the same time. But there was nothing puzzling about the music. Advertisement
It all started with those highly crafted songs: “Saturday In the Park,” “25 or 6 to 4,” and “Make Me Smile” (and yes) “Introduction.” The many different singers in the band gave us something to sing along with. The blazing guitars and soulful vocals of Terry Kath made us scream and howl. The rhythm section of Robert Lamm, Peter Cetera, and Danny Seraphine showed us where to tap our feet, and the horn section of James Pankow, Walt Parazaider, and Lee Loughlane blew us away with intricate parts that were more than just the horn stabs of traditional R&B.
Neither the band, nor Danny was an overnight success. Before forming Chicago, Seraphine slugged it out on the club scene. Eventually his hard work, dedication, and creativity was recognized, and success and fame came calling. But music always remained at the forefront of his mind. While he was enjoying the overwhelming success of a chart-topping band, Seraphine (and James William Guercio) guided the business from behind the scenes. All the while, Seraphine continued to study drums and music with some of the best teachers and musicians that music had to offer.
Like us all, his life and drumming career has had its ups and downs. But in a business that doesn’t reward loyalty, Danny has remained loyal to the music he created. But that music has gone through changes as well. Seraphine’s musical debut happened in the craziness of the 60’s. He played on some magnificent music in the 70’s (when less creative musical styles became popular.) He had BIG hits in the Big 80’s, and enjoyed success into the 90’s. The 2000’s gave him the chance to revisit his roots and plant new seeds. Today, the drummers that he has inspired are some of the music industry’s most respected and revered musicians. Advertisement
Danny brings the wisdom of a well-deserved member of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a veteran of the music business. We can all learn from a musician that has truly been there and done that. Many of his drumming peers like John Bonham and Mitch Mitchell have passed on, but the music that Seraphine creates today with his new band California Transit Authority, is as important as ever. Danny Seraphine has matured and maybe even mellowed a bit. He lives a comfortably relaxed life and is very happy. However, Danny is still pushing the boundaries of rock drumming. He continues to infuse a sense of jazz musicianship and swing with his signature style of drumming, into the style of music that he helped create. Whatever you want to call it…