Bob Seeley at
83 is still America's greatest living boogie woogie pianist.
Based in Detroit, he plays boogie woogie, stride, rags and blues. His
repertoire spans piano-music from the entire 20th century, and into the 21st.
He has some great memories, and shared some of them with
He went to a party one time. When he got
there Helen Humes was there with
a few others. The party hadn't started yet, and they were playing
12" and 78" Blue Note records, Ammons and Meade's, Chicago Flyer.
Three quarters of the way through, Meade Lux Lewis comes up the walk. He was
300 pounds up to his chin. "Who's that stealing my stuff?"
That's when they became good friends.
Remembering the good times, Seeley is all smiles. He starts with one
of Meade's nice, relaxing slow blues,
You Don't Know My Mind.
He says that boogie-woogie is
a great art form. "It is a dynamic, exciting form of blues,
it's happy blues. Blues is timeless, and much of American
music has its foundation in blues."
Pete Johnson was one of the three all time boogie woogie players.
He recorded Kansas City on my Mind. Seeley met his
widow in Detroit. She was living in poverty near a church,
the minister was looking after her. She never received royalties
from her husband's work. W.C. Handy was cheated out of his
royalties by a music company, and started his own publishing company.
Seeley is pessimistic about the business of music.
He cleverly adapted Earl Hines' Boogie Woogie
on St. Louis Blues, interjecting some slow stride, then
fast stride, segueing to triple time boogie woogie, his left hand
became a blur.
Lena Horne's first movie was The Duke is Tops, and in 1942 Boogie
Woogie Dream. Seeley bought a TV and VHS, hooked it up and
played it. He had tears in his eyes. Six weeks later she died.
He played the Pete Johnson version of
Boogie, what a wicked right hand! The crowd went wild!
At one time, around WWII, boogie was the rage, with kids like
and Will Bradley.
He followed with Freddie's theme
He said he played some spirituals in a temple - the Rabbi said it was
OK. He's not a regular "church-goer", but in Detroit black
churches the music is great - everything is rhythm.
Closer Walk With Jesus. He started in stride, strong left hand
bass moving to boogie woogie, with a driving right hand. Back and
forth, boogie to stride, the crowd clapping in sync. You never heard
Closer Walk played like this!
He knew Eubie Blake. Eubie would sleep all day and play piano
all night. They met on Johnny Carson when he was 95.
A pretty lady walked across the room, and Eubie's eyes followed.
He said "Damn, I wish I was 90 again!" Eubie had a hard driving
boogie called Eubie's Boogie.
Seeley is affable and comfortably mixes with his fans.
They were shouting out many requests. He put them into a
medley, Summertime, It Ain't Necessarily So, I Got Rhythm.
He enjoys going to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, especially
to the Gospel tent. He starts
Grace with much reverence, some slow stride, then a little bit faster,
and faster, alternating with dynamic boogie woogie.
Outrageous! "I was almost kicked out playing this
Seeley always plays at this Festival's Sunday Service.
Last year he had both piano and a tambourine strapped to his leg, but he forgot to bring
so the service this year was a bit more subdued. At the close, Janie
Campedelli and the band went into When The Saints Go Marching
In. That's Seeley's cue to stir up the Marching Parasols.