Danny Seraphine is a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, having been inducted with the band Chicago in 2015.
This year, the esteemed drummer said, “has been all about redemption, like running a victory lap.”
What’s next for Seraphine?
“Good question,” he said. “I just want to keep making great music and give back whenever I can.”
Seraphine is in town Friday at Orleans Showroom as part of a lineup laden with Vegas entertainers for the eighth annual U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots celebrity benefit show. Tickets are $20; or bring a new, unwrapped toy to the theater or drop one off at event sponsor Cadillac of Las Vegas in exchange for a ticket. Doors are at 6:30; pre-show entertainment is 7 p.m., and the show is set for 7:30 p.m.
The lineup includes accomplished trumpeter David Perrico and members of his Pop Strings Orchestra( with a boost from Lon Bronson), Zowie Bowie, Maren Wade, Travis Cloer, Noelle Chiodo, Robert Nash, Bobby Brooks Wilson, Rockie Brown, Paul Shortino, Lily Arce, Murray Sawchuck, Lenny Windsor, Sina Foley, the Jennifer Romas Dancers and longtime Neil Diamond tribute artist Rob Garrett.
The event is co-produced by Cadillac of Las Vegas exec LJ Harness, himself an accomplished drummer. Before the actual entertainers arrive, I’ll be introducing the lot of ’em with a Top 10 list, same as last year. Party.
Seraphine is set in the middle of this lineup, driving a medley of Chicago hits. He participated in last year’s event, too, having forged a friendship with Perrico over the past couple of years. In 2014, Perrico played trumpet in Seraphine’s California Transit Authority show at the Smith Center. Seraphine is also planning to play with Pop Strings during the band’s set Thursday night at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace.
Seraphine first played Las Vegas at the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts in 1976. He was cut loose from the band in 1990, a moment that still stings, especially as the band’s 50th anniversary approaches. CNN has produced a documentary pegged to the event, “Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago,” which premieres at 5 p.m. New Year’s Day.
The documentary reopens the debate about Seraphine’s role in founding the band and his eventual ouster. As Seraphine tells it, the band’s two primary singers, Bill Champlin and Jason Scheff, thought the drummer had too much control over the band’s artistic direction.
“It was either find two new singers or a new drummer,” he said. “It’s easier to find one drummer than two singers.”
Though the CNN movie has some “great moments,” as Seraphine said, his treatment was retrospectively unflattering.
“Unfortunately, yes, they absolutely slammed me,” said Seraphine, who said that he agreed to be interviewed for the project but that his side of the story was edited away.
“We have Walter (Parazaider, the band’s great sax man) saying he started the band, when I started it. … But what really pissed me off was them saying I was fired because my playing had gotten bad, that I was out of time. B.S. It was just a lie.”
Rolling Stone magazine, which ranks Seraphine as No. 80 on the list of Top 100 rock drummers of all time, seems to agree. Seraphine was with Chicago for 23 years, recording five No. 1 albums and 21 Top 40 hits. He performed with the band at its induction into the Rock Hall last year, too, joining his former bandmates Robert Lamm, Lee Loughnane, James Pankow and Parazaider. Vocalist Peter Cetera refused to attend, after his request to sing some of the band’s classic hits (such as 25 or 6 to 4) in a lower key was rejected.
Despite the hard feelings that resurfaced after watching the CNN documentary, Seraphine said he appreciates his good fortune.
“You just have to understand how to deal when someone who was like a brother to you turns on you. You can’t dwell on it too long,” Seraphine said. “Life is not perfect. Everyone has some barbed wire they need to crawl through. But I have a great life, and I am very lucky.”
And today, whenever Danny Seraphine signs an autograph, he adds to his name “R&RHOF,” the reason for his ongoing victory lap.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section, and Fridays in Neon. He also hosts “Kats! On The Radio” Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM and appears Wednesdays at 11 a.m. with Dayna Roselli on KTNV Channel 13. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.