Bob Seeley Biography

Bob Seeley is arguably America’s greatest living boogie woogie pianist. Peter Silvester’s book on the history of boogie woogie, “A Left Hand Like God” (1988), mentions him extensively.

Detroiter Bob Seeley is a piano player like Mickey Mantle was a ball player. The 77 year-old pianist was a fixture at the piano bar at Charlie’s Crab in suburban Troy, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, where he entertained the locals and visiting dignitaries for 32 years. It isn’t just that he’s an extraordinary pianist. He’s an indomitable soul, universally hailed as possibly the greatest proponent of boogie woogie and stride alive today.

His most conspicuous influence was Meade Lux Lewis, one of the three giants of boogie woogie (along with Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson), and a great friend of Seeley’s. Bob fi rst met the maestro during a Detroit gig in the late 1940s and a longstanding friendship in the 1950s and 1960s developed, which influenced Seeley’s piano styling and has resulted in a very rhythmical form of boogie woogie. He also had a chance to chauffeur and play piano for none less than Art Tatum, who reportedly was duly impressed with the music of the relative youngster. Eubie Blake was also among Seeley’s circle of friends and mutual fans.

Well versed in classic blues, Seeley worked for a while as accompanist to Sippie Wallace, the great blues vocalist who was rediscovered in the 1980s and would eventually be nominated for a Grammy. Seeley is an all-round pianist whose interest and repertoire span piano music from the entire 20th century. It includes the music of Kern, Gershwin and Debussy as well as the standard works of ragtime, stride, blues and of course boogie woogie. Peter Silvester writes “His solos are notable for their coherence and logical progression, which propels them to a satisfying climax. Of all the contemporary pianists, Seeley reproduces the sound and spirit of Meade Lux Lewis with the most conviction and sometimes even surpasses the master” (p. 247-248).

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