Legendary British jazz drummer Phil Seamen was born in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire as Phillip William Seamen. He played with Ronnie Scott and Tubby Hayes with the Jazz Couriers and the Tubby Hayes' Quartet. As resident drummer at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz club, Phil Seamen played with the likes of Stan Getz and Joe Harriet. He also appeared as drummer on several 1960's British pop hits such as Cilla Blacks "Anyone Who Had a Heart". Later in his career Phil Seamen played with Ginger Baker (whom Phil Seaman had taught) and his Air Force. Phil Seamen died in 1972 as a result of heavy drink and drug use.
Throughout his career Phil Seamen played in a wide range of musical contexts. Starting off as a big band drummer firmly in the tradition of Gene Krupa, he went on to become one of Europe's foremost bebop drummers and also a key component in the free form quintet of Joe Harriott in the early 1960s.
Alongside a long running on/off musical association with Harriott, Phil Seamen played and recorded with virtually every key figure of 1950s and 1960s British jazz. Notable examples included Tubby Hayes, Stan Tracey, Ronnie Scott, Dick Morrissey, Harold McNair, Don Rendell, Victor Feldman, Dizzy Reece, Tony Coe, Tony Lee, and George Chisholm, to name but a few. Later in his career Phil Seamen worked with Alexis Korner and had a spell with Ginger Baker's Air Force, the leader of the band being one of Seamen's foremost disciples.
Having gained his reputation working with the post-war big bands of Nat Gonella, Joe Loss and Jack Parnell, Phil Seamen became possibly the most sought-after jazz drummer on the British jazz scene of the mid-50s and 60s, appearing in bands led by Vic Ash (1955-6), Victor Feldman (1955), Kenny Baker (1955-7), Ronnie Scott (1954-7), and Joe Harriott (1959).
He also played with myriad visiting American musicians, backing performers such as Johnny Griffin, Stan Getz, Eddie Gomez, Roland Kirk and Freddie Hubbard, often at Ronnie Scott's, where he was resident drummer from 1964 to 1968. He can be seen backing the great multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk in the documentary film Sound, which has been issued on DVD.
Seamen was almost as well known for his dishevelled lifestyle as for his drumming, battling both heroin addiction and alcoholism until his death. He was equally known for his sharp wit. Demonstrating his skills as a raconteur, an entire side of the LP The Phil Seamen Story was devoted to Seamen's spoken retrospective on his career.
Seaman was married to West End dancer, Leonie Franklin (who performed in shows such as The Pajama Game, Light Fantastic and The Music Man) between 1956 and 1961. They had met whilst appearing together in the show Jazz Wagon.