DENNY CARMASSI born -- ----, ---- Denny Carmassi, 1997.
With a father and uncle both playing the drums, and also a brother too, some might say drumming is in Denny Carmassi's blood. Through his Dad, Denny became aware of the legendary Buddy Rich and a show drummer named Jimmy Vincent who played with Louie Prima. As a child he would practice along to his Dad's records including Ray Charles' Live at the Newport Jazz Festival album featuring the work of drummer Richard Goldberg. As a youngster he played in high school and then, as he grew older, naturally progressed onto the local club circuit playing in top 40 covers bands.

Denny's first release was with the short lived Sweet Linda Divine who went to New York and recorded an eponymous album for Columbia (1970), produced by Al Kooper. When that fizzled out he spent the next three years in one local band after another just trying to get a break. It was whilst playing one such gig in a little club in Northern California that he was spotted by Ronnie Montrose. Denny played the drums on 1973's Montrose album. There he also met with future boss Sammy Hagar and bandmate in Hagar's band Bill Church. With this line-up, he recorded the aforementioned Montrose (1973) and Paper Money (1974 - with future Night Ranger Alan Fitzgerald stepping in for Church) albums. After the split of the band, Denny joined Sammy Hagar who was launching his highly successful solo career. He remained with him until 1978 when he also recorded with The Eagles' former bass player and founder member Randy Meisner. 1979 brought about a gig with a very early incarnation of the Michael Schenker Group but he would leave after a few live dates (a London date was released on CD in Japan). In 1980 Denny hooked up with Ronnie Montrose again with the band Gamma where he took an interest in electronic drumkits (though he did not use them for the Gamma albums).

Following the departure of Michael de Rosier, Heart sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson recruited Denny for the recording of the Passionworks album (Epic, 1983). This association was brought about by Howard Leese (Heart's guitarist) whom he met whilst recording for Randy Meisner. Passionworks is interesting in that it is the first time he would use the then much sought after Simmons electronic drum kit. He loyally stayed with Heart for the best part of 10 years recording, amongst others,  their most successful albums Heart (Capitol 1985) and Bad Animals (Capitol 1987). During his stint with Heart, Carmassi continued his session work including the Cinderella album Long Cold Winter in 1988 (sharing drum duties with another former 'Snake Cozy Powell).

Following the release of the album Desire Walks On (Capitol 1993), Denny left Heart. Of his time with the Wilson sisters he says he enjoyed all the pleasures of being in a close-knit family - as well as all the difficulties. He would later hint that various member's excesses had lead to a breakdown in band relations, dismissing the Wilson sisters' claims that they were forced to look a certain way and use songwriter's songs. Indeed, he revealed that the only thing dictated by the record label (Capitol) was that they produce good songs...

It was in 1987 that Carmassi first got involved with David Coverdale for the re-recorded US remix version of Here I Go Again. In 1993, he toured and recorded with Coverdale/Page before being hired by DC for the 1994 Greatest Hits Tour. In 1995 he played with Ted Nugent but came back to Whitesnake in order to record the Restless Heart album. He performed on the Whitesnake 'farewell' tour that same year, also contributing his sticks to the Sammy Hagar release Marching To Mars (MCA).

In the January 2000 issue of Modern Drummer Denny said, "I actually met him when he was in Deep Purple and I was with Montrose. We opened up some shows for them. Then when David played with Whitesnake and I was with Heart, we had the same management company. Working with David has been great. We started a record about a year ago (1999) and we hope to have it out in Europe and Japan next year (2000). He's currently seeking a US deal too."

Following Into The Light's subsequent release Denny kept a pretty low profile with only a brief live appearance touring with Foreigner (2002) and a few recordings bearing his name, the last being Bruce Turgon's solo effort Outside Looking In, 2006.

Photograph by Sam Parton.

Whitesnake (Here I Go Again US Remix), 1987.
1987 Versions (Japan only release of remixed tracks), 1987.
Coverdale Page, 1993.
Greatest Hits, 1994.
Restless Heart, 1997.
Into The Light, 2000.

This article was written by Phillip Hackney with additional information courtesy of Laurent Biehly.

Copyright © 2008 P Hackney.