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Monday, September 1, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Murray Sennett, 85; passion for drums

Seattle Times staff reporter

Music meant everything to Murray Sennett.

After his family moved to Seattle when he was 9, Sennett discovered a passion for drums. Day and night. He made a special drum out of rubber and wood that he could play when everyone else had gone to sleep, his sister, Mary Patterson of Seattle, recalled.

Sennett's music career, most of it in Seattle, spanned nearly seven decades. He died Aug. 8 at age 85.

"One of the funniest things to me was almost his entire professional career the band leader would complain that he played too loud," Patterson said. "Today, he'd be real popular."

Murray F. Sennett was born March 15, 1918, in Toronto to Harry C. and Effie H. Sennett. The second of three children, he experienced the death of his elder sister at a young age. He began to earn money as a drummer in local bands when he was 17, Patterson said.

In the late 1930s, he enrolled at the University of Washington, where he performed "Girl Scouts in Africa" solo during football-game halftimes, Patterson said.

The Depression and World War II interrupted his studies. He left college to earn money working in a federal public-works program and in 1941 entered the National Guard, Patterson said. After a few months in a USO troupe, he received a medical discharge due to chronic asthma, Patterson said, and returned to Seattle, where he completed his bachelor's degree in teaching.

Like many young musicians, he headed to Los Angeles and Las Vegas to play in their clubs. According to Mr. Sennett's family, during the 1940s he played in Los Angeles for Spike Jones and Alvino Rey, and in Las Vegas for Sophie Tucker.

During the 1950s, he returned to Seattle to play in the Seattle Symphony and at the Blue Banio and the Trianon Ballroom.

He married Louise Poush in 1951, and they had a son. The marriage didn't last, and Mr. Sennett never remarried, Patterson said.

"His music was too important to him," Patterson said. "It was first and foremost. Women don't like that too much."

When he was in his early 40s, Mr. Sennett finished a master's degree in music, which he thought was one of his most important accomplishments, Patterson said.

"He did that for the folks, I think," she said, referring to their parents. "They admired education more than dance bands."

Mr. Sennett got his first teaching job at Cleveland High School.

He was playing regularly in bands at the Latona Tavern near Green Lake and at Pioneer Square's New Orleans Creole Restaurant until he suffered a hip fracture in 2000. That put an end to his public performances.

"I feel he went downhill as much because he couldn't play anymore," Patterson said.

Besides his sister, he is survived by his only child, Murray "Mick" Sennett of Seattle; niece Elizabeth Patterson of Seattle; and nephews Walter Patterson Jr. of Puyallup and Tyler H. Patterson of Ravensdale.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or sbhatt@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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