By Jeb Wright
Dennis Dunaway went to school and hung out with this kid named Vincent Furnier. They played sports, listened to music and on one fateful day, pretended to be in a rock band during a talent show. They were called the Earwigs. After their performance, they were shocked to find that girls suddenly loved them. Over the years, Dennis and Vincent decided to take their love of music, and their love of old time horror movies and combined them, creating The Alice Cooper Group. After that, Rock and Roll would never be the same. In 1974, after massive success, Furnier, now going by the name Alice Cooper, left his band mates behind and went solo.
Dunaway, along with fellow Cooper alum Neal Smith, put together a new band called Billion Dollar Babies, but soon after things fell apart. Dunaway was disillusioned, as he was a huge part of not only the Alice Cooper Band’s music but also their revolutionary stage shows. He faded into obscurity as he watched his high school friend become a rock and roll icon.
Dunaway went through dark times, physically and mentally, until he faced his own mortality from a hospital bed. Alice Cooper fans heard of his illness and sent him letters of encouragement, which not only lifted his spirit, they may have saved his life. The encouragement and support certainly re-sparked his music career. Since that time, Dennis has returned to the stage. While he has recorded with many bands, his latest group, Blue Coupe, may just be his best since his days with Alice Cooper. They have recently released their second album, titled Million Miles More, which was funded through fan donations on the website indigogo. The band is a trio featuring Dunaway on bass and vocals and ex-Blue Oyster Cult members Joe and Albert Bouchard on vocals, guitar and drums.
In the following interview, Dunaway discusses the new album, how much he enjoys playing on stage and in the studio with New York vocalists (and icons in their own right) Tish & Snookie, and the new Blue Coupe album. We also talk about his illness and his return to music, and how Dr. John’s snake ended up putting Blue Oyster Cult on tour with Alice Cooper back in 1972. Oh yeah…we also discuss Dennis and Alice’s first band…the Earwigs.
Jeb: From the sound of it, you are having a busy weekend!
Dennis: We had a fun night last night reigning in Snookie’s birthday. We are at Snookie’s now and Cindy [Dunaway] is still asleep. We didn’t go to bed until the wee hours. Snookie and her husband, Stan, played last night and there were a lot of people there.
We’re a couple of hours north of New York City. It has been solid rain, but their house is great. It’s an old farmhouse that is fixed up very unique with a lot of old antiques and things. It is very comfortable.
Jeb: Did Snookie help produce the new Blue Coupe Millions Miles More CD?
Dennis: Well, they’re executive producers because Tish and Snookie invested in our pledge drive. Jack Douglas is also listed as executive producer. We kid them about that because we would be in the studio and they would say, “What do you want to do here?” and we would say, “I don’t know. You’re the executive producer!”
Jeb: Jack is a living legend. How was he involved otherwise?
Dennis: Jack also oversaw the mixing. Warren Huart did the hands-on part. Jack and Warren had been doing the Aerosmith album; in fact, they were tracking the new Aerosmith album while they were doing Blue Coupe. They forced us into their schedule because they wanted to do the project…Thankfully. We are very privileged to have them do that. Jack oversaw Warren’s mix. When Warren would mix something then Jack would listen to it and put his two cents in.
On the love song, “I’ll Forever Stick Around,” Jack agreed to my approach to that song, which the band was taking in a different direction. I put the brakes on that, as I didn’t think that was the right direction. Jack got a guy to do the string arrangement on the song and he agreed with me.
We had a meeting with Jack in New York City where we discussed that song and, of course, great Yoko stories. Jack also worked on Blue Oyster Cult’s iconic live album On Your Feet or On Your Knees. He engineered School’s Out and Muscle of Love with my band, Alice Cooper. We all knew each other. He also worked on Neal Smith’s album Platinum God. In fact, I worked on that album. It was Neal, Mike Marconi and myself. Mike was in the Billion Dollar Babies. The three of us did that album in the Record Plant in New York City and Jack Douglas produced it. John Lennon was in the other studio there and that’s where Jack became John’s producer.
Jeb: You have had so many paths re-connect over the past few years. Why is that?
Dennis: I think that happens in this business because you travel and you meet musicians and entertainers. When you’ve been around long enough then it seems like all of these coincidences start coming at you from all of these different directions. I love it. It is not like networking for a corporate deal. It is networking with people who are really interesting and exciting.
Jeb: The new album with Blue Coupe, Million Miles More is very solid. You are getting some success once again. FM radio and MTV are, of course, ignoring new music but you’re starting to do it with this project. What do you attribute that too?
Dennis: The three of us are all hard workers and nobody is slacking off. Joe and Albert are so prolific. I am usually the guy that people call the workaholic, but here, we have a band, that if you put us all on a racetrack, it would be a nose-to-nose-to-nose finish. We all work very hard. Because we have three guys in the band that do that—most bands have one guy that does that and then they have a few guys that don’t do anything and then they have one guy who complains and holds everything up—that is usually the formula. We’ve got three guys who are all gung ho. It helps a lot.
The musical output of Joe and Albert is amazing. It is not unusual for them to make a demo a day. I would send a song to them online and the next day I would get back two different versions of it, one from Albert and one from Joe. I would take what I liked out of all of that and combined it and send it back. It would snowball until we had several different arrangements of the songs on this album. The one that had the most arrangements on this album was “Hallow’s Grave,” the one that Alice sang. That song had a wild variety of approaches to it. There was a folksy, ballad kind of approach to a very, very wild progressive jazz thing and we ended up somewhere in the middle. I bet that song had fifteen different versions. We wrote 35 songs for the album and then whittled it down to 13. Of the 13 we still had to pick which version we wanted to do. It is that kind of output that makes it good. We just shotgun it out there and pick the cream of the crop.
Jeb: The average rocker would never be finished rearranging the songs. You actually finally get a completed version!
Dennis: We met in 1972, when bands were putting out two albums a year. We were putting out two albums a year while we were touring heavily and we were coming up with two new stage shows a year. That is the pace that we are used to. We don’t quite have the age thing on our side as much as we used to, but we are cut from that cloth.
Jeb: Tell the readers more about Tish and Snookie.
Dennis: I was just talking about this with Snookie’s father last night when Tish and Snookie sang at Snookie’s birthday party. The sisters have these voices that blend perfectly. I think that is true with siblings. Look at the Everly Brothers, The Carter Family, the Andrew Sisters, or whoever; there is that harmonic blend that has this extra magic to it.
The sisters are legendary in New York City, from the CBGB days. Everyone notable in New York City always wants Tish and Snookie to sing with them when they have a show in New York City. When they walk into a club it is like a magnet, everyone just gravitates to them; it is really magic. The blending in their voices is a sibling thing. We also have Joe and Albert, who are brothers, who blend so well that people can’t tell which one is singing on the album; sometimes it is hard for me to tell. We’ve got the two brothers and the two sisters and it creates something unique. When we have them all on stage and the monitor mix is good, then it just sends chills up my spine when I listen to them all sing.
Jeb: You’re the brother from another mother.
Dennis: I’m the spare wheel. I am somewhere there in the middle. Blue Coupe pulls it off as a trio, most of the shows we do as a trio. More and more often, as time rolls on, Tish and Snookie show up. They sang a couple of shows with us in England when we toured there. They not only sound great, they are the icing on the cake because they make the record extra good and they have tons of pizzazz on stage.
Tish has shocking pink hair and Snookie has purple and blue hair. They started the hair dye company Manic Panic. Cyndi Lauper, Rihanna and Katy Perry all use them. Most of the people you see with colorful hair are Manic Panic customers and Tish and Snookie started that company. It was originally a little hole in the wall in The Village thirty five years ago, and now they are shipping worldwide. My wife, Cindy, who did the costumes for the Alice Cooper Group, works with Manic Panic. It is all a big happy family.
Jeb: You guys are a family and I think that closeness shows in the music. It was not always that way for you.
Dennis: I had a bitter time in my life where I was very disillusioned with what I perceived as failed friendships, and a business that turned on me, and a band that abandoned me. It was mostly in my brain. I finally decided that those things were not why I started playing music. I became a recluse and I went down to my basement and wrote hundreds of songs just for the fun of it. I didn’t play out. My health actually declined. I got in such bad shape that they had to build my health up so I could undergo surgery for Crohn’s disease. I was on an IV for a month with no food. One night this one guy made popcorn at the hospital and I was ready to kill him!
I got letters from fans, we are talking snail mail, and I realized that I was creating my own misery. Hearing from the fans was a really good thing and it helped me pull through. The fans sent me their well wishes and it was a really big thing to lift my spirit. I decided that if I pulled through, I was going to get out and play and meet the fans and that is what I have been doing ever since.
Joe and Albert are the same way. We don’t care where it is…we played Lincoln Center and we played the New York City Halloween Parade to over a million people. We play opera houses in Europe and all kinds of places. We also play rock and roll clubs in Podunk-wherever…some little tiny town. We don’t care where it is; we play and we put our heart into it, and then we meet people. We enjoy people saying, “I never thought I would get to see you in this town,” and we like that, and we work hard to do that.
Jeb: Playing live is where it is in this day and age.
Dennis: A band isn’t really a band unless they are playing live.
Jeb: You funded this album through indigogo, which I donated twenty bucks! How did you decide to do that?
Dennis: There were two major differences between this album and the first one. Tish and Snookie were an afterthought on the first one. The first one was pretty much done when I brought them in and they were added to the songs. On this one, Tish and Snookie were brought in and we wrote the songs with their participation. That made a big difference.
The other difference is that the first album was done on a shoestring budget, out of pocket. This album was done with donations from the fans. They could donate a certain amount of money and get a set of bass strings that I used at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. They could get Albert’s drum sticks and a drumhead autographed or they could get an advanced copy of the CD. A lot of bands are doing this type of thing these days. It worked quite well for us because we were able to get Jack Douglas’ involvement due to this. The good thing about it is that it is direct, fan-to-artist. That can be a bad idea if the artist does not treat that respectfully, but we do. Every dime went to making the best record we could make. It spurred us on and fueled us to do the best record we could do.
We had the campaign going and usually what happens is that people hold out until they see the deadline for the pledge drive is coming to an end, then that is when they donate. Hurricane Sandy hit, and Albert’s computer went down. Joe’s computer crashed and we lost some of the most recent versions of the songs and we had to redo the songs. We had a big setback there, but we still had enough to get Jack Douglas involved. The next album we hope that those who invested will do it again, and maybe some others will see how well this turned out and deem it a worthy investment and we can do an even better record.
Jeb: The album is called Million Miles More. What is the meaning behind the title?
Dennis: I came up with that one in a barrage of names that Joe and Albert and I were throwing out. I like that method of working, as that is how my past bands have worked; I like brainstorming. I was thinking of the songs that are on the album, and I wanted to come up with something meaningful as opposed to just coming up with a catchy title.
Most of the songs are about traveling…there is a motorcycle song, a train song… most of the songs have to do with movement and we are a traveling band. No one could ever estimate the total amount of miles the three of us have traveled, and we’re still traveling… and we intend to travel more, so that is where it came from. We may have been a million miles in the past and we intend to go a million miles more.
Jeb: Now tell me how you came up with the name Blue Coupe because that is genius.
Dennis: I was thinking it would be great to come up with a name that would be self-explanatory to our history so we don’t have to explain it on a poster. I think it was Albert, who was joking, who said, “How about Blue Oyster Cooper?” We got a chuckle out of that and I said, “Wait a minute, there might be something there” and I came up with Blue Coupe. I put the ‘e’ on it so it would be spelled like a car. It also fits in with the traveling thing. It is interesting how many people don’t put that together. When we explain it to them then a light bulb goes on. It is not working as automatically as I had hoped.
We wanted to be our own entity. We’ve done two shows on the Million Miles More tour and we played 12 new songs off the album; there are only 13 on the album. We did 12 new songs in a set and we got away with it as we got a warm reception. The other show, I think we did 10 off the new album. We are evolving into Blue Coupe as a band. We never relied on our past histories, but we didn’t have enough material to do a two hour set. We are heading in the direction of cutting the umbilical cord. We will always play the hits and we will always play the deep cuts as we love doing that. People ask me why we are doing cover songs but I say, “Is it a cover song if I wrote it?”
Jeb: It is wise to do that. The hardcore fans appreciate the deep cuts.
Dennis: It is tough for any band on any level to put that many new songs in a set. The old joke is that you wait for the new song to go to pee. The songs are coming off quite well live including the love song I wrote for Cindy, “I’ll Forever Stick Around.” Joe and Albert sing background on it and Albert plays minimal drums and Joe plays the keyboard parts, and I do very minimal bass parts and do the singing. We didn’t know how it would go over in the set, but we see all of these people getting mushy and hugging their girl and we are like, “Oh good.” Every single time Cindy hears it live she has cried.
Jeb: That song is very emotional.
Dennis: Cindy and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary next year and we lived together for six years before we were married. She always has gone, “When are you going to write a love song for me” and I would say, “What’s wrong with ‘B.B. on Mars’?” Glen Buxton could never write out a birthday card because he was never happy with what he wrote. He never thought what he wrote was good enough, so he would tear it up and start over. I could never write a song that I thought was worthy until this one. This one says it from my heart, and it says it in a very simple way.
I was so nervous to play it for her the first time because I didn’t want her to not love it. Not only did Cindy cry but my daughter cried too. I was like, “Okay, good. I can write a song that makes people cry.” The great Elvis could do great love songs and the Beatles could do great love songs. AC/DC doesn’t do love songs. Most great entertainers, not that I’m putting myself in that category, are able to appeal to the girls too.
Jeb: Talk about the bonus track, “More Cowbell.”
Dennis: I am really a conceptual artist that happens to play bass guitar. I think of stage ideas. I think of lighting and I think of album covers; I’m very artistic visually. I got that concept, of course, from Joe and Albert being in this band. I thought they should write the song. I kept explaining my idea and I tried to talk them into writing that song for two years. They just couldn’t sink their teeth into it, so I finally wrote it.
We had a show in Canada on New Year’s Eve. That afternoon I told Albert, “I gave up on you guys and I wrote ‘More Cowbell.’” I played it for him on my little laptop speakers and he said, “We’ve got to record that live. We’ve got to record that live tonight, it’s New Year’s Eve.” I said, “It’s the afternoon on New Year’s Eve. Where are we going to get someone to come in with the equipment?” Albert tracked a guy down and he made it happen. He wired the room with microphones hanging down to get the audience response.
At sound check, that afternoon, I showed them the song. Joe had never heard the song. There was a guy named Gordon Lewis who is from a legendary punk band up in Canada who sits in with us a lot when we play up there. I showed them all the song and Joe and Albert immediately started rearranging it. I said, “Hold on. Do you know why bands can’t write simple songs? It’s because of what you’re doing right now. There is no way we will be able to remember all of these arrangements at two o’clock in the morning when we’ve never played this song before, especially on New Year’s Eve when everyone has had a little bubbly.” I talked them into playing it as I wrote it, and I told them we could change it later if we wanted too. We decided to do that. At two o’clock in the morning I announced to the crowd, “We are recording live right now and we need you to participate.” I told them what to do, and that is the recording. It is the first time we ever played it live. We don’t mind going out on a limb and I’ve always loved that. My past band and past glories have always been about teetering out there and taking chances. I love that about Joe and Albert.
We were on our way to stage in France at this outdoor festival, and we were tuned up and walking toward the stage. The other band was done and they were switching over the equipment. Some fan called out an obscure song called “Fallen Angel.” Blue Oyster Cult did a fast version of it and Bouchard, Dunaway & Smith did a slowed down version of it. Joe and Albert and I had never played the song together. On the way to the stage, Joe explained what arrangement we would do and the third song into the set we played the song. A fan posted a YouTube video of it and it was pretty good. We just knocked it out.
Joe and Albert have, in my opinion, photographic memories, as they remember chord changes and lyrics from thirty or forty years ago, including songs that they have not played for that long. They both give cues really well. Joe, who was the bassist of Blue Oyster Cult, is actually a guitar player. Albert and he are both multi-instrumentalists. Joe plays the rhythm parts and he plays the lead parts on the songs. He still finds time to turn my way so I can see his chord hand on a song that I don’t know. That is how we can pull it off.
As long as I can see what chord he is reaching for them I can be there. I will look at Albert and he will nod at me on the downbeat and we can pull it off. They are both music teachers. Imagine being the only student in the room with two great music teachers. That is me! I thought school was out (laughter).
Jeb: Let’s talk about a few of the songs on Million Miles More. Tell me about the opening track “Prophets, Dukes and Nomads.”
Dennis: I told you earlier about how Joe and Albert would send me versions of the songs. I got Albert’s version of this song first, so I thought he wrote this song. When we were writing down the writing credits for the song I learned that Joe wrote it. I wrote the lyrics and I was actually trying to think of Blue Oyster Cult’s style and subject matter. It didn’t look like it was going to come together until the very end. It was written a long time ago, and it had that dated sort of thing going on with it. This is a harsh way to put it, but it reminded me of Spinal Tap’s first band, you know, the flower child guys? We knew we could straighten it out and we did.
The final bass part actually came together after the song was recorded. The first bass part I did was very simplified. When we walked into the studio, we were still discussing what arrangement we were going to do. We knocked out fourteen songs in two days. My head was spinning because we had around five different arrangements of this song. So, what I originally did was very simple, then I went back when the song was over and came up with the flow. The whole general feel of Million Miles More was sort of a rebound of what we did on the first album. We are very proud of the first album, but we wanted to make this more of a rocker and more of a live feel.
You never know what song is going to turn out well in a recording situation. There are so many variables. Songs that you think will be a home-run don’t come out as good as you’d hoped, and other songs are surprises. There are a few surprises on this one and the biggest two are “Prophets, Dukes and Nomads” and “Used Car.” “Used Car” was a long and lethargic thing that was going nowhere for me. We are like rats in a maze and we just keep trying everything until we get to the cheese.
Jeb: “Hellfire Hurry” is a rocking song that features Blue Oyster Cult’s Buck Dharma on the guitar solo.
Dennis: I know that Joe and Albert work best if you give them a set of lyrics. They are both very good at taking lyrics and making music. Once in a while I will send them a set of lyrics to one of them because I know that will spark them. I sent those lyrics to Joe. I said, “I want you to do one of your pedal-to-the-metal things with this.” The next day I got the song back. A lot of the BOC sound to that song is because of Joe and Albert; that is the way they play and that is just how they sound.
Getting Buck into the mix was very exciting. They have known each other for so many years, and to be able to officially work together was great, as I think it has been something like 35 years since they had done anything with the three of them. It was around the time that the original Blue Oyster Cult got back together to do a set together. I tell Joe and Albert all the time that they need to do more things with their past people that they have worked with. I do that. The Alice Cooper Group members and I do things together and there is no reason not to. Time goes by and you don’t want it all to pass you by. You need to keep your friendships intact and restore them and whatnot. I got Alice on-board on the album too, so that may have helped. The next thing I know I hear this killer, scorching guitar solo from Buck that is just perfect---it really is just perfect.
Jeb: On “Hallow’s Grave” you have Alice guest on vocals. Was he in mind the entire time or was he an afterthought?
Dennis: I wrote the song. One day I decided that I was going to walk from Central Park to Washington Square Park in New York City. I walked down 5th Avenue and I would stop in whatever shops I found interesting, and I was just taking it all in.
The next day I was researching these things about 5th Avenue and I discovered something interesting. Washington Square Park was a burial ground. At one time Washington Square Park was beyond the city limits of New York City. They bought it as Potter’s Field which was a burial ground for indigenous people who died. When Yellow Fever broke out in New York City it became a mass burial ground in an attempt to keep the disease from spreading. To this day, what most people don’t know as they are out there playing in the park and their kids are playing with hula-hoops and whatever, is that there are twenty thousand bodies still underneath Washington Square Park. It also used to be a site for hangings. This takes the shine off the kids playing in the sunshine. This really was the inspiration for the song.
The song has a woman hanging from a tree and there are skeletons dancing around and there are all of these spirits, and Alice chose that song. I sent him a couple of songs that I thought he might be interested in and he zeroed in on that one, which it is obvious why. He did a great job on it.
I was surprised because he was being so careful recording it. He kept contacting me and asking me how I wanted this line or that phrase to go and I would tell him to do whatever he wanted. He was very adamant that he would do it exactly the way that I envisioned it. I am so proud of that song.
Jeb: This is an example of how you don’t copy the past, but you don’t deny it either.
Dennis: These things often fall into place. The song wasn’t written with Alice in mind as a lot of that song is just my dark side, which was fairly prominent in the Alice Cooper Group. As far as the songwriting goes, I wrote the lyrics and the chord changes. By traditional standards I would be the sole songwriter but Joe and Albert put so much effort into making that song happen, especially Albert. He didn’t have so much to do with the final version but without all of his efforts to get the song right the song would have never happened.
It was between my version and Albert’s version and Joe’s version, and Joe finally said, “I am going to take the best of everyone’s version and make the final version.” It is a collaborative thing and I really like working that way. I have never done a record that I have had the ‘final say’ on. I like to give and take, and I think the final thing is greater than any individual part.
Jeb: I like “Modern Love.” It was not one that jumped out at first but it is growing on me and becoming one of my favorites.
Dennis: You’re not the only one who has said that. We had a review in England who said “Modern Love (Stalking Time)” is a sleeper that grows on you. It is one of those songs where we just let it roll and didn’t think too much about things. We just played.
The song “You Like Vampires” on Tornado on the Tracks was written by John Elwood Cook, who was a next-door neighbor of Joe and Albert where they grew up in the Thousand Islands area in upstate New York. He was their next-door neighbor, and he sits on his porch and writes these great songs that no one had ever heard. Joe started doing his song on his solo records. “Modern Love” and “Used Car” are both songs written by John Elwood Cook. He does these amazing concepts which I love. He has a knack for doing a simple song that is catchy.
We decided to have this psychedelic break in it. On stage we had to figure out how to make it work. Joe and I are wireless, so during that part of the song we run into the crowd and we run outside of the club and stuff and then we come back up on stage and go back into the song. It is a fun song and it really comes off well live.
Jeb: Ross the Boss is on “Ain’t Dead” and that song rocks.
Dennis: Ross sits in with us in New York City quite often. If he is in the crowd, then we are getting him up there. He has sat in with us for a whole set before, and actually winged it on a lot of the songs and he sounded great. He is a cool guy. We have Andy Shernoff from the Dictators on the album, as he co-wrote “Supernatural Love” with Albert. So we have Andy and Ross from the Dictators.
We played one of the final official shows at CBGB’s together. We had Albert, Joe and myself on stage, and Ross played, and Ed Burns played keyboards, who is with The Dennis Dunaway Project. We played “18” and I heard this harmonica and I am looking all around to see who is playing the harmonica. It ended up being Albert who was playing it while he is playing drums.
With Ross, you just open the box and lightening comes out. Joe, Albert and I are lucky with the caliber of musicians we have been associated with over the years. Even though Blue Coupe is a trio, almost everywhere we go there is some notable musician who wants to play with us. When someone great steps up on stage, then it makes your abilities rise to the occasion. We’ve been lucky enough to always be around that type of inspiration.
Jeb: What is next for Blue Coupe?
Dennis: We are deep into this Million Miles More tour. I don’t know if we will be making it over across the pond this fall, or if we will wait until next year.
I also have a book deal now. I’m working on getting my book on the shelf after all of these years. This doesn’t affect Blue Coupe, as Joe and Albert also have a lot of musical things going on. In fact, if you ask Joe what he has going on musically, then you’d better sit down as you get tired just listening to him rattle it all off. Albert is the same way. I swear when Joe is driving his car he is also recording an album at the same time.
Jeb: Tell me more about your book.
Dennis: I started it while I was in the hospital, when I was sick as I was telling you about earlier. My daughter was always telling me, “Dad, you’re always complaining about this interview where somebody said something wrong and you’re saying they are not telling the story right. Why not just shut-up and write a book?” I was also not in very good shape in the hospital. Who can kick the bucket if they are writing a book? I had to finish it so I wouldn‘t die. It was a weird way of me setting a goal for myself so that I would have to pull out of that situation.
I wrote the book three times over. It is about The Alice Cooper Group, it mostly focuses on the early days, which to me is the real essence of the band. Again, I am really a conceptual artist who just happened to write a book. I wanted to get it right. I have Chris Hodenfield, who wrote for Rolling Stone Magazine for ten years and he wrote the cover story for the Alice Cooper Group in 1972, polishing it up with me, and it will be released on St. Martin’s Press.
The book also has the stories of meeting Joe and Albert. I met Joe and Albert in 1972. The Alice Cooper Group had become headliners and our opening act wasn’t working out. It was Dr. John, and three gigs into the tour Dr. John starts using a snake in his set. We were like, “Hey, we use a snake, you can’t use a snake.” He said, “I was using the snake a long time before you ever did.” We were like, “You were not using a snake at the beginning of the tour. We have used the snake the whole tour. Stop using the snake.” He kept using the snake. We said, “If you use the snake one more time then you’re off the tour.” He did, so we had to replace him.
We played this festival in North Carolina and it was a beautiful day. Alice and I… I think Neal was with us too. We were walking around the crowd and this band sets up with this giant backdrop with this symbol on it and they started playing, and I was like “Wow, these guys are good. We should let them open for us” and that is how we met. We did quite a few shows together on the Billion Dollar Babies tour. We became friends with the whole band. I managed to be more in touch with Joe and Albert because we lived in the tri-state area.
One day I was on the train to New York City, and Joe is sitting there. We found out we only lived a couple of miles from each other. We would just get together and jam or go to each other’s parties and just play music. One day we decided that we needed to put some of this music out as we were doing some good stuff and no one had ever heard it.
Albert had a gig and the guy wanted two sets, so Albert got the three of us together. Without rehearsals we played two sets and the owner begged us to play more. We didn’t tell him that we hadn’t rehearsed or even played together in front of people before that night. He offered a big chunk of money for us to do a third set. We even ended up doing Grateful Dead songs and the place went wild. We decided to make it official and make it a band.
Jeb: I can’t let you go without one more…tell me about your first ‘band’ the Earwigs. You played at your high school in a Talent Show.
Dennis: It was sponsored by the Cortez High Lettermen's Club. John Speer, Vince and I were members of Track and Cross Country. A fellow Letterman, Phil Wheeler, played a snare drum but insisted he wasn't in the Earwigs. He wasn't as desperate to impress the girls. We got a non-athlete, Glen Buxton because he actually played guitar. Speer & I faked guitar and Vince faked ukulele. We opened with "Foot Stompin'" then "Please, Please Me" with long distance running lyrics. “Last night I ran 4 laps for my coach.” Then more Track lyrics on "I'll Beat You, Yeah, Yeah. Yeah" and "Do You Love Me." We were a big hit on campus.
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