Talk of the Town
Meet D.C. aka The Edu-tainer, Music Director, Accompanist, Arranger, Composer, Guitarist, Pianist & Radio Host
From Liz Chandler, Author of Website
First off, I dedicate this to the late, great STEVE ALLEN who, along with his wonderful wife and creative partner, JAYNE MEADOWS, entreated “Dennis should be doing more… God brought him back for a reason” (from leukemia) and “You both could be doing more, creatively”. How is it pianist-Steve was “enamored” with pianist-Dennis? “Superb musicianship” And why did Steve believe he should “mentor Dennis”, “shepherd his original music” and “champion him as a composer”, “Dennis should be here in L.A. where his talents can be utilized” (Why couldn’t D.C. take S.A. up on his offer? To read more… Click on the bottom of this page… Scroll thru the Longer Bio… PLUS… Click on the right on the page titled, “THE JOURNEY” to learn more about Dennis’ near-death experience, “Go back, my son… it is not yet your time, your calling is on Earth!”)
The writing of this website is also dedicated to another late, great dynamic duo, SKIP LOESCHER and BEV NICHOLAS BRAUN. Who, you may ask? This WASHINGTON MEDIA COUPLE was perhaps well-known because Skip was a former CNN NEWS ANCHOR, FOX NEWS, etc. Bev, who retired after serving for 15 years as DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE MEDIA GALLERY FOR THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. How did it happen that these two well-respected media folks encouraged this work-in-progress-website (and in turn, that other work-in-progress called “Dennis Chandler”?) It was after he musically regaled them for three and a half hours; performing his Roots Rock ‘n’ Blues show for their high school reunion. (In fact, Bev and Dennis were classmates at Ohio’s Eastlake North.) After Dennis’ performance they exclaimed, “Why haven’t we heard of him before? You need to get some publicity going. Write up his background to help make his future. Get folks to find out what he can do. So he will get new work (writing). Get on the web, Liz!” I am … and it’s all thanks to these sorely missed media-types.
Lastly, my writing is also dedicated to the late, lamented Cleveland journalist MARY STRASSMEYER. Her CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER COLUMN called “MARY, MARY” started all this. For calling this scribbling spy’s items, “the best”… much thanks, “Dear Strassy”. For ghosting of another type… much Love, “Dear Mary”. Signed, Liz Chandler
From Dorothy Fuldhiem, Cleveland’s Late, Great Diva of Commentary: More Media Musings
“Dennis, you’ve got to be Cleveland’s best kept secret, for ME not to know of you!”, said the late, great DOROTHY FULDHEIM. This remark was made when she summoned him to meet with her, after being impressed wtih some original music he had done for the television station she worked at (the ABC affiliate here, WEWS). Dorothy further exclaimed that she “wanted to be Dennis’ champion!” This world re known commentator/ interviewer/ authoress, still referred to as “THE GRAND DAME and FIRST LADY OF TELEVISION”, wanted Dennis to be the composer for a stage play that was to be made from one of her books, (“Three and a Half Husbands”). She “commissioned” him to write some songs and he did. Sadly, she never got to hear the music he did write for her. After suffering a debilitating stroke (that she never recovered from) she died. Dennis will one day record this music. When he does do “Dorothy’s music”, he will do it in loving tribute for the albeit late-in-life inspiration (to try his hand as a composer of serious music, too).
Politics Makes for Strange Musical Bedfellows or How Local Can Politics Be?
“One day Cleveland’s best kept musical secret… will be a well-known fact!”, said Miss Fannie Mae Lewis aka Cleveland Councilwoman Fannie Lewis. This comment came after Ms. Lewis, a blues aficionado herself, watched him for hours musically regale her Hough constituents … playing the blues! She repeated her remark in her introduction of him, prior to having Dennis perform live two original songs before Cleveland City Council (in their chambers at City Hall). More cajoling came when another blues aficionado, Council President Jay Westbrook, offered his witness of many a time seeing Dennis bring together all people of all ages… with music. (Like when he saw firsthand how students and teachers at his very own daughters’ school came together at Dennis’ “Blues in the Schools” concert.)
About his song titled “Fences”. It was one of the two original songs Dennis did live that day for council. Its roots run back to Hough, so to speak. He began writing it waaayy back in the ’60s, while doing duty as a Guardsman during the Race Riots. His face became familiar to many Hough and Fairfax folks no doubt from his days of doing backup work with bluesmen like B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Luther Allison (among others) at landmark nightclubs like Leo’s Casino and an earlier club called “Gleason’s”.(That is where in fact, Dennis first met Miss Fannie Mae Lewis. She was the councilperson for Hough.) But, back to about the start of his song. Some of those folks in Hough recognized musician-Dennis. Things were calm then, so they began to lightheartedly chastise him for having a rifle in his hands instead of a guitar. Then everyone watched helplessly, as barriers went up between them. Hence, his idea for the song’s title, “Fences”. Today, sad-to-say, the song’s message needs to be heard more than ever. The need is to break down those barriers we create or… as his blues lyric goes, “take down those fences”.
Sooooo….Who is he?.. Where’d he come from?.. Where’s he been?.. Where’s he going?..
The answer to that last question for this multi-faceted man is: Wherever the music takes him. Whether as a solo pianist…or… as keyboardist/ guitarist or as bandleader performing with his popular “Stratophonics” band, with every booking he takes, he gets to make… all the music he loves! One can see in Dennis’ varied itinerary; his love of diversity.
For this versatile musician and arranger, it was a fun year when he was named by his peers as one of “Cleveland’s Local Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll” and had served as Music Director for the “Legends Allstar Band”, playing in support of a charity C.D. project produced by Chuck Rambaldo. For those not in the local-rock-n-roll-know… for over 30 years Rambaldo had been the owner of the legendary collectible records shoppe, Tommy Edwards Records up and until his untimely passing. Chuck Rambaldo is sorely missed by the fans of early doo-wop and rock’n’nroll music.
The first song Dennis gave, was for Vol. 1 of the Local Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll and is titled “Can You Feel It (That Rock ‘n’ Roll)”. Aka “The First Rock Hall Song” it was recorded by his Stratophonics band, back in ’84. (That band served as houseband for Malrite Communication’s oldies station in Cleveland, WHK Radio up and until the switch to an all talk format.) Learn more about how it was used for The Media Petition Drive and for The USA Today Phone Poll Drive, helping to earn accolades like the following from Malrite CEO and rock hall board member, Milt Maltz, “Dennis and his band are responsible for over 200,000 of the 600,000 petition signatures”. (Read the saga of this song… Click on “Rock Hall Song” sidebar on the right.)
The second song Dennis donated for the “Local Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll” landed on Vol. 2. It was a song done by another band of his that also served as a radio station houseband (back in the ’60s). “Plymouth Rock” was the song that was recorded by The Pilgrims while they were houseband for legendary CKLW the Detroit / Windsor region radio powerhouse. Read more about band members bassist Pete Dragas, drummer Ron Harkai and how an untimely draft notice was served on guitarist Glenn Schwartz. Thus a promised contract for The Pilgrims to be “the first white band at Motown” went unsigned. (Go to the bottom of this page and click on “Next Page” to go to Dennis’ longer, in-depth bio.)
Another original song of Dennis’ joins the others in cyberspace, too. This one is on a website promoting Cleveland musicians: esquirerecords.com Brainchild behind the website is owner and attorney (hence the title, “Esquire”) Cleveland music afficionado Hal Pollock. He recruited Dennis along with other “premiere musicians” who either came from or call Cleveland, the home of Rock ‘n’ Roll, their home, too. Dennis’ song that Hal has on his site is an appropriately titled one for the lost-musicians-section. It’s called “Where Are They Now?”
One reason that “Pianist DC”is also called “Music Director DC” and sometimes called, “The Steve Allen of Cleveland” or “Cleveland’s Paul Shaffer” may have to do with his being “on call” to many of Cleveland’s media. Talk about local legends… beloved media personality/ meteorologist Dick Goddard. Plus he was the musical director for the late popular talk-show-pioneer, Bill “Smoochie” Gordon. Other former TV face-timers from shows like the pioneering talkshow, The Morning Exchange, often have him musically help them out or… is it “on”, like in “on key”, (what with Dennis’ perfect pitch).
Speaking of local media legend Dick Goddard. He asked accompanist-Dennis along with fellow Fox8er Herb Thomas, to produce and record some songs for a C.D. to benefit Harvest for Hunger, one of the charities favored by the popular “Al-Roker-of-Cleveland” meteorologist.
But, How’d This Dennis Chandler Get Such Diverse Musical Interests? Who Taught him?
For now, Dennis’ really enjoying the increased interest in Roots Rock and Blues, too. Yet it’s music he has been playing… since he started! Plus he learned the music in most part, right from many of rock’s originators… bluesmen like Bo Diddley, Lonnie Mack, Robert “Jr.” Lockwood and Bill “Honky Tonk” Doggett to name a few of his personal favorite teachers… and of course, B.B. King.
That’s how these rock pioneers, these blues legends would pass their knowledge on, teaching Dennis in the time-honored Oral Tradition. He recalls how they always made him feel welcome with invitations like, “Come and sit” at their knee, so to speak. Then the kindly, “Good, good… now play it this way”.
That’s why this multi-talented musician feels blessed to be able to share with others, what was given him so lovingly, so freely, too. For example, he really enjoyed being able to play the role of student-turned-teacher back when Riverside Academy of Music asked him to teach a Master Class. Titled “Mastering the Blues”, Dennis taught blues guitar, piano and organ.
Fulfilling, too, is when he takes the blues to school, so to speak. He enjoys going from inner city to outer suburb, teaching the children of today where their music came from, yesterday’s blues. For several years, Dennis had been doing his series of concerts called “Blues in the Schools” and should not be mistaken for a then-newcomer’s series of the same name. (Perhaps confusing at times because both and others throughout the country have been sponsored by Recording Industries of America Association and The American Federation of Musicians).
Dennis’ diverse musical background has always come to serve him well, helping him to please any audience, like those in attendance at receptions for then-president George Bush, Reverend Jesse Jackson, later then-president Bill Clinton and again for then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. At each and every one of those receptions, Dennis was most proud to be the sole musical entertainment. Plus as the only musician invited to perform, Dennis was glad his vast diverse repertoire enabled him to play requests that included the roots of rock and America’s original music, the Blues.
Soooo… For those who’d like to have more detail and answers to now-often asked questions i.e., “How’d D.C. develop such diversity?”.. versatility?.. we offer some more background…