Click on the above to hear Honky Tonk.
Click on the above to hear Hideaway.
DC’s Fraternity-of-a-Band Called The Stratophonics
About the band: In 1982 WHK 1420 am Radio became “The Oldies Station” in Cleveland for Malrite Communications.They asked Dennis Chandler if he and his band would serve as their Houseband in support of their oldies format. It was Dennis’ suggestion to rename his band aka Dennis Chandler Band aka Steel… in a nod to the station’s early “Reverberating sound“, introduced in 1959 as “Stratophonic sound“.
Dennis’ renaissance wasn’t really new in 1982. History was repeating itself. Another group of his The Pilgrims served as a radio station houseband, too. It was years earlier (1964) when guitar virtuoso Glenn Schwartz, drummer Ron Harkai, bassist Pete Dragas and bandleader Dennis Chandler (on keyboards and guitar) got to work for the Detroit-Windsor regional radio powerhouse… the legendary CKLW. Program Director Dave Shaffer had the very young band backing live performances of artists such… The Isley Brothers, The Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Ronnie & The Daytonas, Freddie Cannon, Del Shannon, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Dobie Gray, Little Eva, Gary & U.S. Bonds, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, to name just a few. Playing around the Detroit-Windsor area in those days, made that scene Dennis’ Music Graduate School. It earned him an early Doctorate in Diversity, too, so to speak.
But, back to when Dennis Chandler left Detroit to return home to Cleveland. Becoming such a strong backup brought him lots of work (or shall we say play) with artists as diverse as… Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Vee, Fabian, The Cadillacs, The Coasters, The Crests, The Drifters, the Jive Five, Jan & Dean, The Rivingtons. He also got to play in Tom King & The Starfires later The Outsiders and then the early James Gang. His band sometimes known as the Dennis Chandler Band aka Steel aka The Stratophonics got gigs backing… Leslie Gore, Lou Christie, The Brooklyn Bridge, Vito & The Salutations, The Secrets and The Regents, to name just a few.
Ability to “stand and deliver“ playing back of so many diverse acts brought Dennis that earned invitation from Malrite CEO Milt Maltz to become WHK Radio‘s Houseband. In turn, bandleader Dennis was delighted to be reunited with some of his early rock ‘n’ roll teachers. By the way, in musical support of promotional events he and his band helped collect over 200,000 of the 600,000 petition signatures for the all-media campaign to “Bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum to Cleveland“. (Click on the page titled “Rock Hall Song” to learn more.)
Those radio station gigs also reunited him with some of his very favorite musical mentors i.e, rock pioneers Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Lonnie Mack. Speaking of the legendary songwriter-singer-guitarist Chuck Berry… it was at the station’s “Moondog Coronation Ball” (after The Stratophonics opened and then backed up Berry)… that Chuck Berry told the audience, “Dennis is my favorite piano white piano player“.
Why Dennis Chandler was dubbed “The Ed-U-tainer“: The term is rooted in a philosophy much like the late Marvin Hamlisch had. Marvin-the-musician was called “The Entertainer”. No doubt it was in a nod to the Scott Joplin song of the same title. That early composer’s music was championed by Hamlisch-the-producer to great success (as in numerous awards including Oscars). But… most importantly, Hamlisch helped to shine a spotlight on how the earlier composers set the stage, so to speak, for America’s original music. The example of Marvin-the-entertainer espoused the philosophy of “Ed U-Taining“… that… “One must entertain but educate, too!” Thus, Dennis was dubbed “The Ed-U-Tainer“. It is a testament to the work Marvin and other mutual friends started back in the day.
By the way, it was in 1975 that the two entertaining-types first met… when they both “played the Palace” (the one in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square). There was Dennis Chandler opening for Marvin Hamlisch, sort of. The setting? The run down theatre just prior to Marvin performing a benefit concert there. (Hamlisch helped raise funds to further the restoration of the Palace). So, what did the two teachers talk about?.. Which vaudevillians must have treaded those boards when they came to town?.. And what performers must have had to play “Uptown at East 1-0-5” while doin’ the Chitlin’ Circuit ?.. Talk ’bout the Blues…
To this day, Dennis still shares that deep feeling about the Blues. It’s in whatever his band does musically and at all gigs, big or small. It pleases him that the living-room-learning-format utilized to give a little history behind those hits from the past… goes over so well with audiences of all ages. Again, why Dennis was dubbed “The Ed-U-tainer“.
Speaking of “Ed-U-Taining”… a few years back in the ’80s/’90s, Dennis had done his brand of a “Blues in the Schools” concert/lecture series. Their “tour” took them from inner-city to outer-suburb, teaching children where the music of today came from… yesterday’s blues. That’s how he got to pass the music on. Music, Dennis was taught in most part, firsthand by the bluesmasters themselves.
How they taught him was through their time-honored Oral Tradition. Those bluesmen would invite Dennis to “Come, sit, learn” at their knee, so to speak. Albeit his baptism-by-fire, he holds precious the many memories that included lessons hard-learned but always lovingly taught, “Good, good… now try it this way”. Great respect was earned for America’s original music… and for the musicians who made the music… and for those who shared the music with him… Muddy Waters, Luther Allison, Albert King, James Cotton, Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim, Mike Bloomfield, Charles Musselwhite, Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Bill “Honky Tonk” Doggett, Robert “Jr.” Lockwood and of course, we’d be remiss to not list Dennis’ “second father”, B.B. King. Why was he more than a teacher? B.B. called Dennis, “A fabulous musician. I call him my adopted son ’cause I like to think I raised him”. And for over 50 years he did. Rest in Paradise, dear Poppa B.B. (To learn about Dennis being dubbed by B.B., “Lucille’s Godfather” … Click on the page titled “B.B.King – Lucille“.)
In closing… What a blessing it has been playing so many special events associated with Roots Rock and Blues. It has also enabled many of the original bandmembers to return to their love of making music. So… Let them “Ed-U-Tain” you.
Liz Chandler, Web Writer email: firstname.lastname@example.org