Bo Diddley = Dennis’ First Guitar Teacher
Who was Bo Diddley? For the un-informed … go to …https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bo_Diddley
Who was Bo to Dennis? Listen to Den’s story in song …
An original song written & recorded by Dennis in tribute to Bo… and an American Song Festival Winner.
The Kid Who Wouldn’t Take… “No”… From The Man Who “Knows”
When as a teenager Dennis Chandler first heard Bo Diddley… little did he know that he would not only meet Bo… but also that Bo would become his first guitar teacher.
He had that certain beat. He had a unique lead-and-rhythm timing. Bo based it on that hambone rhyme… “Shave and a haircut… two bits”… Da Da Da Da Da… pause… Da Da. That sound Bo recorded on his albums… intrigued Pianist Dennis. He was already playing that syncopated style on piano. But, he wanted to learn how to play it on guitar. What did Dennis do? He went to the source… Bo… who was doing gigs in a ‘hood down near Cincinnati, Ohio. That’s where Dennis got “schooled up”, so to speak. How it happened…
It was while attending Miami University… that Dennis would steal away nightly to catch Bo’s act. The iconic Roots Rock ‘n’ Bluesman… was performing at SPATZ SHOW BAR in nearby Hamilton, Ohio. From the stage Diddley noticed this (how shall I put it)… collegiate-looking guy. DC was the only person not of color… (it was 1959). He was sitting in the audience… dead center in the front row. Student-Dennis was doing homework of another kind. He was studying Bo’s hands…
After a few nights Bo invited him backstage. Bo challenged Dennis saying, “FIGURED IT OUT YET?.. I’LL SHOW YOU BUT ONCE… LEARN IT RIGHT!” Bo found out he did NOT have a guitar of his own… so he’d loan Student-Dennis that famous “square” Gretsch guitar of his. Each and every night he had it to take back to school… for overnight practice. His room mates shared how he drove them nuts… with the noise of that hambone rhyme. “Shave and a haircut… two bits”… Da Da Da Da Da… pause… Da Da. But, once the-OCD-in-him… kicked in… he got it good. And so did the dorm. Adding to all the headiness… Bo Diddley came to Dennis’ dorm… to play an impromptu concert for over one hundred students.The year was 1959.
2017: Chuck Ruzicka passed. It’s 2023 and here is this collage in tribute to the man who brought Bo to that dorm, back in 1959. .
1979 … the collage below is from when Bo and Dennis got back together again. In the years since Spatz Showbar… Dennis learned to do Diddley… and to do him right, so to speak. He could not wait to thank his guitar teacher. He wanted to be “tested” by Bo, too.
That came about at one of the Agora nightclubs… (there were 17 of them, I believe). The club in Cleveland was the one chosen for a certain concert. Attorney Avery Friedman approached Bo to do “A Benefit for Fair Housing”. The Vice President of the Agora chain was Buddy Maver. He booked “The Dennis Chandler Band” to back Bo. How did that happen? Dennis was asked by Buddy because he knew he could do the job (of backing Bo). Who is Buddy to Den? His dear friend from their youthful days of playing together… in the group they called “The Quantrells”.
I mention them here… because Buddy is writing his own book. He says he will include stories about bandmates… Bobby Maenza (Sax), his brother-in-law Don Comella (Bass), the late John Tymkewicz (Bass) and Dennis (Guitar & Keyboards).
Back to ’bout Buddy… drummer-extraordinarie. He “Knows Bo”, (to reference that old iconic Bo Diddley advertising campaign… Google it). To be specific… Buddy knows BO’S BEAT. What’s that?.. a BACKBEAT. FYI… not all drummers can do a backbeat. Ernie Nachtigal did it the night at the Agora… much to Bo’s delight. So back to about VP Maver aka Maver-the-Maven Booker. He said he thought of DC right away as soon as he booked Bo. So, it pays to have friends in high places… in the right frame of mind… and in the right groove.
The next time was 1985 when Den and Bo got back together again. A year earlier “The Dennis Chandler Band” began serving as houseband for Malrite Communications’ Radio Station WHK. The band was renamed “The Stratophonics” (go to this website’s page with that name to learn more). The band was also advertised by the station as the “14K Stratophonics”… in support of their Oldies Music format… “14K Solid Gold”. They got to do many promotional events and concerts like the one written about below. It was at Dewey Foward’s “Peabody’s” in Cleveland’s Flats… that they opened… then backed Bo Diddley.
First read the review from ICONIC ROCK CRITIC JANE SCOTT. Then scroll down for more pics… from that fun, fun night.
1987… Another fun-filled time Den and Bo had. It happened when Bo Diddley was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame. Ceremonies for “The Class of 1987” were at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. We were tickled to be invited… to be guests of another inductee, B.B. King. Needless to say, we were thrilled when we got to watch Poppa BB honored.
Three of Dennis Chandler’s most favorite musical mentors / teachers… Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and B.B. King… were together all in one place.
At the same table … beside Bo… was another inductee, the legendary Carl Perkins. At BB’s right was another inductee, Hank Ballard (of “H.B. & The Midnighters”) and music pioneer Sam Phillips.
For the un-informed … go to …
I could go on and on. But you really had to be there. And I was. That’s me in the floral patterned dress. Bo and I were mugging for the camera… holding hands. He’s clutching his heart. But, Bo’s the one who had our hearts long before this night. What a Light.
REUNIONS GALORE… for the musical peeps pictured above. For Dennis… there were quite a few artists in the ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria… that he had worked with before. Many from his days playing around the Detroit/ Windsor area. To explain…
DENNIS’ DAYS IN DETROIT… Circa 1960s earned him an early degree in Diversity. A “University of Diversity” was what that whole Windsor/ Motown area appeared to him as, he said. A venerable campus of people… who wore coats of many different colors, so to speak. Attending to the varied musical appetites of those audiences… gave Dennis his “BAPTISM-BY-FIRE”. It’s where he was taught to “STAND AND DELIVER”. Mention was made in his website bio about being called BANDLEADER-CHANDLER.
Cleveland is originally where MUSICIAN-DENNIS and his hometown friends formed the band they called… “THE PILGRIMS”. The name was fortuitous for they seemed aptly named. Playing around … THOSE PLACES and in THOSE TIMES … in DETROIT’s MUSICAL HISTORY? It was … well, PRICELESS.
About the four band members in “The Pilgrims”: There was the virtuoso guitarist… Glenn Schwartz… with whom guitarist-Dennis loved sharing lead solos. Plus pianist-Dennis doubled on organ so any rhythm chords he added, he said, “was pure pleasure”. Why did he put it like that? The band already had a pulsating rhythm section… what with Ronald Harkai on drums and Pete Dragas on bass. Together they were able to give, what mentor BB King aka Poppa BB… often described to his “ADOPTED-SON-DENNIS” … that feeling of… “What brung ya to the dance”. It was… “Music that included … a walkin’ bass with a shufflin’ beat”.
So it was not surprising once heard … the boys in this band were asked to back up many early rock and rollers. Those gigs came about through connections via GOLDEN WORLD, HITSVILLE and MOTOWN RECORDS. Then The Pilgrims became the HOUSEBAND for the legendary powerhouse RADIO STATION “CKLW”. In support of the station’s musical format … there were many various live events and promotions. Musician-Dennis had even MORE opportunity to play for those varied and diverse audiences.
Plus pianist-Dennis became arranger and accompanist at many after-parties, too. Fond memories flood back of being at some special house parties. Two come to mind here … Hank Ballard’s house (“Hank Ballard & The Midnighters”) and also at Aretha Franklin’s. (Talk ’bout “stand and deliver”!) But, “the baptism-by-fire” of Dennis was via the originators of rock … the BLUESMASTERS themselves. Hard-learned but lovingly-taught lessons … ones that included the age-old … ORAL TRADITION. Specific sentences as in “Alrighty. Good, good. Now try it this way”. Those teachings from Dennis’ days of playing around the Detroit/ Windsor area … in the EARLY and MID 1960′s … he brought home to Cleveland. That helped him to cope with the changing SOCIAL SCENE of the LATE 1960s. (But that’s another story written on another web page).
1999… Dennis and Bo recommenced their rock ‘n’ roll friendship. It was during a reunion before Bo’s appearance at the Crooked River Jazz and Blues Fest in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It was all arranged by singer Sasha Simms. Who is she? A native Clevelander who sang backup for Wayne Newton and later… Belushi’s Blues Brother. We were introduced to her by BB King. The outgoing and personable Sasha convinced the concert promoter for the Falls’ Fest…Tony Rubino… to let her plan the surprise. He said, “yes”.
After the initial surprise… Bo is shown looking very engaged in introducing Den to band member and manager Margo Lewis. It was deeply meaningful to both Bo and Den. Why? The last time they talked was years earlier… by telephone (on our landline… there were no cell phones back then). Bed-bound…Patient-Dennis… would wait with baited breath for Bo to call. That gave Dennis something fun to look forward to. The tough circumstances? His long and lengthy convalescence from chemotherapy for LEUKEMIA – type AML. Phone calls were precious reminders… of his Life before Cancer. Once recovered from the chemos, he found his focus… mending in other ways, too, (i.e., financially). It was a long, long coming out of the woods, so to speak. Back to about the photo above. Seeing Dennis so healthy-looking was what made Bo say, “I’m very, very happy!”
BTW: Bo requested a Video of all this to be shot. He even offered his then-new video recorder to be used. Our friend fellow musician Marty Puljic stepped up and took over shooting. Adman Marty knew how to film such scenes. GOOD NEWS is that MP not only captured their conversations… but Bo’s concert, too. BAD NEWS is that Bo took the tape with him… back home to Florida. He promised to make copies for us and Marty. BTW: One of the spare tapes that Marty offered Bo to use when the concert ran past the scheduled time? It had his daughter Lauren’s recital on it. Bo said he would make good his promise… and make the dubs. That never happened. Mrs. MP was NOT pleased and we all had that no-good-deed-goes-unpunished-feeling for a long time. SAD NEWS is that Bo passed away before those promised copies were made. MORE SAD NEWS is that all items from THE ESTATE OF BO DIDDLEY… went missing. We presume so did Puljic’s tapes. Maybe Mrs. Puljic can pull some strings… as in heart strings. Then the family could see their daughter’s recital… and Bo’s fans would get to see Bo’s rockin’ concert. What JOYFUL NOISE. Perhaps an executor at the estate… might have enough empathy to start a search. Then we can again give credit where credit is due… with Diddley.
1999: On a lighter note… the next time Bo and Dennis got together was the concert at the State Theatre in Cleveland’s Playhouse Square. It was titled “At The Swing Cat’s Ball: A Tribute to Louis Jordan”. The tribute was planned by Robert Santelli, then the Director of Education at the Rock Hall of Fame & Museum.
RHFM graciously invited Dennis to attend by way of thanks for they said they “got B.B. on the playbill because of Dennis Chandler”. Well, truth be told, they had B.B. at the mere mention of Louis Jordan. Why? He was a musical mentor to the King of the Blues. But, Dennis was delighted to have helped. Headliners were Ruth Brown along with Bo Diddley, B.B. King and Robert Lockwood.. three of Dennis’ teachers.
Who was Louis Jordan? For the un-informed … go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Jordan
Shown in the below photo are Ruth Brown, Bo Diddley, B.B. King and Robert Lockwood, onstage at the Swing Cat’s Ball. They look so serious about who should start off their number… but they really were absolutely delighted to be together again. (As was Dennis!)
Who is Ruth Brown? For the un-informed… go to …https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Brown
Who was Robert Lockwood Jr.,,go to … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Lockwood_Jr.
It must be mentioned here … that back in 2010 …we got to meet two musician members of Bo Diddley’s extended family. LADY BO and her husband bass player WALLY MALONE. They were taught by Bo … firsthand. They played with him, wrote for him and recorded with him. Read about LADY BO. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0540493/bio
How Harry met Sally… err… how Dennis met Lady Bo… and Wally? It happened at the 2010 International Convention of the American Federation of Musicians held at The Riviera in Las Vegas. It was at one of those nightly after-jams held after business was done earlier in the day. What a week it was. Sadly, Lady Bo is gone … but we have the memories.
How priceless for youth-Dennis… to have learned firsthand from these very same bluesmasters… and in the manner in which they were taught… by their mentors. The time-honored Oral Tradition. What’s that? First… practicing… then playing what was shared… sitting at their knee. Student-Dennis said there was always the kindly “Good, good… now try it this way”. It is a style teacher-Dennis aka “The Ed-U-Tainer” incorporates whenever he shares the music, too.
So… join in on the chorus of another song Dennis did…
On Bo’s gravestone it is written how… Bo Diddley truly cared about people.. as you can see… Bo knows… people… And he knew us…. And we knew him… We were blessed… Bo Diddley… What a Light.
Bo passed on June 2, 2008.
Here is a link to Bo’s obituary in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/02/arts/02iht-02diddley.13403665.html?p
Liz Chandler… aka… “Mrs. Dennis”… aka… Archivist