Blues and Rock Roots – A Quick Overview

1959: Bo Diddley was Dennis’ FIRST guitar teacher. DC met BO before he met B.B. This song was composed … auto-biographically by Dennis. Contributing words were from my “Pretend Brother” Tom Schuck, Blood Brother Phil Smoluk and Hubby Dennis. Thus these International American Song Festival Awards are shown here with Tom, Phil and DC. The song is auto-biographical for Dennis. Enjoy this Tribute to Teacher-Bo … from … Student-Dennis … who you’ll hear playin’ and singin’ and …

Dancin’ To Bo Diddley

Dennis Chandler’s Rock and Blues Roots Run Deep

A little about his blues background… That pride and deep feeling for the Blues is something Dennis has, thanks in no small part, because he was a student of the Bluesmasters themselves. Bo Diddley, Lonnie Mack, B.B. King, Robert “Jr.” Lockwood,  Bill “Honky Tonk” Doggett … (to name just a few of his favorite teachers). Go to the website page that reads, INTRODUCING DENNIS CHANDLER and CLICK on the words NEXT PAGE at the bottom to get to his LONGER BIO. There you’ll learn, in detail, how they and many other Bluesmasters came to personally teach Dennis.

Where’d He Come From? All Things Feed the Mind and The Soul

“Blues must be in his blood”, is one comment often made by audience members after they hear Dennis perform. When he did the play “Spunk” at Karamu Performing Arts Theatre one summer, for six weeks he was constantly asked where did he “get so much Soul from?!” Tales like those told in that trio of fables were told by his family. First, from his late father Ted Chandler’s side of the family, came the McMillan stories. Then there were tales from Ted’s mother’s side, the McCoys. (Yes, they were related to those infamously fueding Hatfields & McCoys!) Ted, born in Little Rock, Arkansas, was raised up on soulful stories from the deep South, similar to those in “Spunk”.

Then from Dennis’ late mother Marge Weill’s side of the family came some stories, too. (Literally, for his great aunt Florence Michelson helped authored Nancy Drew and Lassie books while living not too far from Karamu. More about that on the THEATER website page.) But, some from the Weill side? Interesting tales told about travelling troubadors who came to Cleveland, often on tour to “play the Palace”. That side of Dennis’ family included distant relatives like vaudevillans Maddy and Max Weill, the Marx Brothers and the great composer, Kurt Weill. Again, CLICK on the website page that reads THEATER and learn of some interesting and (for those times) very diverse threads.

Who Is He? It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll But He Likes It!

Fun, too, are the many creative opportunities that have come since musical peers named him one of Cleveland’s Local Legends of Rock. Two publishers have asked him to write books. One, a book about music. The other, his memoirs. Dennis has also been asked to host a weekly radio show about roots rock and blues. Plus, he’s been approached about becoming an Artist-in-Residence at one of the inner-city schools, where he performs his “Blues in the Schools” concerts. Status of these potential projects? In the Arts, the answer always awaits in the wings. (Read: funding$)

In the meanwhile, being named a “legend” afforded him a chance to reprise his Paul Shaffer-like role. He led the legends All Star Band at their debut performance. Also unveiled was the C.D. titled, “Local Legends of Rock, Volume I”. It was produced by Chuck Rambaldo, owner of Tommy Edwards Records, (a collectible records shop).
About doing this project, to quote that rock lyric again, “It’s only rock ‘n’ roll but he likes it”, has another meaning here for him. As a leukemia survivor, Dennis is more than just pleased to be a part of this worthwhile project. Why? Because the proceeds go to help fight cancer. CLICK on the website page titled THE JOURNEY to learn about his victory over cancer.

Dennis has also donated use of some of his songs, not only for the first C.D., but for the rest in the planned series, too. Volume I includes Dennis and The Stratophonics doing “Can You Feel It (That Rock ‘n’ Roll)” aka the first rock hall song. With the band serving as houseband for WHK Radio, bandleader Dennis wrote the song in the early days of the rock hall campaign. That’s what helped him earn the following accolade, to quote Rock and Roll Hall of Fame board member Milt Maltz, “Chandler’s responsible for 200,000 of the 600,000 signatures for the Bring the Rock Hall to Cleveland petition drive!” To learn the whole saga of this song, CLICK on the website page titled ROCK HALL SONG.

The second song Dennis had donated to this project is on “The Local Legends of Rock, Volume II”. That has his song, “Plymouth Rock” done by the band aptly named for back then, The Pilgrims. It was back in the ’60s, that Dennis and his band got to be a part of the blues and roots rock scene in Detroit, when they served as houseband with the legendary CKLW Radio. Plus they got to serve as a studio band at Hitsville USA. That’s how Dennis played guitar on The Reflections’ hit song “Just Like Romeo & Juliet” (where he incorporated a riff Bo Diddley taught him). An untimely draft notice disbanded them and a contract for “The Pilgrims to be the first white band at Motown”, went unsigned. Again go to the LONGER BIO to learn more.

Back To The Future

For several years in the past … with sponsorship from The Recording Industries of American Association and the American Federation of Musicians, Dennis did a series of concerts in Cleveland area schools … from … inner city … to … outer suburb. He showed the students of the day … where their music came from. YESTERDAY’s BLUES. At the time of his ’80s -’90s  “Blues’n’Rockin’ Roadshow” … those lecture / concert series had been among some of the most fulfilling musical engagements, yet.    ——————-  

Then in 2014 … came an offer to come downtown … to Cleveland Local 979 of the United Steelworkers of America. Why? To try to see if he would enjoy teaching for their Continuing Education Program … aka … Institute for Career Development (ICD).

Well, DC tried it and liked it. Apparently, so did members of Local 979. Signup of students for his six classes … had exceeded even his own enthusiasm.

It’s Spring 2024 … INSTRUCTOR DENNIS is still doing his thing. He is in his ELEVETH YEAR … teaching there. Yes, by the way … it is not too far from where Dennis did his “Blues in the Schools”, back in the day. Nowadays? Guess who has brought to his … as he calls it … “little schoolroom”? Yep, some “little students” … accompanied by some of his “big students”. See, STEELWORKERS ROCK … and … so do STEELWORKER KIDS.

In closing … allow me to spin a couple of sayings … “ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL” … and …”BLOOM WHERE PLANTED”. Dennis remains determined to be “The Ed-U-Tainer” to all … BIG and SMALL. Hence he has declined offers to teach … in person … in far-reaching places. But with the INTERNET … he can ZOOM through the air to … ASIA, THE CARIBBEAN, EUROPE, etc. Teaching them again … about where the music of today came from  …YESTERDAY’S BLUES. “AMERICA’S ORIGINAL MUSIC”.  

Liz Chandler aka Mrs. Dennis aka Archivist  2024