Dennis James – 40 Year Veteran Guitar Player
1964 to 2010 timeline and bio supplied by the Dennis James camp, with many thanks.
Originally from Perth, Australia, Dennis currently lives (and plays) in Pittsburgh PA.
Dennis James, along with Dave Hole, was probably the first in the post Richards/Clapton wave of flamboyant and experimental guitar players on the Perth scene of the mid 1960s. He reached a peak in local popularity during the ‘70s before spending several decades in the east and losing touch with the Perth audience as well as undergoing frequent changes in musical style and approach.
This is, by necessity, a very abridged timeline summary. Many passing chord events and line ups omitted….
1964: Dennis’ last year at high school; the emergence of The Beatles and The Stones transformed him from a class nerd to one of those guys brought before the headmaster on charges of ….hair too long and heels too high! Initially fancying drums, the slurred notes of Keith Richards irreversibly attracted Dennis to the electric guitar.
1965: Formed several garage bands, usually without names and using a very early Ibanez guitar with a small Maton amp. Dennis only wanted to play solos at the time and removed the two bottom strings….”just to get ‘em outa the way”!
1966: First gigging group, The Torments doing Small Faces, Who etc. Came 3rd in Battle of The Bands, with singer Tony Bourne securing best vocalist votes.
Formed Down Home Group, an R&B outfit including Al Kash and Colin Atkins, becoming house band at the notorious Beach House with all band members tasting some of the “new” forbidden fruit, both animate and inanimate. For Dennis, the first signs of a “following”….
1967: Several short lived line ups followed by Cats’ Squirrel which entered the Cream/Hendrix era and residency at Wot The Hek : the beginning of an influential period for Dennis. Lindsay Wells would stand in the front row before launching his own career the following year.
Dennis joins top line local act Mort and The Mobees on what turns out to be their last hurrah….but a wealth of experience for Dennis.
1968: Main event of ’68 was Current Bun with Al Kash, Phil Pruitti, Terry Atterton and Colin Atkins. A residency at a packed Wot The Hek and weekly spots at 6PRs’ Anzac House big shows and an early twin lead guitar approach for Dennis and Phil. Big following developed.
1969: Great Pumpkin Mutiny, a Dylan/Blues extravaganza with Al Kash, John Tucak and Pete Devlin….3rd in Battle of Bands behind Young Brass and Steve Tallis and Peter Walker in My Grandfathers’ Blues.
Later that year, Down Home Group mark2 with Bob Fortescue and Dave Little.
1970: Al, Bob and Dennis hightail it to Melbourne. Bob and Al are grabbed up for Blackfeather….Dennis ends up with the very mediocre Hammer who in turn go to Perth. A low point.
Dennis interviewed on 6PR by Good Guy Trevor Smith in an attempt to rectify some bad career choices! To no avail. Hammer flees back to Melbourne.
1971: Back in Perth with Ross Partington and Superman which records “Keep Off The Grass” receiving substantial airplay on 6KY but is never released.
G Troop with Terry Atterton, Steve Tallis and Ron Parker saw probably the first revival of ‘60s rock and roll!
1972: After two backward moving years, Dennis forms the power trio Train with Dave Little and Mick Glendinning. Playing material like Mountain and Cactus, this band is the zenith of Dennis’ “guitar hero” Perth years. Three or more gigs a week at the Court Hotel brings packed houses for a solid year and a half. A support to The Rolling Stones is thwarted by the Musos’ Union at the eleventh hour, the spot awarded to the cabaret act, Natural Gas!
A phenomenon of the times was… Dennis playing through 2 Sound City 200w stacks (on full) while the singers used a 100w Eminar column PA….but….it WORKED!
John Meyer appears on the scene to join Dennis, Dave Hole and Lindsay Wells in the local pub hero stakes.
1974: Attending a jam in Sydney, Dennis loses bass player Rob Bailey to AC/DC at their first rehearsal!
1975: Sydney. Film of Dennis on stage is used for the weekly intro to the 7 Networks’ “Polaroid In Concert” series but Dennis is never actually heard.
Back in Perth, Dennis recruits frontman Wayne Green, and Rattlesnake is formed with Jeff Lally and Rob Bailey…. just out of AC/DC. Through the next year this outfit nails people to the wall with regular manic appearances at The Scarborough and The Sandgroper.
1979: After several minimally productive years in Sydney and Perth, Dennis joins Everest to replace the departed John Meyer. These were the halcyon years of the “full house” big beer barns like The Raffles, and Everest had a monopoly on these venues as well as a big following in Adelaide. The band nevertheless had run its course by the end of that year and with the emergence of the “New Wave”.
1980 to 83: The frantic and dysfunctional Wayne Green and The Phantoms era with Dennis, Glenn Goldsmith, “Beast” Hughes and others…15 booze drenched gigs a week, and the emergence of original material along with a return to the basics….loud, dirty and simple….almost punk. Dennis would never again return to “progressive rock” as a preferred style! This would be the last time he would play in Perth for any length of time….destined to fade into the dim past of the annals of WA rock history….
(Ed. – Wayne Green and The Phantoms on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmjrfmqoN3w)
1984: Sydney, to work for the “enemy”. Dennis takes on tour managing on behalf of Baas Promotions traveling the countryside with all the major recording acts of the time but after a year or so cannot handle the drama and “rip offs” of the job. Very little playing done….
1986 to 1989: Joins legendary Southern Sydney act Kevin Barker and The Beagle Boys a straight 50s/60s R&R band which had boasted such players as Rob Riley, Yuk Harrison, Paul DeMarco, Warren Morgan. Stays with Barker on and off for quite some years. Plays guitar for the likes of William Shakespeare, Dinah Lee and Ray Brown!
Toured with Stevie Wright Band through 86/87 with the Perth connection of Glenn Goldsmith and Eddie Boekleman. The line up toured extensively to packed houses and filmed a live concert which was released on DVD by Warner Chappel in 2003. A good fun period.
Dennis has a beer with Tom Petty after a Dylan show and this changes his outlook on R&R from this day on….
1990: Sydney. Along with Wayne Green and Perth band, The Hurricanes, Dennis records a large volume of country based tracks and finally sees the attraction in the creation of original material.
1992 to 1994: W.A….. Touring with Wayne “Kid” Green supporting Black Sorrows, James Blundell and others.
Sydney ’93 , Dennis has the after game band for The Sydney Swans.
1995 to 2002:
The dark years. Intermittent periods of writing and recording original material, working in kitchens and sporadic gigging in NSW and Queensland.
2002: Perth…. and The Rancheros with Terry Atterton and Rob Bailey
Playing strictly the country music circuit.
2004: Rattlesnake reforms for a few gigs with the original line up of James, Green, Bailey and Lally.
2005 to 2009: Dennis relocates to Pittsburgh, PA and gigs with local bar bands while setting up his studio to do some serious writing and recording. His CD of electrified public domain folk tunes sells well at gigs. A plethora of original recordings lies awaiting self release…as it were!
Dennis does a series of gigs in Albany, NY with local identity Al Kash, including one special gig …”The Wizards Of Oz” which also includes Kent “Beast” Hughes from Zydecats.
2010: “The Forgotten”, Dennis’ new band which finds him sharing lead vocals for the first time ever in a decidedly “garage” 60s style folk rock direction….a line up of players and material Dennis has been looking for for 3 decades….
Check out Dennis’ videos on YouTube
This video: “Wha D’Ya Think?”