March-April 2010

dennis_home.jpg1956-Fall under the mass hysteria of a song called The Ballad of Davy Crockett. Wear dead rodent on my head. Become aware of Elvis Presley. Become terrified

1957-Kindergarten report notes proclivity to climb over boy's room wall and stare at girls on other side. No mention of Chuck Berry at that time.

1958- Re-terrified by Elvis' film career

1959-63- Attempt childhood. Listen to lots of radio because radio played lots of different kinds of music. Really.

1964- See the Beatles on Ed Sullivan TV program. Father states their instruments need to be tuned.

1965- Badger parents for guitar. Father buys "Rodeo" Japanese electric guitar and amp for Mother's Day. Mother lets me use them until they fall apart in a few months.

1966-Begin playing guitar/taking informal lessons with local neighbor/musician who is suffering from being required to play Louie Louie for 4 hours at Sweet Sixteen party for rich girl. No rock and roll is allowed.

1968- Father purchases Gibson B-25 acoustic guitar. I come home from the music store and learn Hickory Wind. Unfortunately I get the chords wrong and continue to play it badly for next 40 years. I begin early schizophrenic tendencies due to playing country with neighbor and rock and roll with peers.

1969-Hear Neil Young shout "Ah, pick it Luther!" before solo on Losing End Realize that some rock and rollers know about country music. Begin lifetime obsession with buying, selling and trading guitars. Vow to always lose money at it. Purchase Martin 000-18, keep it for 19 years.

1970- Begin writing pathetic songs, mostly aping Neil Young, Jackson Browne and otherDennis_living_room.jpg troubled youth.

1971- Hear Chris Darrow play electric slide guitar on I'm Not Your Whipping Boy. Tune Harmony electric to open E, begin lifetime of neighbor annoyance with bad intonation and complete lack of vibrato.

1973- Form first bands. Annoy more neighbors. Buy bad metal body Dobro. Annoy neighbors acoustically. Day job is at Fender Guitar.

1974- Enter bluegrass contests at Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Long Beach. Somehow win a few categories, like "A capella Hill Vocals Sung by Someone Who Looks Like a Hippie Surfer" or "Flatpicking Traditional Songs While Wearing Bell Bottoms." My brother, who is ten years younger, always takes higher placing.

1975- At Cal State Fullerton Bluegrass contest, sit through 18 consecutive versions of Foggy Mountain Breakdown played by Yamaha School of Music students. Give up bluegrass forever.

1976- Form band with brother and pals. Do a couple of live radio broadcasts from KPFK's FolkScene in Los Angeles. Begin swelling of head. Play KPFK Folk Festival at Fort MacArthur. Play McCabes. Bass player assumes major success and quits day job. No major success. Brother discovers Jimi Hendrix and burns acoustic guitar. Band breaks up

1977- Occasionally play and record with brother's band, The Effects. They are a power acid jazz trio. My presence turns them into hicks somehow.

1978- Leave Fender, move to beach. Body surf a lot.

1979- Unable to sustain surfy lifestyle due to inability to balance on fiberglass sticks. Purchase a four track cassette recorder and disappear into the spare room for a long time.

1984- Decide to focus on songwriting. Write some songs that get published in Nashville market. Learn how ridiculous writing songs that get published in Nashville market can be. Turned down by every star in town except Little Jimmy Dickens, who turns down songs twice.

1987- Rediscover bluegrass music. Begin Bluegrass 12 Step Program.

1988- Enter Topanga Banjo & Fiddle contest and win some stuff. Not allowed to use group name on entry form, so the Dennis Roger Reed Band is named. Enjoy name of band immensely.

1989- Enter mandolin contest at Follows Camp Bluegrass Festival. Kid around 8 or 9 dennis_2_shot.jpgyears old named Chris Thile also enters. I win, only because Chris is bumped up to Advanced, where he easily wins. I still tell story, often leaving out last part, and age of Chris at the time.

1991- Record and release acoustic folk rock cassette with brother called Nickels and Dimes. Recorded in parent's garage on "vintage" four track reel to reel. Sell out pressing of 300 copies, get airplay on Los Angeles public radio and very nice review from LA Times. Head swells again.

1992- Join summer touring bluegrass band as bass player. Learn bass. Tour. Make 2 CDs with band. Have fun. Play at festivals with major stars or headline festivals without. Travel throughout California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, Kentucky and Western Canada. Make dollars and dollars. Get articles in the national bluegrass and folk publications. Eventually get pretty tired of bluegrass.

1995 - Bass Player Magazine does feature on me. Cover has Paul McCartney. Page before my article has interview with Sting. I've had my 15 minutes of fame now.

1996- Join local blues/roots/rock band for fun. Bar gigs pay $200 per band, free beer. Band hibernates when I tour with bluegrass band during summers.

1997- Being writing reviews and compiling folk and acoustic performances for alternative weekly. Enjoy getting into concerts for free, and obtaining CDs, until CDs take over all available home space. All communication with publication is done via email, so never actually go to the office. Find out that I was supposed to. Realize why my copy is marked up for the same things over and over when a co-worker drops off 3 years of editorial mail I haven't seen. Pay is poor, but since staples of their ad base are breast augmentation doctors and escort services, client related social events are quite memorable.

1998- Leave bluegrass band, record and release CD with roots band. Lots of airplay, even internationally. Good reviews in all major blues publications, especially in Belgium. I am somewhat astonished. Later learn true meaning of "right place, right time." Bar gigs now pay $200, free beer.

2000- Release solo CD to about one tenth of success of prior roots band release. Do get good reviews in Belgium, at least once translated from Flemish. Consider moving to Belgium.

2001- Release second CD from roots band in September. Although timing unfortunate, were able to entice some of my favorite artists to play on CD, including Chris Darrow, Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen. Success in sales is about one tenth of the success of solo CD. Begin to question the existence of God and Dick Clark. Bar gigs still pay $200 and free beer. I begin drinking to make more of my cut of the gigs. Band plays Doheny Days on September 16, 2001, almost becoming headliners due to inability for Doobie Brothers and Jonny Lang to obtain transportation.

Dennis_BlueMama.jpg2002- Continue bar gigs. Still pay $200 and free beer. Drink more beer. Dance on stage at Little Richard show at Doheny Blues Festival, and dance on stage with Paul Simon show at Coors Amphitheater.

2003- Alternate weekly stops asking for articles. They continue to pay me for months after termination in a somewhat generous error. Day after last check arrives I land monthly column with So Cal based folk publication. Pay is poor, but they have memorable social events without breast augmentation or escort services.

2004- Release second solo CD. Chris Darrow and Mike Dowling guest. Invest far more time and money than in past on promotion. Airplay worldwide, several excellent reviews internationally. Great reviews in Belgium. Worst sales of any recording so far. Bar gigs pay $150 per band and provide discount on beer. Roots band breaks up, gets more press for breakup than when performing. Half of band won't play last bar gig, owner shorts us on pay and only provides free domestic beer. Strongly consider moving to Belgium.

2005- Play a lot more bluegrass gigs. Regain some competence as a bluegrass guitarist. Play at casinos and car auctions for a period of time.

2006- Begin musical project with storyline. Write and record a bunch of songs.

2007- Join country bar band on bass. Bar gigs pay $300 and free food, sometimes. Initially required to wear cowboy hat. Length of gigs is somehow double of length of rock and roll or blues gigs.

2008- Play never takes off. Roots band re-forms, uses some of musical tunes for new CD to be released in 2010, or 2011, or 2012. Continue playing events and bars with country band. Band goes through drummers and fiddle players every few months. Meet a lot of drummers and fiddle players.

2009- Recession makes gigging more fun than ever. Gigs sometimes pay nothing, and beer is often retail price. Drink much less beer, play less gigs.

2010- Economy picks up, gigs double in pay and everyone goes out to live music every night.

Dennis Roger Reed is a singer-songwriter, musician, and writer based in San Clemente, CA. He is apparently somewhat of an expert on Gram Parsons, with his writings on the subject having been featured in Mojo and in God's Own Singer: A Life of Gram Parsons by Jason Walker. Writing about his music has appeared in Acoustic Musician, Bass Player, Bluegrass Now, Bluegrass Unlimited, Blues Access, Blues Revue, Blue Suede News, Dirty Linen, the LA Times, Living Blues, and Sing Out! He is still decidedly not famous.


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