Jeff JD Dennis – My playing career started in Jr. high and high school, where I was a member of all of my school’s band programs. Symphonic band, marching band, stage band, pep band, orchestra and I was 1st chair drum set player and drum captain as a senior. I was also a member of the ’82 N.C. All State Orchestra as drum set player for our production of “Theme from West side story”.
After High school it was on to college at UNCW. During 3 semesters there, I again was a member of all available band programs. I also took classes in theory and electronic music. My end of semester trials performance was on marimba. My college career was short due to the fact that, although I had been offered a scholarship and school was important, what I really wanted to do was tour and play Rock-n-roll.
So, at the age of 20, I left home and went on the road playing 5-6 nights a week in a cover band, The Point. We toured up and down the east coast for the better part of 6 years eventually morphing into an all original hard rock band and securing a management deal with Concerts West in Los Angeles.
A move to L.A. in ’90 resulted in meeting Motley Crue guitarist Mick Mars and forming a band with his wife, and Motley Crue backup singer, Emi Cannon. Living in the Motley orbit was very educating and quickly lead to the realization that L.A. was not where I wanted to be. The music scene and business lacked a truth and honesty that I was seeking.
Upon moving back to North Carolina, I hooked up with old friend, and former bandmate Audley Freed (Sheryl Crow, Peter Frampton, Dixie Chicks, and Black Crowes) and we started hitting the local jams in Raleigh which lead to jamming with, and joining The Backsliders.
The Backsliders (thebacksliders.net, The Backsliders on FB) were one of the leaders of the Alt. Country movement in the mid to late 90’s that included bands such as Wilco, The Jayhawks, Son Volt, and Whiskeytown. After forming, and due to our standing room only, ferocious live shows, we were quickly signed to Mammoth/Atlantic records. Three records were recorded on Mammoth. “Live from the Brewery”, “Throwing rocks at the moon” produced by Pete Anderson (Dwight Yoakam) and “Southern Lines”, produced by Eric Roscoe Ambel (Joan Jett, The Yahoos, The Bottle Rockets). All three of these records were critically acclaimed and hailed as monuments to the Alt. country/Americana movement. The Backsliders continue to play and to this day and are a cornerstone of the N.C. music scene.
I am currently also a member of Hank Sinatra (www.hank-sinatra.com), an original country fried R-n-R band that records on Slap Happy records. Additionally, I play and record with Steve Howell and Caroline Mamoulides, an Americana band based around the songs and beautiful vocal melodies of Steve and Caroline, and MonkeyWrench, an R&B and Americana tinged power trio that was formed just for the pure joy of musical expression, and chemistry that comes along with playing music with peers that you respect and admire.
In addition to being a member of these bands, I am active in the local session scene and have recorded with artists as varied as SunDog, Leah Joy, The Lucky’s, Salt Lick, and Clay Merritt and The Shames to name just a few.
Live shows have always been my thing, and I continue to play various types of gigs in and around the N.C. area. On any given night you might find me gigging with The Backsliders, Hank Sinatra, MonkeyWrench, or sitting in with The Bruce Clark trio, or any number of the talented artists in the area.
Besides having Rich Sticks in my tool bag, on all gigs and sessions you will find me playing one of the numerous Ludwig classic or Slingerland vintage drum kits that I own with Sabian cymbals. These tools are invaluable to my craft.
Drums and drumming are my passion. It’s my belief that playing music is the reason for my existence. There is no greater joy than making music with other talented musicians and then giving that music to the people through recorded performance and live shows.