The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Rebirth of Blues-They’ve got the blues

Kenny Fuller
Kenny Fuller

By Chris Webb/nw news editor

Mike Dennis

Mike Dennis
Mike Dennis

Mike Dennis is another musician who has benefited from guitar addiction.

NE student by day and bluesman by night, Dennis tries to juggle his time between music and school, but he says the scales never seem to balance.

“It all started freshmen year in high school. I had this lame study hall class that I mostly just slept through. But there was this one kid who always brought a guitar with him and would play in class and entertain the bunch,” he said.

One day Dennis asked this classmate to show him some songs … “the usual first song kinda stuff” like “Come As You Are” and “Smoke on the Water.”

“When I got home that day I was craving to get a guitar in my hands,” Dennis said. “I tore the house apart until I found an old acoustic guitar with the action like five inches off the fret board, but that didn’t stop me from learning as much as I could. I was addicted to playing, and since that day, I haven’t gone more than a week without playing.”

Dennis started playing mostly rock, practicing “Stairway to Heaven” until his fingers bled. But after awhile, he drifted toward the blues. After developing his skills to a point where he was comfortable enough in his abilities, he decided it was time to test his playing out on stage.

“I remember my first time on stage. Scared and timid yet wanting to go through with it like nothing I had wanted before, I took my first steps into the spotlight, and, yes, I sucked,” he said. “But that’s how it always goes the first time. After that, I got back out there again and again, and I got better.

“Once you’re comfortable, playing on stage with a crowd of people feels so good. It’s just an overwhelming sense of musical euphoria knowing that you’re making a sound come together to please the ear, well, most of the time anyway.”

Lately, Dennis has been expanding his repertoire to include a few more instruments. He is learning to play the piano and is improving his skills with the harmonica, bass guitar and drums. Even still, Dennis plans to keep his head out of the clouds for now at least.

“Many people have asked me what I plan to do with my music and if I expect to become famous and all that. The answer is no,” he said.

“The fact is, there are a ton of players out there who are better than me. And even if that doesn’t stay true, making it big in the music business is like winning the lottery. Millions will try, but few will succeed.

“But I can definitely say that I will never stop playing because there is nothing I would rather do,” he said.

Kenny Fuller

Kenny Fuller
Kenny Fuller

Kenny Fuller knew the path his road would take the moment his hands clasped the neck of his first guitar, a black Fender Strat.

“From that moment on, that was it,” he said. “Guitar became my life, and still is.”

He’s not kidding; this guy eats and breathes music daily.

A NE student and avid guitarist/guitar teacher, Fuller started out playing in his high school jazz band and perfecting songs like “Black Dog” until the chord progressions invaded his dreams.

“Early, I was obsessed with guitar. I was getting good, I guess, but my music was dry. I didn’t have a sound. There was no soul,” he said. “My talents really amassed to nothing more than a juke box, until I heard the blues.”

One day while sitting in his room trying to learn a Greenday song, Fuller said he paused and rewound the song so many times he would have gone through three copies if it were a cassette. His dad went upstairs, turned off the stereo and chucked a Stevie Ray Vaughn CD at Kenny.

“He said, ‘Here, this is music. This guy can actually play his guitar.’ He was right,” Kenny said. “I stopped playing songs and started actually playing music.”

After that, Fuller’s initial blues influence became his “Trifecta of Rock”: Vaughn, Hendrix and Clapton.

He has come a long way, developing a true dedication to his art. He spends his weekdays at work, teaching guitar, and his weeknights at clubs, playing guitar.

“What I like about blues clubs, and blues in general, is that I don’t feel pressured to play anything except what I want to play,” he said. “The crowd is people who actually appreciate good music and get involved. Not only that, but there is no way to learn guitar without playing with other people, and there is no better way to do that than playing at open jams.”

Fuller has become a regular at many area clubs. He spends most Thursday nights jamming with Jackie Don Loe and serves as host for an open jam Sundays at Tio Carlo’s.

He might spend most nights in front of a small crowd, but Fuller is no stranger to the big stage.

“One of the biggest shows I ever played, and one of the most memorable, was at the Dallas Mardi Gras. I played in front of over 30,000 people. Few things in life are more exhilarating than that,” he said.

Lately, Fuller has begun developing his singing skills. After this semester, Fuller plans to attend college in Nashville and pursue a career as a music producer. But these plans do not mean he will abandon hopes of being a career musician.

“I’m not sure what will happen. Maybe if I get the right band together, we could break through,” he said. “But regardless, I would be nothing without my family. They are my inspiration and support. Besides, if it wasn’t for my grandfather, I don’t even know if I ever would have learned how to play guitar.”

Warren Dewey

Warren Dewey
Warren Dewey

Students are not the only ones on campus who have got the blues. Warren Dewey, NE Campus instructor of music, has more experience behind the barrels of a drum set than most people can garner in two lifetimes.

He has participated in hundreds of recording sessions, several with Grammy nominations, and has performed across the globe from Italy to Russia, and even did a musical tour in Korea.

Dewey can drum to anything, but his true passion lies in the blues and jazz, second only to his passion for teaching. Just as so many others who got to grow up at just the right time, what first got Dewey into music was, of course, The Beatles.

“I remember it was 1964. I was 9 at the time, and my mother took my sister and me to see the Beatles (by the way, tickets were $5!). At the time, all I wanted to do was watch my sister make a fool of herself, but looking back at it now, that concert made quite an impression on me,” he said.

A few years later, Dewey tried out for the school band. He intended to play trumpet because that is what his best friend played. When the teacher came around and asked him what he wanted to play, the word “drums” just tumbled out of his mouth. After that he did not look back. That one word took Dewey down a road that led to experiences few even dream about.

“I have had some pretty amazing moments throughout my career. One that comes to mind was when I was invited to provide entertainment for George Bush Sr.’s vice presidential inaugural ball in Washington, D.C. What an event! It’s funny, though; at the time country music was really big, so the event was like a black tie and boot affair,” he said.

Another extraordinary experience for Dewey was when he performed with a variety show and a 6-year-old girl came in for her first rehearsal. She was given a song to sing and no one had high expectations. When she finished singing her audition piece, the band members were speechless; Dewey said they just looked at each other in disbelief. Dewey remembers saying, “She may be 6, but she sings like she is 30. The girl had a pure, natural sounding voice that you just don’t hear from a 6-year-old.” The girl’s name was LeAnn Rimes. She ended up being a regular cast member for seven years until she got her break.

Dewey has performed with icons such as Bob Hope, Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones to name a few.

Lately though, Dewey has been keeping it local. Every Sunday night he performs with the Dallas Original Jazz Orchestra, and occasionally he plays private parties with Buddy Whittington, who used to play guitar alongside Eric Clapton for John Mayall and the Blue Streakers, with whom he still plays.

Dewey and Whittington go way back and have been playing on and off together for 20 years.

“Warren’s a great guy, fantastic musician,” Whittington said. “I’ve played a lot of gigs with him, and he is always right there and one of the guys. I remember one gig Warren and I played. It was a jazz gig. Well, Jimmie Vaughn once said, ‘I can’t play jazz, but I can play jazzy,’ and I can definitely empathize with that. Anyway, I remember at the gig I kept looking back at Warren and thinking ‘I can’t believe he’s so good at this.’ He just blew that stage away.”

Dewey has been an instructor at TCC since 1995. This April, students can catch him playing with the NE Campus orchestra in the musical production, Annie Get Your Gun. Just in case anyone is wondering, Dewey also teaches percussion on the NE Campus. And yes, he does teach private lessons.

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