SickthingsUK: Musicians - Dennis Dunaway

  • Name: Dennis Dale Dunaway, "Dr. Dreary".
  • Instruments: Bass, Vocals.
  • Born: December 9th 1946
  • Joined: Founder member of 'Alice Cooper'
  • Left: Dennis never left the band, but their Last full tour was in 1974.
  • Alice Cooper Tours: Every show until 1974.
  • Alice Cooper Albums: 'Pretties For You' - 'Muscle Of Love', 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare', 'Paranormal'
  • Links:

Dennis Dunaway founded Alice Cooper while at Cortez High School along with Vince Furnier and Glen Buxton. Often referred to as the quiet member of the group, in fact the band was considered Dennis' band during the early years. A highly influential musician with a style of his own, Dennis' influence is all over the original group albums. Since they disbanded in 1974 he has played in a variety of bands, the latest of which is Blue Coupe, a band formed with Albert and Joe Bouchard from Blue Oyster Cult. In 2005 Dennis launched his own website, which you can find at www.dennisdunaway.com, and since then has been highly active on social media, becoming the most accessible member of the original band.

Background

Dennis Dale Dunaway was born on December 9th, 1946 (not 1948 as was often quoted. He's just never bothered to correct anyone) in Cottage Grove, Oregon but the Dunaway family moved to Phoenix, AZ around 1951. He's married to Neal Smith's sister, Cindy, who in the early days of the band was integral to their look, designing their clothes and stage costumes as well as playing various parts in the early live shows. They have two children, Chelsea and Renee.

Dennis first met Vince Furnier while on the school's very successful cross country track team and bonded over their love of art, especially surrealists like Salvador Dali, and old monster movies. When the opportunity arose to take part in the annual Letterman's ball it was Dennis and Vince who put together the group that would eventually become 'Alice Cooper', recruiting the school rebel Glen Buxton as he could actually play a guitar. The show was a success and Dennis caught the showbiz bug. He bought a bass guitar and Buxton taught him to play it, in the process developing a distinctive style that would become highly influential over the years.

Dennis was often considered the quiet member of the band, but in the beginning the group was considered Dennis' band and he was extremely influential in everything they did, coming up with many of the theatrical effects the band would become famous for and helping to develop the 'Alice Cooper' character and trademark make up that would eventually conquer the world.

For the full story of Dennis' early years you only need to grab a copy of his excellent autobiography 'Snakes, Guillotines, Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group' which was released on June 9th 2015. By far the most complete and informative of all the Alice Cooper books it's an essential read to understand the truth behind the legends that built up around the band.

Latter Days


Dennis and Cindy Smith Dunaway circa 1973.

While Michael and Neal worked on solo albums (with Dennis playing on Neal's 'Platinum God') after the final 1974 Brazilian shows Dennis simply went home with Cindy to relax, recharge and plan the bands next move. When it became clear the band was over in 1975 he was devastated. The group had been his whole life, and the departure of his best friend, who effectively took the bands name as well, hurt him a great deal.

The original band regrouped in 1977 as 'Billion Dollar Babies' and Dennis was again instrumental in the planning of the new show, based around a futuristic gladiatorial battle and featuring a huge boxing ring that appeared from under the drum riser. Again he was frustrated, as he saw this project also collapse, leaving him back at the start again.

From here Dennis generally retreated from public view. He joined Neal Smith's 'Flying Tigers' band for a while, and jammed with friends around his Connecticut home, but seemed to have little interest in trying to build a new band again from scratch. Little was heard beyond a short guest appearance on Blue Oyster Cult's Donald 'Buck Dharma' Roeser's solo album 'Flat Out' album, where he appeared along side Neal again. He and Cindy opened a shop near his home in Connecticut selling antiques and Cindy's creations.

In 1989 Dennis joined together with Neal Smith and fellow Connecticut resident, and ex-Blue Oyster Cult bassist, Joe Bouchard for the first of a series of projects that would continue to this day. The band was called 'Deadringer' and they brought in lead guitarist Jay Johnson and vocalist Charlie Huhn (ex-Ted Nugent, Foghat) to complete the line up. They released one album entitled 'Electrocution Of The Heart' But again the band didn't last and Dennis returned to his basement to write and record songs for his own pleasure.

In April/May of 1998, Dennis was admitted to hospital suffering from Crone's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. An operation was successful but he took a while to recover, missing the Area 51 reunion show in Houston, TX and so sadly not getting the opportunity to see his old school friend Glen Buxton one final time.

The advent of the internet had made information freely available to fans who previously had to search through newspaper's and music magazines in the hope of finding the name of their rock idols. Now news spread in hours, and word reached the original Sick Things email list that Dennis wasn't well. In later interviews Dennis has credited the outpouring of love from the Alice Cooper fan community while he was in hospital as giving him the impetus to get back to his music career. He had had no idea so many fans were still out there and how much he mattered to every one of them.

He regained his health and weight, and was well enough to attended Glen's funeral in October as well as the second Glen Buxton Memorial Weekend on 23rd/24th October 1999. he also began writing and rehearsing again with brother-in-law Neal Smith and his longtime friend Joe Bouchard. They started to play small local shows under the name 'Eyescream' before quickly changing to 'Bouchard Dunaway Smith', or BDS for short.

Bouchard Dunaway Smith

Bouchard, Dunaway And Smith was a band put together by Dennis along with Neal Smith and long time friend Joe Bouchard. The trio had first worked together as a band in 'Deadringer' but their friendship went back to 1972 when Bouchard's 'Blue Oyster Cult' had opened shows on the 'Killer' tour. In 2001 they self-released the album 'Back From Hell' and followed it up with selected shows around New York/Connecticut area as well as four shows in Europe during October/November 2002, including the SickthingsUK co-organised 'Sickcon1' Alice Cooper fan convention, where they blew the roof off in front of a sold out audience during an epic two hour plus show featuring the full new album and over an hour of Cooper and 'Blue Oyster Cult' classics.

A second album was never completed, but a live album from the Paris show was released. Both albums were available directly from Neal's NealSmithrocks.com website.

The Dennis Dunaway Project


The Dennis Dunaway Project.

Along with doing shows with BDS, Dennis also formed another band called the 'Dennis Dunaway Project' featuring Rick Tedesco on guitar, drummer Russ Wilson, keyboard and lead vocalist Ed Burns, with Dennis on bass and vocals. An album, 'Bones From The Yard', was released in September 2006 via the bands new website and is highly recommended. Mott The Hoople's Ian Hunter plays piano and sings on it and a couple of songs feature horn players that have worked with Donald Fagan. It was mixed by Pete Moshay, who has worked with 'Hall and Oats', Mariah Carey, and Barbara Streisand. The track 'Subway' from this album later became 'A Runaway Train' on 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare'.

A second DDP album was in the works when for some reason the band split. Guitarist Rick Tedesco used some of the songs slated for the second album on his own solo album 'A Light In The Attic' including Dennis's song 'Fireball' which feature the full DDP line up. 'Fireball' was later re-recorded by Alice Cooper for his 2017 solo album 'Fireball', with Dennis again playing the bass.

5th Avenue Vampires

Not content with two bands he also took part in a third, along with with ex-Ace Frehley guitarist Richie Scarlet, who had stood in for him at the Area 51 reunion show with Glen Buxton. The 5th Avenue Vampires with Dennis and Richie only lasted a short time producing one studio album, 'Drawing Blood', and a handful of live shows including shows opening for Alice Cooper. A version of the band still exists, led by vocalist Jon Von T, but no longer features either Dennis or Richie.

Blue Coupe


Blue Coupe: Joe Bouchard, Dennis and Albert Bouchard.

Formed in 2008 Dennis' latest project reunites him with Joe Bouchard again, who brought along his drumming brother Albert to form a new band to play both Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper classics. However the guys enjoyed playing together so much that new material was created, resulting in the debut album 'Tornado On The Tracks' which earned them a Grammy nomination for lead track 'You (Like Vampires)'. They created a cool video for the song and have played a steady stream of shows ever since. In 2013 the band released their excellent second album, 'Million Miles More' which featured a guest appearance by Alice himself on the song 'Hallows Grave'.

All through this time Dennis and Alice stayed in touch and in 2011 the original band took part in recording sessions for Alice's 'Welcome 2 My Nightmare' album. Each provided the basis for one song featured on the album. Dennis' contribution was 'A Runaway Train', an updated version of the song 'Subway' from his 'Bones From The Yard' album a few years earlier.

On December 15th 2010 it was announced the original Alice Cooper band would finally be inducted into the 'Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame' at a ceremony in New York on March 14th 2011. The band performed together at the induction, and also played a short set at the Revolver Awards the same month. While various combinations of the original band members had played together with Alice at small functions over the preceding decade this was really the first time since 1974 they had performed together as 'Alice Cooper' since 1974. 'Welcome To My Nightmare' guitarist Steve Hunter stood in for Glen Buxton. Dennis was immensely proud of the honour, although sad that his old friend Glen hadn't lived long enough to be there.

On June 9th 2015 Dennis released his long awaited autobiography 'Snakes, Guillotines, Electric Chairs! My Adventures in the Alice Cooper Group'. He had been talking about the book as far back as Sickcon in 2002 but wanted it to be presented correctly rather then being a cheap paperback with minimal production quality. He also had to find a publisher prepared to print HIS story, and not one centred on Alice Cooper the solo artist. In the end he wrote far more then could fit into one book, which is why after the detailed account of the early years the later chapters feel a little rushed.

The book allowed Dennis to get a great deal off his chest. It allowed him to tell the story from his point of view and credit many people who's contribution he felt had been undervalued over the years during which only Alice's version was ever told. Cindy Smith Dunaway and band co-manager Joe Greenberg especially. The book was a huge success, and Dennis took part in endless interviews and signing appearances promoting it which included appearances with guests Neal Smith, Michael Bruce and Joe Bouchard who often performed acoustically as well.

One such event took place at Dallas' 'Good Records' record store run by superfan Chris Penn. It was announced that he would be joined by Neal and Michael for the event and it didn't take long for fans to realise Alice would be playing in Dallas the following day. Sure enough, after a question and answer session, the band took to the stage with their original singer, Ryan Roxie stepping in for Glen Buxton, to perform a short set that was filmed and recorded.
The following night Alice invited the original trio to join him on stage at his show as well, which sowed the seeds for future collaborations.

In 2016 Dennis and Blue Coupe backed singer Andrew WK on a new version of 'Billion Dollar Babies' track 'I Love The Dead' for the HBO series 'Vinyl'. An episode of the show about the 1970s music industry featured a sequence on Alice Cooper.

In 2017 the original trio performed two new songs on Alice's 'Paranormal' album and also played short "mini-sets" during the 2017 'Paranormal' Alice Cooper tour of the UK. The original band, along with Ryan Roxie standing in for Glen Buxton, played 'I'm Eighteen', 'Billion Dollar Babies', 'No More Mr Nice Guy', and 'Muscle Of Love' before both current and original bands joined together for 'School's Out'.

In 2018 Dennis continues to promote his book, and is working on new music for both Blue Coupe and a new solo album, expected later in the year.


Dennis and Alice in Glasgow, 2017.
(c) SickthingsUK.