Alice Cooper Reunion at Music Biz 2017, As Told By Dennis Dunaway

I was still on a high from playing in the Alice Cooper reunion at Tennessee Performing Arts Center the night before. I had a busy day ahead at the Music Business Association’s Music Biz 2017 conference.

By breakfast, the Renaissance Hotel was abuzz with industry professionals and musicians. Every open chair was filled with reps from Pandora, Spotify, Amazon, iTunes and more energetically brainstorming with record label execs and artists.

Most of my day was spent speaking with the press or playing music. During breaks, I met tons of fans from all parts of the globe. They told me about their first introductions to our music and what it means to them. The stories are similar but I always get a thrill out of hearing them. We would talk about their favorite songs, concerts they had attended, and how they wished Glen was still around.

At 8 o’clock, it was time for the Music Biz Industry Jam 2. The ballroom was dark except for the theatrical lighting on stage. The crowd was filled with music professionals.

Backstage after the show at Music Biz 2017. Left to right: Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith, Michael Bruce, Bob Ezrin, Robin Zander, Ryan Roxie, and Alice Cooper. Photo by Philamonjaro.

In the green room, Michael, Neal and I were having photos taken with Robin Zander of Cheap Trick when Alice walked in. I told Alice he could go back to his room because we had a new singer. He didn’t listen. 

Steve Harkins (Vice Chairman of Music Business Association and  presented Alice’s road manager, Toby Mamis, with a special lifetime achievement award.

Then, Bob Ezrin took the podium and charismatically told the story of how he first met the Alice Cooper group (you can read about it in my book). The conference had announced that Michael, Neal, and I would accept the award on behalf of the full band.

Always ones for drama, we had planned all along that when Bob called us onto stage to accept our lifetime achievement awards, Alice would walk up with us.

It was time to play our six songs. This performance was more intimate without any theatrical props. As most people know, that’s a rarity for us! I saw teary eyes in the crowd.

I burned the midnight oil enjoying the other performances and chatting with incredible musicians. I especially liked watching Felix Cavaliere (The Rascals), Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge), Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer), plus the Campbell family’s special tribute to Glen Campbell.

I saw Sesu Coleman (Magic Tramps), Steve Conte (New York Dolls and Michael Monroe), Rachel Bolan (Skid Row), Damon Johnson (Thin Lizzy, Alice Cooper, Brother Cane, and Black Star Riders), and Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osborne, Quiet Riot, and Whitesnake).

It means a lot to be honored by the industry, and even more to be able to join my friends on stage and play music that is so dear to me. Stay tuned for some collaborations coming up on Alice’s next album.



Alice Cooper Reunion at TPAC: Dennis Dunaway's Behind-The-Scenes

On May 14th, the original Alice Cooper group reunited on stage at Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Dennis details how it came together.

The rehearsal process was a peculiar one; each of us had our own process. Michael and Neal rehearsed in Phoenix with Michael’s wife Lynn playing bass. I ran through the songs in Connecticut with an unplugged bass while watching TV, and occasionally with the songs cranked through my stereo and a small Fender bass amp.

Dennis Dunaway and Chuck Garric at TPAC. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski. 

Dennis Dunaway and Chuck Garric at TPAC. Photo by Patrick Brzezinski. 

Finding an outfit wasn't a daunting task; I happen to know a superb costume designer! Cindy went to her sewing room and got out her sparkly treasures from the original Alice Cooper stage costume stockpile. She covered a black shirt with moon-shaped mirrors, crystals, glitter, and rhinestone bracelets in the concept of the tuxedo she had designed for me for our induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The shirt was intended to be an extension of the Billion Dollar Bass, as if someone had grabbed a handful of the mirrors from the bass and threw them at the shirt.

When we got to Nashville, we rehearsed the songs in the dressing room with Ryan Roxie. We had to decide which guitar parts each guy would play—sometimes Ryan plays Michael’s parts with Alice, and now he had to play all of Glen’s parts. We also had to lock in which guy to look at for each cue. We had arrangements and endings to sort out. Neal played on little practice pads (Alice joked that Neal should play them in the real show). The guitars and bass played through tiny amps at low volume. Bob Ezrin and Shep Gordon were there.

At the first sound check at TPAC, Michael bent over to adjust his effects pedal. Not one to pass up a slapstick opportunity, I ran over and pretended to kick him in the butt. In perfect synch, Neal did a loud cymbal crash.

We had a short break to grab a bite to eat, and then it was time to warm up in the Green Room.

Alice's current band rocked through a modified version of their set for thousands of fans who filled two balconies. I stretched my high-kick leg. Exercised my hands. Polished my golden sunglasses. 

Finally, it was time. The curtain had closed at the end of Alice’s modified set, but the house lights didn’t go up. The die-hard fans knew what was about to come, and raised their iPhones like a sea of lanterns. The drum tech prepared Neal’s set and the roadies got us ready to go. The curtain rose.

Alice Cooper live at TPAC. Photo by J. Scott Watson.

Alice Cooper live at TPAC. Photo by J. Scott Watson.

We blasted “Eighteen,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Muscle of Love,” and then “School’s Out/Another Brick in The Wall” with both bands for the big finale.

Whenever I looked into the crowd, I was surprised to see so many people were crying. Some shows are good, some are great, and some feel downright transcendent. Performing with Michael, Neal, and Alice is very special, and since it doesn’t happen often, magic was in the air. Of course everybody misses the fiery Glen Buxton, but I know he would have liked Ryan.

Dunaway family and Alice Cooper group backstage after the TPAC show. L to R, Chelsea, Renee, Dennis, Cindy, Alice, Michael, Neal.

Dunaway family and Alice Cooper group backstage after the TPAC show. L to R, Chelsea, Renee, Dennis, Cindy, Alice, Michael, Neal.

I loved that our daughters joined us, especially since it was Mother’s Day. (On Father’s Day two years prior, they travelled to Cleveland to support me at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame event.) 

The players in Alice's current band are exceptionally talented rock stars, and hanging out with them feels like being with extended family. Ryan, Tommy Henriksen, Nita Strauss, Glen Sobel, and Chuck Garric are always friendly and accommodating. It was fun sharing the stage together, and spending time after the show!

I was on cloud nine over how many amazing fans had gone to such great lengths to be there. Some came from Canada, France, and even Australia.

As far as future reunion shows, hopefully our fans will make a big enough noise to reach the ears of the concert promoters!


Dennis Dunaway's Bass on John Lennon's Rock 'N' Roll

In 1975, recording sessions had an unspoken rule that you refrained from asking other artists for photos or autographs. You might strike up a conversation around the coffee pot in the hall but generally you gave people space to think about their recording.

Recording at the Record Plant in 1975

Recording at the Record Plant in 1975

Jack Douglas was the producer of Neal Smith’s Platinum God album. I had agreed to play bass and Neal had a hot rod guitar player from Rochester, New York named Mike Marconi on board.

We were laying down tracks in Studio B at the Record Plant when the telephone rang. It was John trying to find a line out. I told him to dial 9. The phone rang again. It was John. "Dial 9 for the line out," I said. The third time he called, I said, "Number 9… number 9… number 9…" He didn’t call again.

Then someone came in from Studio A and said that John Lennon’s bass player didn’t show and he asked if I was up for it. I said I was committed to playing on Neal’s session but they were welcome to borrow one of my basses if that would help.

Dennis Dunaway and his 1970 Fender Jazz bass that John Lennon used on Rock 'N' Roll.

Dennis Dunaway and his 1970 Fender Jazz bass that John Lennon used on Rock 'N' Roll.

They borrowed one of my 1970 Fender Jazz basses. It was white at that time but was painted fluorescent green for the Battle Axe show - not to be confused with the Gibson GB-O Frog bass.

The next day, they returned my bass and that’s the last I heard about it until decades later when I read an interview by Rockin’ Reggie Vinson who said he had played bass on John’s Rock 'N' Roll album at the Record Plant.

So several times over the years, I had asked Rockin’ about the sessions. I wanted to know what songs he used my bass on but he could only remember two or three songs for sure.

Cindy Dunaway, May Pang, and Dennis Dunaway, 2014

Cindy Dunaway, May Pang, and Dennis Dunaway, 2014

In recent years, Cindy and I have become friends with May Pang. Even though I had avoided asking her any questions about John, one night, in a quiet room at a loud party, May started talking about John. I asked her about the Record Plant and told her my John story. Yes, she said she was at the session and said she could tell me what songs my bass is on. She grabbed her phone, Googled the album cover, and showed it to me. She said, “Any songs that credit Phil Spector as producer were recorded on the west coast. The songs crediting John as producer are the songs with your bass.”

When I spoke with Rockin' Reggie Vinson recently, he confirmed that he played my bass on that album for several songs including "Be-Bop-A-Lula," "Stand By Me," "Peggy Sue," and "Bring It On Home To Me/Send Me Some Lovin’."

Mystery solved 40 years after the sessions.


Rock 'N' Roll
By John Lennon






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