When asked about the first time he ever played Cleveland, bassist Dennis Dunaway admits he can’t recall the year or venue. But given that the guy was touring with the Alice Cooper Group, a shock rock act known for outlandish live shows, that’s understandable. The thing that Dunaway, who performs at the Beachland Ballroom tomorrow with the garage/hard rock group Blue Coupe, does remember is that the Midwest embraced the band’s music more than the rest of the country.
“Cleveland seems to be lumped into lots of different cities,” he says via phone from his Connecticut home. “Cleveland loved us and we loved playing there. It was after being out in L.A. where, believe it or not, in Hollyweird, California, they didn’t get what we were doing. We were too outrageous for them. Then we go to the Midwest, and all of a sudden, we started getting standing ovations. Finally, somebody got what we were doing. Cleveland was certainly right up there at the top with people who got it and liked what we were up to.”
Known as the quiet one in the group, Dunaway observed the antics of his fellow bandmates and took a few notes along the way. He’s in the process of writing a memoir about the time period and has inked a deal with St. Martin’s Press.
“My publisher wants me to cool it on details,” he says when asked about the book. “It covers the Alice Cooper Group — the original group — and everything that I can remember that happened. I’ve been working on it for two years now, and it’s hard to believe that after working on it so thoroughly, it still comes down to what feels like a mad dash to the finish line. It’s top shelf publishers and agents and I’m really happy with the team. Everybody is much on the same wavelength.”
Because his wife Cindy Dunaway, who designed the band’s outrageous outfits, wrote letters to her mother once or twice a week, he also has included her side of the story in his book.
“Cindy kept diaries almost daily for the whole duration,” he says. “She was with the group for most of the time and made the costumes. She was a big part of it, even though it’s too bad they left her out of the Super Duper Alice Cooper movie. That will be compensated for in the book. She has plenty of stories. Back then, all I did was observe. I was the guy in the back of the station wagon listening to everyone else fire off these great jokes. Glen [Buxton] was so funny, it was unbelievable. Everybody knows how witty Alice’s humor is. Neil [Smith] and Michael Bruce were also funny. It was almost like a talk show with all comedians. Anytime someone said something that was interesting, I would jot it down on a piece of paper and toss it in the bottom of my suitcase. We would get back home and Cindy would yell at me and say, ‘Look at all these scraps of paper.’ There are a heck of a lot of stories that I can’t believe no one has ever heard before. After my daughters hearing me for years talk about this and that, they said, ‘Shut up and write a book.’ They challenged me.”
After Alice Cooper went solo in the early 1970s, the guys in the Alice Cooper Group soldiered on without him for a short time before calling it quits. Dunaway, who, along with his Alice Cooper Group pals was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, started Blue Coupe in 2008 after jamming with the Bouchard brothers (of Blue Oyster Cult fame). The band plays the kind of powerful, greasy rock 'n’ roll that you’d expect, given the members’ musical resumes.
“When we first became headliners as the Alice Cooper Group, we had an opening act, Dr. John,” Dunaway says when asked about how he first met the Bouchard brothers. “He was using a snake. We told him he couldn’t use a snake. He said he used a snake before we ever did. We told him he couldn’t. He kept using the snake and we needed another opening act. We were at a festival in North Carolina and Alice and I were out in the crowd. It was a beautiful day. Blue Oyster Cult came on stage. They were great and we became friends. In 1972, we did some shows together and it helped their career. I didn’t know this at the time, but they were ready to throw in the towel.”
Blue Coupe has released two terrific albums, and Dunaway says the band’s popularity is starting to soar thanks to its reputation as a terrific live act.
“When we play live, we sound like five people because we have a drummer that sings and lots of harmonies and a big rhythm section sound,” he says. “The best thing is that we have a lot of fun. It slants one way or the other. It’s pretty equal overall. It’s 50 percent BOC and 50 percent Alice Cooper fans. Now, a third of the people who show up are Blue Coupe bands so it’s building.”
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