interviuri rock

Dennis Loren: Childhood, John Lee Hooker and Martin Luther King jr. (Part One)

Dennis Loren: Childhood, John Lee Hooker and Martin Luther King jr.  (Part One)
BANDS : Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Velvet Underground

Along the way, we invited to Metalfan's pages people who have been very involved in the rock music phenomenon, although they were not musicians in the main. I found out about Dennis Loren's work because of the internet and with the help of today's technology, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with the one who created posters and other visual materials for artists like Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, Muddy Waters, Otis Reddig, Frank Zappa and The White Stripes.

Metalfan: Hello, Mister Loren and welcome to Metalfan.ro! What is the most important thing in life?
Dennis Loren: The first most important thing in life – for me – is my family and all the good friends I have made over the years. The second most important thing would be my lifelong interest in the creative arts. The visual arts and music being the two most important, in my case. I am an avid reader of books (both fiction and non-fiction), magazines and newspapers. I also enjoy going to concerts, art galleries and films. I must admit that I am not much of a dancer, but I do enjoy watching those that can dance well – ha!!! I don’t watch very much television, but over the years I have had some favourite programs that seem to be mostly mystery and science fiction.

Posters
Poster designs by Dennis Loren

I have been fortunate to have been able to make a career of doing music related graphic design. In this specialized category I have been the art director for several music magazines (Blitz!, Goldmine, Record Profile Magazine, Creem, Metal, Rock Shots, Thrash Metal and Black Sounds), designed concert posters, LP jackets, CD packaging, record company advertising and tour merchandise for bands and solo artists. My other interests include song-writing, as well as writing magazine articles about music and art subjects. My concert posters have appeared in books, such as “The Art Of Modern Rock” by Paul Gruskin and Dennis King, “1967” by Harvey Kurbernik. My posters and I also appear in the documentary film “American Artifact – The Rise Of American Rock Poster Art”. This film was produced and directed by Merle Becker and has been released on DVD by Freak Films. The DVD packaging uses my art on the cover. I am presently trying to finish a book of my art, design and illustration work which I plan to call “Finger Prints.”

Metalfan: I think that it would be great if you could tell us more about your childhood. How was that moment in time for you?
Dennis Loren: I was born on June 15th, 1946 in Detroit, Michigan USA. Unfortunately my mother Dorothy died of Hodgkin’s disease when I was four years old and my brother David was three months old. She was only 25 years old. After my mother Dorothy passed on, my father Loren, my brother David and I moved to my paternal grandparent’s home. My grandfather Benjamin was a school teacher, who taught mathematics and languages. Grandmother Amanda was a homemaker, who cared for all of us. My father was the oldest of five siblings. His brothers Melvin and Clifford had recently married and moved to their own homes, so there was room for us. My father’s younger brother Irving and younger sister Edith were still living there, but Irving would soon leave for college and Edith would soon marry, as well.

Family
Left: Mother Dorothy and Dennis Loren in 1946; right: Father Loren Wesley Kranich in 1970

My grandmother Amanda was very creative and nurtured my interest in the visual arts by providing me with art supplies of all kinds. My uncle Clifford – who made wonderful pencil drawings - would often visit and show me the basics of illustration. Uncle Irving had a great singing voice. Grandmother Amanda sent him to private singing and music lessons. Irving also learned to play the piano. My father was interested in photography and music. He played the trombone and loved classical, big band, jazz and vocal group music. So, I was surrounded by very loving and creative people, who encouraged both my interests in art and music.

Metalfan: A lot of children draw in their first years of life, but as time goes by, they stop. Looking back at the things that you've done, I have to say that you were not one of those children. Could you please tell us the story of how you became a visual artist?
Dennis Loren: You got a little preview in my previous answer. I have a photograph that was taken by my father when I was eight years old. In this picture I am painting and I seem to be very serious about it – ha!!! At a very young age I became fascinated by the comic strips in the newspapers and the illustrations in children’s books that my grandmother bought for my brother and I. Eventually my father would remarry and we moved to the house here in Dearborn, Michigan, where I now live. My step-mother Harriett was a school teacher and a very sweet person that accepted David and I as her own children. My brother James was born in 1960.

Dennis' childhood
Left: A photo taken by father Loren Wesley of Dennis painting when was 8 years old, in 1954;
right: a pencil sketch drew by Dennis Loren of bluesman John Lee Hooker during one of his performances in 1965.

When I began attending the O.L. Smith Junior High School, my art teacher – Mr. Hashonian – took an interest in my drawing ability and tutored me after school several times a week. He was a great help to me, because he was an excellent artist in his own right. During this period of time I was very interested in becoming a comic book illustrator. I wrote letters to the artists whose work I admired. Frequently I received letters in reply that answered my questions about the tools and techniques they used. One of these letters stands out in my memory, because it was from Carmine Infantino who drew The Flash comic book character. In recent years this character has become a popular television program here in America and ironically, they have used some of my music concert posters as background props in several set designs. Mr. Hashonian warned me that I would have to become much faster with, if I wanted a career in the comic book field – ha!!!

Also during my junior high school years, I was a member of an instrumental rock band called The Deltones. We didn’t know about Dick Dale’s group of the same name in California – ha!!! We had named our band after group leader and saxophone player Jim Delmore. Bill Rinn played the guitar, Paul Klaproth played the drums and I played the flute, harmonica and bass. We performed at school dances and talent shows. So, it was during this period of time, that my interest in both art and music began to overlap.

When I began attending Edsel Ford High School, I continued taking art classes, but also took classes in both printing and photography. My printing teacher – Mr. Stolfo – also took a special interest in my drawing ability. In his class, my fellow students and I learned to set type by hand and how to use a linotype hot metal typesetting machine, a platen press (for making business cards, postcards, stationery and wedding invitations) and an offset lithography press (for making posters, handbills, magazines, newspapers and books). We learned to design page layouts, strip film negatives and prepare the offset plates for the printing press. We printed our weekly high school newspaper called The Bolt. So, this was all very practical experience. I was able to draw cartoons and other illustrations that were used in the newspaper. I probably learned more about graphic design in this class, than anywhere else in my life, except for learning on the job and gaining experience by trial and error – ha!!! My first posters were for our high school plays, including one called “Bye Bye Birdie,” which was a musical play about a fictitious rock star. This play had been big hit as a Broadway musical in New York City.
 
Edsel Ford High School
Top left: Mr Stolfo instructing two students how to use an offset press.
Bottom left: Edsel Ford High School newspaper with logo designed by Loren.
Right: A hot metal lino typesetting machine.

When I attended my 50th high school reunion, my former fellow students and I took a tour of the school. I was looking forward to seeing the old print shop classroom. Sadly for me, it was now a computer lab. The times and learning priorities had changed at my old school, but I still wonder where students go to learn printing now. Most likely at a trade school or as an apprentice – ha!!!

At Edsel Ford High School, I also met Kay Jackson. We had a lot in common (including our red hair – ha!!!). Kay was also an artist and loved music. As a couple we would go on dates to area coffeehouses to listen to folk and blues performers. Kay was also a huge inspiration to me. Kay was a year older than I and so after she graduated in 1963, she began to attend Eastern Michigan University in Yipsilanti, Michigan near Ann Arbor (25 miles West of Dearborn). Thankfully, I had a car (a 1957 Ford) and could pick Kay up on Friday, so she could come home for the weekends. I would drive her back to school on Sunday evenings. I graduated from high school in 1964. I took a full time job in a department store and for three hours each week, day, evening, I attended art school at the Society of Arts & Crafts in Detroit. This school is now called The Centre for Creative Studies. It is located near the Detroit Institute of Arts museum and the Wayne State University.

Kay Jackson and Dennis Loren
Left: A photo of Kay Jackson took by Dennis Loren;
right: Kay Jackson and Dennis on the Detroit waterfront in 1965

1964 was also the beginning of the “British Invasion” of rock bands. My brother David began playing the guitar at a very young age by taking lessons from a friend of our father. In 1964 he formed a band called The Monacos with guitarist Dave Halstead, bass player Lari Jackson (Kay’s brother) and drummer Doug Lebeck. Kay encouraged them to change the name of the band to The House Of Lords and include me as the lead singer and harmonica player.
House of Lords & The Heartbeats
Left: HOUSE OF LORDS (left to right: Lari Jackson, Dave Halstead, Doug Lebeck, Dennis Loren
and standing in front of me was his brother David Kranich. Right: THE HEARTBEATS
(left to right are David Kranich, Marc Falconberry, John Angelos, and Dennis playing harmonica;
drummer Keith Johnstone is hidden behind John Angelos).

Both David and I began writing songs at this time and David also began to sing harmony vocals. David and I would also occasionally play with another group of neighbourhood musicians called The Heartbeats that included singer and bass player John Angelos, guitarist Marc Falconberry and drummer Keith Johnstone. In 1971 members of both of these bands and I recorded a single as The Vampires called “Don’t You Touch Our Rock & Roll.”

I have certainly rambled on with the answer to this question, but as they say, “Context is everything” – ha!!! My very first professional music concert poster was done in June of 1967, for a Muddy Waters show at The Living End coffeehouse in Detroit, but I can tell you more about that later in the interview. For now let me just say that it was Kay Jackson that got me that first concert poster job. But first I would have to do my military service, before I could proceed with my intended career in art and music.

Metalfan: What was your first experience with music that you still remember? Which were the first albums that you've bought?
Dennis Loren: My earliest memories were listening to my grandmother Amanda and uncle Irving singing at home, music in church and listening to records and the radio. As I mentioned my father loved music and at the end of each week on “payday” he would come home with a number new LPs and 45 rpm single records. The first records I purchased with my newspaper delivery route earnings – during my junior high school years – were singles. It wasn’t until I worked in the department store that I could afford to buy albums – ha!!! In those days, singles cost 35 cents and albums were slightly less than $2.00 dollars each. The first three singles I bought in the late ‘50s were Buddy Holly & The Crickets’ “I’m Gonna Love You Too,” Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” and The Everly Brothers’ “Wake Up Little Susie.” Later, I can also remember getting singles by The Fleetwoods (“Come Softly To Me”), Martin Denny (“Quite Village”), The Ventures (“Perfidia”), Del Shannon (“Runaway”) and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (“Shop Around”). “Perfidia” was the song our Deltones band performed at our junior high school talent show to great applause – ha!!!

In my later teenage years, I began to listen to folk and blues music. One of the first albums that I purchased was “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan”. This album had the song “Blowin’ In The Wind,” on it. I had already gotten the hit single version by Peter, Paul & Mary and was interested in hearing more songs written by Bob Dylan. This album led me back to Dylan’s first album where I learned about Woody Guthrie and Eric Von Schmidt. As I gained knowledge by browsing through the folk and blues sections at my local record shop and reading album cover liner notes, I discovered the music of Pete Seeger, Son House, Joan Baez, Robert Johnson, Eric Anderson, Mississippi John Hurt, Hamilton Camp, Tom Rush, Muddy Waters, Judy Collins, Howlin’ Wolf and so many others.

When I first heard The Animals’ single “House Of The Rising Sun” in 1964, I realized that they must have first heard the song from Bob Dylan’s first album or the version done by Joan Baez. Dylan intern may have learned this old traditional song from a Leadbelly or Woody Guthrie record. The first known recording of this song was made by folk music historian Alan Lomax when he recorded 16 year old Georgia Turner singing this song in 1937. Where Miss Turner heard the song is unknown. This passing on of old songs is what is called “The Folk Tradition” in America.

Metalfan: I know that your last name is Kranich. When and how did you decide to drop it and use only Dennis Loren as your name?
Dennis Loren: This is actually a funny story. I first met guitarist Ted Lucas – who was a member of a Detroit folk-rock band called The Spike-Drivers – in 1965. When Ted would perform as a solo artist, I often opened for him with my own singer-songwriter set. Each time this happened, Ted said that the announcer would mispronounce my last name when introducing me. Ted asked me what my middle name was. I told him that it was “Loren,” which is also my father’s first name. Ted said that “Loren” was perfect and much easier for people to pronounce. Since it is first two words of my real name it never felt like a “stage name.” I began to use just “Dennis Loren” for both my art and music. Although sometimes I would use D.L. Kranich on posters that I designed for concerts that I performed at. Of course my father enjoyed this. Especially when I told him that someone once asked me if my father was named Loren Loren. He found this very amusing – ha!!!

Ferdinand Kranich and his store
Left: A photo of the giant stove made of wood for a display at the Chicago World’s Fair
carved with the help of Dennis Loren’s great-grandfather Ferdinand Kranich; right: picture of Ferdinand Kranich.

As you know, America is a melting pot of many ethnic groups. My own family history is very interesting, as I am quite a mixture of several nationalities – ha!!! On my father’s side of the family, my great-grandfather Ferdinand Kranich was born in Warsaw, Poland to German parents. He was orphaned at the age of 11 and was raised by a Polish couple. My family believes that Ferdinand was born Jewish, but was raised as a Protestant (Lutheran) by his adopted family. In 1880 he immigrated to America. He first arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, but so soon moved to Detroit, because there were many German speaking people living there. He was a talented woodworker and hand-carved decorative elements for homes and furniture. His son (my grandfather) Benjamin was born in Detroit and graduated from Wayne State University. My grandmother Amanda’s family name was Schultz. The Schultz family were also German and came to this country in the early 1800s. The Schultz family were farmers in the centre of the Michigan area. My grandfather met my grandmother when he was a young teacher in the farming village of Gladwin, Michigan. My father was born in Cadillac, Michigan in 1919.

Family
Left: Grandmother Amanda (Schultz) Kranich when she was 16 years old;
centre top: Dennis’ paternal grandparents Amanda and Benjamin Kranich;
centre bottom: Dennis’ maternal grandparents Ray and Eula Neely;
right: Dennis and brother David as children in the 1950s.

My mother Dorothy’s family name is Neely or as some relatives spell it Nealy. Her father – Cellus Raymond Neely – or Ray as he liked to be called was born in the State of Kentucky. His family were descended from Irish people, who also came to America in the early 1800s. My mother Dorothy’s mother – Eula Hargis – had ancestors with the most interesting heritage in my family history. Two brothers – James and Edward Hargis – came from Scotland. They journeyed to Wales to look for work and eventually joined the crew of the third supply boat to sail to the Jamestown colony in the State of Virginia in 1622. They both stayed in America and married Native American women. The Hargis family eventually settled in the State of Tennessee. I come from the line of James Hargis.

So, I am a mix of German, German-Jewish, Irish, Scottish and Native American people – ha!!! Kranich means Crane – like the bird – in English. My father did a lot of research about the surname Kranich – over the years and during his travels – and found that most American families with this last name are of a German-Jewish origin.

Metalfan: Could you please tell us more about the artists that have influenced your work?
Dennis Loren: The list is quite long – ha!!! The artists whose work had the earliest influence on me were, Arthur Rackham, Fredrick Remmington, Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell. Later, I came to enjoy the art of Alphonse Mucha and Lucian Bernhard. I closely studied the work of newspaper comic strip illustrators Hal Foster, Alex Raymond and comic book artists Carmine Infantino, Joe Kubert, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. I also loved the Science-Fiction and Fantasy book cover illustration work of Frank Frazzeta.

When I was very young I would study my father’s album covers, because I wanted to know who designed and illustrated them. Graphic designer and illustrator Alex Steinweiss is the first name that springs to mind. He is actually the inventor of the album cover and designed the first one in 1940. At this time, I also became aware of album cover designs of Jim Flora, Robert Jones, Rudolph deHarak, David Stone Martin, Reid Miles, Jules Halifant and many others including Andy Warhol and Saul Bass (who would both find fame in fine art and movie poster design, respectively). I think that my favourite album cover designer – whose work I discovered in the early ‘60s – was William Harvey of Elektra Records. Part of this attraction was the way he used old style lettering in a new ways. His designs had a “look” about them that was very clean, well-organized and very stylish. William Harvey is also responsible for developing the Uni-Pak style of album packaging and creating recognizable logos for the bands, such as Love, The Doors and The Stooges, who recorded for the Elektra label.

Being from Detroit, Gary Grimshaw’s concert poster designs for the Grande Ballroom first caught my eye and impressed me. This was just weeks before I arrived in San Francisco in March of 1967. Once I was there, I was able to see that the poster art of Wes Wilson (the father of psychedelic posters), Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso, Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse had influenced Gary and in turn myself. Like Gary and I, Stanley “Mouse” Miller was also from Detroit and had already made a successful name for himself as a hot-rod t-shirt artist while still a teenager. I first met Stanley when he was 16 and I was 11 years of age. I attended the Detroit State Fair with my family and I found a booth near the band stand where Stanley was airbrushing hot-rod t-shirts and selling them as fast as he could paint them – ha!!!

Stanley eventually moved to San Francisco and met Alton Kelley. Mouse and Kelley collaborated on posters for Chet Helms’ The Family Dog venue, the Avalon Ballroom, as did Griffin, Moscoso and Wilson (before he began to work exclusively for Bill Graham at the Fillmore Auditorium). These five artists would all do concert poster designs for the Avalon, the Fillmore and other San Francisco venues. Victor Moscoso’s posters for The Matrix attracted me because of the unique and “vibrating” colour combinations, which in many ways was similar to the colour combinations that Wes Wilson used on some of his early Fillmore posters. Certain colours when placed next to each other – such as magenta and cyan – cause what is called “flicker.” This happens because the retina of the eye cannot focus on either colour at the same time. The retina goes back and forth trying its best to focus. Most psychedelic concert posters did not use “day-glow” colour inks like some people assume – ha!!!

I have also been influenced by the work George Hunter, Michael Ferguson, David Singer, Lee Conklin, Randy Tuten and Pat Ryan. All the concert poster artists I have mentioned in this interview would eventually become my friends. The concert posters these artists created would lead directly to their being hired to design album covers… Often because of their friendships with the bands and the artistic freedom granted these groups by the record companies. I could go on to name many other artists in the field of music graphics, but their names will probably be mentioned later in this interview.

Metalfan: How would you define your art style? Could you please tell us more?
Dennis Loren: I have learned so much from so many different artists over such a long period of time, that for many years I didn’t think I had a style of my own. I had learned enough so that I could create posters in a number of styles. I love both decorative filigree and flowing nature of “Art Nouveau,” as well as the clean lines of the “Art Deco.” I have been a sponge and picked up various techniques over the years. I constantly try to improve and refine my work.

Posters
Three posters designed by Dennis Loren influenced by the Art Nouveu (left), 
the Egyptian art (center) and the Art Deco (right)

There are many who think I do have my own style. Gary Grimshaw always said that I had a very special ability with colour, but in reality I learned to use colour by looking at the work of Gary Grimshaw, Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso and Stanley Mouse – ha!!! Maybe I have taken it at bit further, because of my use of outlines, drop-shadows, “split-fountain” gradients and metallic effects. High contrast drawing is another element that I use that may define my style. My illustration technique is almost like sculpting on paper, because of the way I use light and shadow. I also love symmetry. Even when I do a non-symmetrical design, there is always a subtle or hidden balance. At times I will combine both illustrations and photographs. Each project leads me in a certain direction and informs the kinds of techniques I use.

Posters
Three poster designs by Dennis Loren exemplifying the use of colour (left),
an illustration that shows the “sculpting on paper” technique (centre)
and the use of metallic gradients (right); the designs on the left and right use photos;
all three use drop-shadows or outlines for the lettering.

It has been said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Noting this maxim, “perception” is really left up to the viewer. So, I leave it to others to define my style – ha!!!

Metalfan: It would be great if you could tell us more about your working technique. How did you create your posters in the ’60s and in the ’70s? Now do you still use that technique for your new works?
Dennis Loren: Each design starts with a blank sheet of paper or illustration board, pencils (both black and non-repro blue), pen & ink and an IDEA. Before computers, almost everything was done by hand, except for occasional typesetting. Most designs were completed in black and white, with hand-cut rubylith or amberlith overlays for certain designated colour areas or knockouts. The final artwork was called a “Keyline,” “Paste-Up” or “Mechanical Layout.” After a design was completed, I would use a tissue overlay to indicate to the printer the various colours I wanted use for all the individual elements. The magic would happen in the film separation stage. If a full colour illustration or photograph was used, this artwork would need to be “colour separated” into the four primary colours of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). In the mechanical I would use an FPO (For Position Only) photo-stat or Xerox copy for this element in a layout. Before printing I would be supplied with a full colour proof in the form of what was known as a “colour key” or “match print,” so that I could make sure everything looked as I had intended.

Some designs might only use two or three colours depending on the budget. In cases like these I might chose a variety of PMS colour ink combinations. To achieve this I might use tints made of halftone screens and other effects. If I used blue, I could combine it with yellow to make green in certain other areas. With red and blue I could make purple. Red and yellow would make orange and so on. You could design a two colour poster that looked like you used three colours. In those days, an artist would have to be able to “see” the colour scheme of the final art in their mind’s eye – ha!!! Another thing I had to keep in mind was which printing technique would be used. For most of my poster designs I have used the offset lithography printing process, but I have also made art for screen printing and letter-press printing. An artist has to think differently when designing for each of these printing techniques. And now we have digital printing – ha!!!
 
Dennis Loren and Carolyn Ferris
Loren with friend and fellow poster artist Carolyn Ferris holding the pen & ink drawing of a fairy
he used for the Mike Heron & Trembling Bells tour poster on the right.

Since I purchased my first computer in 1992, a lot has changed and to some extent the various steps I use have become easier. Now I can see a finished design in full colour and I can do my own typesetting. The one thing I still do by hand are the original pencil and/or pen & ink drawings. I scan this art at a very high resolution and retouch these drawings in Adobe Photoshop software. I make a greyscale Tiff which I run through Adobe Streamline software to make vector outlined art. For my design layouts I use Adobe Illustrator. Of course, over the years, I have also made use of the Illustrator software drawing tools to make a variety of images and design elements. If I need to incorporate a photograph, I scan it and turn it into a Photoshop EPS for positioning in Illustrator. All of the Adobe software programs are compatible. When a design is finished, I open the Illustrator version in Photoshop and make a “flattened” Tiff or PDF for the printer.

Where my ideas come is a bit more difficult to explain – ha!!! I always like to listen to the music of the group or solo artist I am doing a project for. A line of from the lyrics of a song might trigger an idea. I know some visual artists that do rough sketches for a number of ideas that spring to mind and then they begin to refine those ideas for a specific project. I on the other hand, tend to stare at the blank surface were I will later start drawing finished illustrations. What happens is that almost immediately I begin to visualize something. Call it intuition, inspiration or a form of meditation, I don’t actually know where this ability comes from. For me it just happens. I often let an idea evolve as I am working on it. I do a lot of visualization in my head and I have even dreamed up ideas while I was sleeping – ha!!! When I am not working on a specific project, I often make random drawings of things that interest me that I can use in the future as the central image for a design. I do this because in an emergency I may have to finish an assignment in a matter of days to meet a printing deadline. Having a drawing ready that I can use can save many hours of work, when I don’t have enough time.

Artists often appropriate images or ideas they have seen and redraw them in their own style and place them in a new context or setting. The late Rick Griffin once told me that he was an “Art Pirate” – ha!!! Although he was a fantastic and masterful artist – using several mediums, such as pen & ink drawings and oil, acrylic, watercolour and air-brush painting – some of Rick’s ideas came from other sources. For instance, the “Laughing Crow” – he painted for the back of The Grateful Dead’s “Wake Of The Flood” album cover, the promotional poster and also drew in pen & ink for the label – was inspired by the image of a crow he had seen on the back of an old deck of playing cards.

Grateful Dead’s “Wake Of The Flood” LP
The poster and back cover paintings and pen & ink illustration for the label (centre) of the “laughing crow”
that Rick Griffin did for the Grateful Dead’s “Wake Of The Flood” LP.

Also artists tend to inspire each other in so many ways. I love the camaraderie.

Metalfan: In the early ’60s Civil Rights movement was happening. How was that time in Detroit? Would you like to share with us your thoughts and experiences from that era?
Dennis Loren: Until the rise of the civil right movement, the North and the South of the United States were very different places to live. In the South people were still segregated by race until the Supreme Court ended segregation in schools and a few years later President Johnson and the Congress passed the Civil Rights and the Voting Rights acts. The North was always a bit more liberal, but racism still existed in some places. That fear of “the other” has always been a part of the landscape of America. Every ethnic group that has immigrated to this country has experienced some form of prejudice. Native Americans also experienced this in a most brutal way by the people that originally colonized this country.

I know in the area where I grew up – in the South-Western part of Detroit known as “Springwells” – the neighbourhood was a true “melting pot” and included many different ethnic groups. Some parents may have been prejudice against some groups of people, but their children became friends in school. I know that I had friends of all colours, ethnicities, creeds and religions. Thankfully my family was very accepting of all people and this was instilled in me at a very young age. My father even took me to see Martin Luther King Jr. speak at a Civil Rights rally in downtown Detroit in the early 1960s.

In many ways, I think it was popular music that helped bring about some of the changes in attitudes and race relations. When I was growing up, my friends and I listened to the radio and played records by blues, jazz, rhythm & blues, country, doo-wop, rockabilly, folk and soul groups and solo artists. The race of these recording artists were not important to us. The Motown Record label began right here in Detroit and we were all proud of that fact. My brother David and I attended Motown concerts at the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit. There always seemed to be an equal number of blacks and whites in the audience. Kay Jackson and I use to see John Lee Hooker and other blues performers in Detroit coffeehouses. Of course I will admit to being young and a bit naïve about certain things that were going on at that time, but for the most part, I think most young people got along.

Also I think that military service broke down barriers, because all of the soldiers were in the same situation. In fact the beginning of the Civil Rights movement may have actually started at the end of World War II. Black soldiers that had served their country wanted to be treated the same as the white soldiers. Certainly Detroit – like all big cities in America – had its share of problems, but I never witnessed anything like the problems a person might read about in the newspaper. It wasn’t until I was living in San Francisco that I read about the riots in Detroit. I was in a state of shock for a while and found it hard to believe. Racism, the anti-war movement and the assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy served to keep this country in turmoil, but I think for the most part, Americans are good people. Your readers might find it interesting that Dearborn, Michigan (where I live) and the Detroit area in general has one of the largest Middle-Eastern and Muslim populations in America. During this last Halloween holiday, I had children of all races at my door “trick-or-treating” for candy and they all seemed to be having fun together – ha!!!

Metalfan: You were drafted into the U.S. Army in September 1965 and spent most of 1966 stationed overseas in Turkey. Do you have any memories that you would like to share with us from that period?
Dennis Loren: I always have mixed feelings about my time in the U.S. Army. Military service was something that was compulsory unless you had a physical disability or a full-time college student deferment. A student deferment meant that you were allowed to finish college, but then you would have to serve. Although I was a part-time art student, this was not enough to keep me from being drafted. I was using my earnings from the department store to pay for my tuition, as my working class parents couldn’t really afford to help me. I didn’t know much about the Vietnam War when I was drafted, but I was learned quickly that it was not a place I wanted to go. Fortunately I was sent to Turkey. I did have friends from my school days and my army basic training unit that were killed in Vietnam. It was a dilemma that all young men in America faced. Gary Grimshaw and my cousin Gregory were both in the U.S. Navy and were sent to Vietnam. They both worked on aircraft carriers and didn’t experience the war on the ground like the infantry and artillery soldiers would.

After my first two months in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I was sent to code school at Fort Devens, Massachusetts near Boston for my advanced training. I must have passed some tests during basic training that qualified me for this kind of training. I was taught International Morse Code and then diverted to “signal intercept” training. On my weekend passes I would go visit Kay Jackson in New York City’s Greenwich Village or she would meet me in Boston. During this time she had transferred her art studies to the Cooper Union School in New York City. We always had a great time listening to music in venues, such as the Night Owl Café, Gerde’s Folk City, the Café Au Go Go in the village or Club 47. the Unicorn or the Rose coffeehouses in Boston and enjoying each other’s company.

While I was awaiting my overseas assignment I caught Pneumonia while on guard duty during the winter. When I was released from the hospital, I was allowed leave to visit my family in Dearborn for two weeks before I was sent to Turkey. My unit flew from New York City to Paris and then on to Ankara, Turkey. From Ankara I was sent to Sinop, a small peninsula on northern Black Sea coast of Turkey. My job was to intercept code from the Kompustin Yar Missile Range in Ukraine area the Soviet Union. Sinop was 150 miles – as the crow flies – from our target across the Black Sea. Many years later when I lived in Hollywood, I met a Russian immigrant man about my age, who had been stationed at this USSR missile facility during the same time I was stationed in Sinop. He was now driving a cab in Hollywood. He told me that during his time at the missile range, all he dreamed about was coming to America. We had a good laugh about this – ha!!! We were both very glad that the “Cold War” was over.

While in Sinop and during my non-working hours I played in a band called Part Two with guitarists Tom Sellew and Mike Kuric and drummer Bill Banta. We would play music in the Officers Club, the NCO club and for the regular soldiers. Once we opened for a basketball game between our station’s all-star team and the high school team in Sinop. It was one of the more interesting and different events I ever performed at – ha!!! Another group of soldiers has a country-western band called The Gunrunners – ha!!! Our station was frequently entertained by traveling bands from England and Europe. One of those English groups was called A Bunch Of Five, who later became known and recorded as Tickle. The lead guitarist Mick Wayne would eventually form a band called Juniors Eyes. Mick taught Part Two how to play several new Beatles songs. There was also a young Turkish band that played in Sinop at the Yeni Hotel, that we became friends with. For some reason many German and European tourists would take their holiday vacations in Sinop and stay at this hotel.

Metalfan: In those times did you get the chance to also visit some other countries from Eastern Europe or to encounter any form of art or culture from this side of the world?
Dennis Loren: Yes I did take a trip with two friends to a number of other European countries, although due to “Cold War,” our security clearances and sensitive work, we were not allowed to visit any Soviet Bloc countries in Eastern Europe. Mike Kuric, another soldier friend (whose name escapes me at the moment) and I used our leave time to try and reach London. It is a long story about a long journey, but suffice it to say that we visited, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany and finely England. On our trip back to Turkey, we visited France, Spain and Greece, before flying back to Ankara, Turkey where we road in an army transport supply truck back to Sinop. We used every mode of transportation available to us on this trip, from buses and trains to military supply and mail planes, but we did it and had a great time visiting museums, historical sites and going to music venues and of course record shops – ha!!!

[Ed. Note] The dialogue with Dennis Loren did not end here. Check the part two of this interview.
Autor: H.
   January 30, 2018  | 0 Comments  | 1862 Views « BACK

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