Denny Johnson

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Denny Johnson


Early Days

As a teenager growing up in Minneapolis and the Northern Suburban area in the mid and later 1950’s, Denny Johnson recalls a number of events that drew his attention to Rock’n’Roll music.  One of the first events was watching Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show (60 million viewers tuned in to see Elvis on September 9, 1956, his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show).  This prompted Denny to “perform” as Elvis at the talent shows in the garage that his sisters organized for the neighborhood kids.  Denny constructed a homemade guitar out of cardboard and a wood board and drew frets on the neck of the pretend guitar.  Denny did his Elvis moves and lip synced to the Elvis songs being played on the record player as the neighborhood kids sat on benches in the garage and watched the entertainment.

Another factor that had a big influence on Denny came about at a local roller rink, the Crystal Coliseum.  While roller skating at the rink, Denny noticed posters on the walls of the Quonset Hut style building that advertised dances with live bands to be held at the rink on the weekends evenings.  Denny attended some of the dances and discovered local band The Augie Garcia Quintet  (from St. Paul) and Roscoe and his Little Green Men (from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota).  Denny was very impressed with both of the bands.

Yet another factor in this time period was the teen dances held at the Robbinsdale Community Center where local teens would dance to the popular records of the day.  These types of dances (“sock hops”) were also popular at Robbinsdale Junior High School where Denny was a student.  In the 8th grade, Denny and dance partner Pat Hall won a dance contest at one of the sock hops and had their photo published on the cover of the school paper, the Junior Jotter.

At a local record store at the Crystal Shopping Center, Denny purchased his first record: an Elvis EP (Extended Play, 7 inch diameter, 33 and 1/3 RPM) with 4 songs on it with a color picture sleeve.

Some of Denny’s favorite songs in the 1955 to 1960 time period were as follows:

Elvis Presley: “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog”

The Everly Brothers: “Hey Bird Dog” and “Bye Bye Love”

Marty Robbins: “A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation)”

Johnny Cash: “I Walk the Line”

Ricky Nelson: “My Bucket’s got a Hole in It” and “Travelin’ Man”

Gene Vincent: “Be Bop a Lula”

The Rays: “Silhouettes”

Meeting The Underbeats

In the 10th grade, Denny moved to North Minneapolis.  While in the 12th grade of high school (Henry High), Denny met Tom Forystek from Brooklyn Center who was friends with Doni Larson and Jim Johnson.  Doni and Jim had a band (with no name) that rehearsed in Doni Larson’s basement in Brooklyn Center at 54th  and Logan Avenue North.  Doni played bass guitar and Jim played lead guitar and sang on lead vocals.   Also in the band was Russ Hagen who played rhythm guitar and sang lead vocals and Bob “Duke” Dwayne on drums.  One day Tom brought Denny over to meet Doni and found out about the band and discovered they were going to practice that night so Denny stuck around to watch the band rehearse and over time became very good friends with Doni and Jim.  Another friend of the band, Dave Waggoner, also a musician, lived nearby, which would have an impact on Denny down the road.  The band was very inspired by Chuck Berry and learned to play many of his popular hit songs including:

“Little Queenie”

“Sweet Little 16”

“Bye Bye Johnny”

“Broken Arrow”

“Johnny B Goode”

At some point in 1963 the band came up with a name, The Underbeats.

Russ had booked the band’s first job in Chisago City Community Center but had left the band for military service.  Russ decided to return to Minnesota to fulfill the job contract.

Ray Berg had been practicing with the band since Russ had departed the band and Russ had to use Ray’s equipment for the job.  Denny helped haul the band’s gear to the job and joined a caravan of cars headed to Chisago City for the very first job of The Underbeats.  This was the first job in the music business for Denny Johnson: band boy for The Underbeats.  This was the only job that Russ and Bob played with The Underbeats.  Ray Berg took over for Russ Hagen on rhythm guitar and Rod Eaton took over for Bob Dwayne on drums.  Like Russ, Bob left the band for military service.  The first job with the new lineup of The Underbeats was at Bill’s Roller Rink in Anoka and once again, Denny was along as part of the band crew.

In February, 1964, Denny was one of millions of Americans watching the Ed Sullivan show when The Beatles made their debut performance in the United States.  With 73 million viewers that show  set a new record (never broken) for the number of people watching a single television show and inspired countless numbers of young musicians to start up new Rock’n’Roll bands.  In 2015 Denny stated: “The Beatles took music to a whole new level.  They flipped the whole thing.”  Two of his favorite early Beatles songs were “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You.”

First Bass Guitar

In July, 1964, Denny bought his first musical instrument, a Harmony Flat Top six-string acoustic guitar.  After struggling to learn to play it (with the aid of an instruction book) for one or two months, Denny decided it might be easier to play a guitar with four fat strings and in December, 1964, went to a music store at Cedar Avenue and Lake Street ( Thorgard Anderson) in Minneapolis and bought a Harmony Bass Guitar for $99.00.  Denny went to B-Sharp Music and bought a Fender Bassman Amp from store owner Jim Lopes.  Denny took bass guitar lessons for awhile at B-Sharp but then picked up an instruction book and listened to records and taught himself to play the instrument.

First Band

In April, 1965, Denny decided to put together his first band with some of his friends.  The band members were: Doug Jerde on piano and vocals; John Kline on guitar; Cliff Heinch on guitar; and Denny Johnson on bass guitar.  The two guitar players plugged their guitars into Denny’s bass guitar amp.  The band played mainly instrumentals and a few vocal songs, mainly Top-40 covers that had three chords, plus a couple of Rolling Stone’s songs.  The band practiced in either Doug or John’s house, as both home’s had a piano in the living room.  At one practice, the band heard someone from a nearby home playing guitar at a loud volume.  That person turned out to be Dave Middlemist, who had turned up his guitar in order to get the attention of the band.  Dave was invited to come over and jam with the band.  With his curly hair, Dave got a new nickname (Kink) from Denny.  The band never had a name, never played a public job, and came to an end in June, 1965.

In October, 1965, Denny got a phone call from Dave Waggoner from The Aardvarks who changed band names to The He-Too’s.  Dave’s band was breaking up and Dave wanted to put together a new band along with Gene Balabon from his band and wanted to see if Denny was interested in playing in a new group.  Denny was interested and the next step was to locate a drummer.  At the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis, Denny and Dave found Pete Huber, who had been the drummer for The Gremmie’s.  The new  group now had: Dave Waggoner on Farfisa Organ and vocals; Gene Balabon on guitar and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Pete Huber on drums and vocals.  Dave Waggoner wanted to be a front man and drop the keyboards, so Denny brought up the name of Dave “Kink” Middlemist and Dave signed on as a keyboard player and guitar player.  The band played Top-40 hits on the radio including R & B songs and songs by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.  Dave Waggoner was a big fan of The Stones.

First Band Job

This band got work by performing for defunct bands in order to fulfill contracts.  The first job was played under the name The New Gremmies and Denny hid behind his bass amp suffering from acute stage fright during the first set.  As the show progressed that night his stage fright diminished and he came to enjoy playing live.  After that job, the band played a number of jobs as Chord on Blues and then came up with their own band name: The Scoundrels.  The Scoundrels signed with David Anthony Productions, a popular booking agency based in Minneapolis owned and managed by David Anthony Wachter.

Jokers Wild

During a card game one day in early 1966, Doni Larson from The Underbeats suggested to Dave Waggoner that he should consider changing the band name from The Scoundrels to Jokers Wild.  Dave liked the name and went back to the band members with the idea who all agreed with Dave and Jokers Wild became the new name of the band.

From 1966 through the end of 1969, Joker Wild would go through various configurations with various band members, basically going from a five-piece band to a four-piece band to a three-piece band, the first “power trio” in the Twin Cities metro area.  Their music style also changed during this time period from popular songs on the radio to covers of more obscure progressive and psychedelic songs and also original songs written by the band members.  With the three-piece version, the group had enough equipment on stage for three bands, including at one point, homemade amplifiers that mystified guitar players from other bands who were informed they were “experimental” models that the band was trying out.

Jokers Wild played throughout the upper five state Midwest region (as well as states outside of the Midwest) and played with a number of national recording artists including The Shadows of Knight; The Association; Procol Harum; and Canned Heat.  The show with The Association was in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and attracted a crowd of over 4,000 people.

Joker’s Wild released three 45’s, all with original songs as follows:

First 45:

Recorded: June, 1967; Released: August, 1967

Side A: “All I See Is You” (Lonnie Knight)

Side B: “I Just Can’t Explain It” (Bill Jordan)

Record Label: Metrobeat

Second 45:

Recorded: January, 1968; Released: May, 1968

Side A: “Because I’m Free” (Greg Springer)

Side B: “Sunshine” (Lonnie Knight)

Record Label: Peak

Third 45:

Recorded: April, 1969; Released: June, 1969

Side A: “Peace Man” (Lonnie Knight)

Side B: “Tomorrow” (Pete Huber)

Record Label: Peak

After Jokers Wild

After Jokers Wild came to an end, the band made a transition to Flash Tuesday with Bill Gent taking over on drums for Pete Huber, who left drumming behind due to health issues.  Flash Tuesday lasted from September 1, 1969 through April 15, 1970.  The band opened up for Grand Funk Railroad at The Labor Temple on January 26, 1970.  David Anthony Wachter booked shows at The Labor Temple and would bring in national and inter-national rock acts and would often have local bands open up the shows.

From May, 1970 to June, 1970, Denny played in the Mojo Buford Blues Band.  In the group were: Mojo Buford on harp and vocals; Lonnie Knight on guitar and vocals; Dave Himmelbacher on keyboards; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Rick Johnson on drums.  Mojo played at The Cozy Bar in North Minneapolis (on Plymouth Avenue) and was often visited by Lazy Bill Lucas, who was a friend of Mojo’s.  Mojo left the group to go on tour with Muddy Waters.

After playing the blues with Mojo Buford, Denny made the switch to country music… backing up singer Lexi Johnson along with Lonnie Knight on guitar, and Rick Johnson on drums.  Denny recalls the odd appearance of a lady country singer in country boots on stage standing next to two hippie type guitar players.  This job lasted from July, 1970 through August, 1970.

From September, 1970 to December 31, 1970, Denny played with a Country – Rock Band called Bazooka.  The lineup was: Chuck Edwards on lead guitar and vocals; Tom Hopp on second lead guitar and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Robby Belleville on drums and vocals.  Denny and Tom Hopp wrote original songs for the group.  After touring the upper five state Midwest region in a rented van, the band played their final show on New Years Eve in Fredrick, Wisconsin.

From January, 1971 through March, 1971, a new version of Jokers Wild played.  In this version were: Lorenzo Whitmarsh on lead vocals; Ron Hort on keyboards and vocals; Scott Holmstrom on lead guitar; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Robby Belleville on drums.

In early, 1971 Denny was contacted by David Anthony Wachter who had found out about a new club opening on the 494 Strip in Bloomington called Rodney’s and Mine and they were looking for a polished show group.  Denny put together a new band called Carrion for the club and played there for six weeks, between March 1971 and April, 1971.  In Carrion was: Jimmy Lawrence on percussion and lead vocals; Chuck Edwards on lead guitar and vocals; Steve Larson on keyboards and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Robby Belleville on drums and vocals.  The band played R&B – Funk music and featured four-part harmonies.  This was a mixed race band that included Jimmy Lawrence from Danny’s Reasons.  When David Anthony Wachter sent photos of the band to out state Minnesota clubs and clubs in Wisconsin in order to get band jobs the club owners declined to book the band… presumably based on the racial mix of the band.  After Jimmy Lawrence left the band to join Rockie Robbins, Denny hired a high school student, Rick Gilmore on keyboards, and vocals.  The later version of the band played out of town bars and clubs.

During his frequent trips to B-Sharp Music Store on Central Avenue in Minneapolis, Denny ran into Bill Strandlof, a longtime friend and a guitar player from The Litter.  Bill asked Denny if he might be interested in putting a new group together and Denny said yes and Bullet was formed and played from September, 1971 through December 31, 1971.  In the band was Bill Strandlof on guitar and vocals, Bill Swanson on guitar, keyboards,  and vocals, Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals, and Robby Belleville on drums and voclas.  The band played recent and current hit songs.

A Song about Stumpy

In the Spring of 1972, Denny recorded a number of songs at Audio Tek Recording Studio including a song called “Stumpy’ a true story about a man from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who had lost both of his legs in a train accident and lived on the streets on a pushcart, selling pencils and shoelaces to survive.  A country singer, Johnny Dot, brought Denny the story and told him he had been trying to write a song about Stumpy for fifteen years with no success.  Denny wrote and recorded the song using members of Purple Haze (who happened to be in the recording studio at the time) playing conga’s and bongo’s.  When Denny played the rough mix of the music for Johnny Dot, he disliked the song, in particular the use of conga’s and bongo’s, and told Denny he had no interest in recording the song so Denny decided to sing the lead vocals and finish the song.

A Song about River Tubing

Another song was recorded called “Tubin’ in Somerset” a promo song for the river tubing business (on the Apple River) in Somerset, Wisconsin.  In June, 1972, “Tubin’ in Somerset” by Cookiefoot (the name of the studio group) was released in MSP International, a label run by Denny and David Anthony Wachter.  A record release party was held at Float Right Park in Wisconsin and numerous music industry professionals from the Twin Cities attended.  Just by chance, Charles Kuralt showed up at Float Right Park while he was out shooting his “On the Road” series for the CBS Evening News and decided to film the event for a feature spot on the news.  The members of Cookiefoot performed live on the evening of the event at Archie’s, a popular bar in Somerset.  This was the one and only public performance of Cookiefoot.  “Tubin’ in Somerset” by Cookiefoot got airplay in Wisconsin and also in Minnesota.

From April, 1972 to May, 1972, Denny played in Christopher, a band that played rock and current hits of the time.  In the band were: Bill Swanson on guitar, keyboards, and vocals; Chuck Edwards on lead guitar and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar, and Robby Belleville on drums and vocals.  The band played at Eddie Webster’s Supper Club (on the 494 Strip in Bloomington) in the upstairs lounge and had a steady job at The Bull Pen in Hopkins.  Denny decided to leave the band in order to attend the Institute of Audio Research in Greenwich Village, New York and study audio recording.  Denny was in school for a few months and Christopher changed band members and changed their name to Traktor.

In October, 1972, Denny put together a back-up band for Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon for a Midwest concert tour.  In the band with Denny were: Bill Swanson; Chuck Edwards; and Robby Belleville.  Freddy Cannon was a popular singer from Massachusetts who had numerous national hit songs in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s including: “Tallahasee Lassie” and “Way Down Yonder in New Orleans” (both in 1959) and “Palisades Park” (in 1962).

Heilicher Brothers

In March, 1973, Wes Hayne, a friend of Denny’s, was working in the Promotion Department at Heilicher Brothers in St. Louis Park and got Denny a job driving a truck for the company.  This job lasted for six months and led to a job in the Promotion Department.  After working nine years in the on line sales Dept, Denny’s coverage had grown from 26 stores to over 120 stores across the Midwest.  Denny’s employment at Heilicher Brother’s came to an end when Hartz Mountain bought the company and as a result, 200 employees were laid off.

In July, 1973, Denny released “Stumpy” on the MSP International label.  The song got airplay in the Twin Cities and also in other markets across the country.  The record was distributed in seventeen states.  David Anthony Wachter promoted the record in Nashville to various record companies and got some interest from Brunswick Record Company.  Denny and David went to Nashville and met with the executives of Brunswick who informed the two that they were interested in Denny and the record, however no record deal was obtained.

More Bands

In September, 1973, Denny was asked to join Winterwood, a band that played country and light rock music.  The band name came form the name of a Don MacLean song.  The lineup was: John “Big John” Thompson on rhythm guitar and lead vocals; Bill Jordan on lead guitar and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Gary Erickson on drums and vocals.  The band got started at Dirty Flo’s on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, then moved to Hidden Haven in East Bethel, and then to The Hofbrau in Blaine. A second version of the band had: Bill Jordan on lead guitar and vocals; Bill Swanson on keyboards, guitar, and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Lance Dunkirk on drums and vocals.  This version was the house band at The Strawhouse in Anoka.  Winterwood played through October, 1975.

In January, 1976, Denny and John Thompson put togther a new country and rock band called Pecos, in order to capitalize on the growing popularity of country music during  this time period.  In the band were: Gary Cutter on lead guitar and vocals; John Thompson on rhythm guitar and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and   Rick Liabraaten on drums and vocals.   The band played at The Windjammer in Clearwater, The City Zoo in Zimmerman, The Hofbrau in Blaine, The Launching Pad in Moundsview, Mister Bob’s in Crystal, Bethel Inn in East Bethel, and The Anoka Holiday Inn, among other local metro area venues.  In May, 1976, Rick left the band and Lance Dunkirk joined on drums and vocals.  In October, 1976, Lance left the band and John Adolphson joind on drums and vocals and the band had a name change to Gold Dust.   The band played in Big Lake, Will’s Place and Zeik’s Lounge, both in Elk River, Norm and Mike’s and the Tempo bar, both in Minneapolis.  The band played their final job on December 31, 1976.

In January, 1977, Following his time playing in the country bands, Denny decided it was time for a change and his focus was on putting together a variety band that would be highly commercial, appeal to a large audience, and most importantly… be profitable.  In December, 1976, Sunrise entered the local band scene with: John Thompson on guitar and vocals, Mike Comer on keyboards Lead Guitar and vocals, Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals, and Rick LiaBraaten on drums and vocals.  A second version of the band had: John Thompson on guitar and vocals, John Richardson on guitar and vocals; Mike Comer on keyboards and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Dan Fasching on drums and vocals.  The band played a wide variety of popular music from the 1940’s to 1970’s disco.  Denny booked the band at Bolero Lanes on Central Avenue and 45th Avenue NE in Minneapolis, The Launching Pad in Moundsview, and also on the Holiday Inn circuit.  The band wore matching suits on stage and would change their stage clothes three times a night.  Sunrise played through August, 1979.

Sunrise Sound

In August of 1977, Denny started up Sunrise Recording Studio at his home in Brooklyn Center.

In September, 1979 Denny got together with keyboard player Mike Comer and put together Grand Avenue, a band that played current hits as well as “oldies” from the 1950’s and 1960’s.  They played numerous clubs in St. Paul including Denny’s Loft and Mister B’s and also The Uptown Bar in Minneapolis.  Grand Avenue played through November, 1979.

Crow Reforms

In May, 1980, David Anthony Wachter and Dave Waggoner reformed the band Crow and Denny was asked to join on bass guitar.  This version of Crow consisted of: Dave Waggoner on lead vocals; John Richardson on lead guitar and vocals; Lonnie Knight on lead guitar and vocals; Dave Marden on keyboards, saxophone, and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals, and Robby Belleville on drums.  After six weeks, Lonnie Knight left the group and Jeff Christensen joined the group on  lead guitar and vocals.  David Anthony Wachter booked the band. Among the local venues the band played were the St. Croix Boom Company in Stillwater, The Iron Horse in Crystal, and Boyd’s on the River in Minneapolis.

From September, 1980 through October, 1980, Denny played with a band called J.T. Silverstar, a country and rock band Denny put together to play dates when Crow was not booked.  In the band was: John Thompson on guitar and vocals; John Richardson on guitar and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Robby Belleville on drums.  The band name came from a fictional character in a beer commercial that Denny had written and recorded at his studio.

In the Spring of 1981, Crow recorded various live performances with plans of releasing a live album, however the planned album never came out.

In the Summer through the Fall of 1981, Crow recorded a studio album called “On the Run” at Sunrise Sound, produced by Denny.

In the Fall of 1981, local radio station K-101 (known as Stereo 101) released an album called Twin Cities Rocks, a compilation album of local Twin Cities bands recorded live at local music venues.  Included on the album was “Evil Woman” recorded by Crow at the St. Croix Boom Company in Stillwater, Minnesota.  “Evil Woman” was originally a national hit for Crow back in 1969 with the original version of the band.

In August, 1982, the album by Crow called “On the Run” was released on the Peak label.  At this point in time Peak was owned by David Anthony Wachter and Denny.  The album was released on vinyl and also on cassette tape.  Denny wrote the following songs included on the album:

“On the Run”

“All for the Love of Money”


“I Wanna Heart”

“Magic Boy”


A 45 from the album was released with two original songs written by Denny: “Someone” backed with “All for the Love of Money” and pressed on yellow translucent vinyl.

In October, 1982, Crow played their final job at the Met Center in Bloomington at a concert sponsored by K-101 that featured numerous local bands.  For the final performance of Crow the lineup was: Dave Waggoner on lead vocals; John Richardson on lead guitar and vocals; Abe Booker on second lead guitar; Jim Potter on keyboards; and Mark Fisher on drums.

After Crow

In April, 1982, Denny joined a band called Jynx that practiced in a small garage in Fridley and played rock cover songs by The Tubes, April Wine, Pink Floyd, Blue Oyster Cult, and Eddie Money, among others.  The lineup was: Tim Hanley on lead vocals; Tom Edson on lead guitar and vocals; Steve Harris on guitar and vocals; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals and Rick Waller on drums and vocals.  The band played at Loose Ends (formerly The Launching Pad) in Moundsview, Mister B’s in St. Paul, Boyd’s on the River on Plymouth Avenue and West River Road in North Minneapolis.  Denny left the band in September of 1982 and Jynx found a new bass guitar player and played through the end of 1982.

From September, 1982 through December, 1982, Denny played in The Bowery Boys.  The lineup was: Kevin Sylvers on guitar and vocals ; Rick Leene on guitar and vocals ; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Rich Olson on drums.   The band played popular covers songs from the 1950’s up to the current time and played at the By George Inn in St. Francis among other local venues, many were in the Anoka area.

From January, 1983 through September, 1984, Denny was part of Dick Tracy, a rock band that Denny and John Richardson put together with musicians who played often at Sunrise Sound.  The band played hits from the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s including songs by Doni Iris, Survivor, Eddie Money, Huey Lewis and the News, John Cougar Mellencamp, Badfinger, Foreigner, the Rolling Stones, and Night Ranger, among others.  The band played at T. Wright’s in Brooklyn Center, the Uptown Bar in Minneapolis, the Paradise Ballroom in Waconia, the Farmer’s Daughter in Litchfield, Loesche’s in Hastings, and Jack’s Press Bar in St. Cloud, among other venues.  The original lineup of Dick Tracy was: Mike Holm on lead vocals; John Richardson on lead guitar and vocals; Jim Potter on keyboards; Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals; and Mark Fisher on drums.  The band had numerous changes in band members and played through June, 1991.

In 1985, Denny recorded a solo CD called “Unfinished Memories” which consisted of nine original songs written by Denny.

In 1989, Denny recorded a solo CD for Dave Waggoner called “Songs Unknown to Ears” which included ten songs, nine of which were written by Denny.

From 1992 to 2004, Denny took time off from the music business to raise a family.

In 2000, Denny decided to move from Brooklyn Center to Rogers (Northwest of the Minneapolis suburban metro area) and in 2004 restarted Sunrise Sound Recording Studio with his son Ando and together they recorded numerous bands and a high school orchestra.  Denny also began to remaster old recordings from various local bands including live performances and studio recordings, many of which were very rare and had never been released in any format.

Minnesota Band History

On February 1, 2008, Denny started up a new website that featured information and photos of local bands:

In November, 2009, Denny was contacted by Tom Campbell who was working with Christian Hallman, Larry Nelson, and David Senn, the producers of the Big Kids of Mid-America film documentary, a film about the history of Minnesota music and bands.  The film makers were looking for information and photos of Jokers Wild.  At this time, Tom discovered Denny had a home recording studio and had been working on remastering recordings of local bands from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.  Denny discovered Tom had been working on band histories of local bands from the 1960’s for many years, in addition to collecting local records from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.  The two decided to join forces and work together starting in December, 2009 on with the goal being to document and preserve the story of the Minnesota music scene with a focus on the 1955 to 1975 time period… the first twenty years of Rock’n’Roll.

In September, 2010 Denny was inducted into the Mid-America Music Hall of Fame as a member of Jokers Wild.   Playing in the band that evening was: Lonnie Knight on guitar and vocals, Bill Jordan on guitar and vocals, Denny Johnson on bass guitar and vocals, and Pete Huber on drums.




In April, 2013, Denny joined The Sylvers Brothers band, a group that plays rock and R & B from the 1960’s to the current time.  The band lineup is: Kevin Sylvers on guitar, keyboards, and vocals; Steve Sylvers on lead guitar and vocals; Denny Johnson and bass guitar and vocals; and Mark Sylvers on drums.   The band plays at The Narrows in Navarre, the Mound VFW, and Jack’s Press Bar in St. Cloud.

In 2014, Denny joined The Jonards who play hard rock covers.

In addition to playing in the two rock bands, Denny continues to work on the website documenting and preserving the story of the Minnesota music scene from 1955 to 1975.

In April, 2015, Denny Johnson stated the following, looking back over the decades at his career in the music business starting as a band boy for The Underbeats in 1963:  “It has been one great ride, something I would never give up and always smile about… these are called memories plus and I am lucky to have a been a part of this era from 1963 to 2015. “


Written by Tom Campbell

Version 1: December 22, 2014

Version 2: March 29, 2015

Version 3: April 10, 2015

Version 4: April 11, 2015

Copyright by Thomas R. Campbell, 2015



Photos   (Click a photo to see it full-screen, then click the arrows to see the next one.)

Different  Faces  –  Different  Basses  Through  The  Years



Stumpy – Unfinished Memories CD


Where Lies The Land ( My Ship Must Go) – Unfinished Memories CD










To  Hear  Song  Samples   ( Click on Audio Player )


Listen To My Heart – Unfinished Memories CD

One Time – Version ONE 1978 Unfinished Memories CD

Midnight Cruiser – Unfinished Memories CD

I Love You – Unfinished Memories CD

You Bring Me Good Love – Unfinished Memories CD

Automatic Tears – Unfinished Memories CD

I’m Back – Unfinished Memories CD

One Time  – Version  TWO  1985  Unfinished Memories CD



Just  a  few  of   The  Commercials  Denny  Did

Jackson Browne – Early Audio City Recording



Interview  Part  ONE  –  Time  =  20:57

Interview Cover TWO

Interview  Part  TWO  –  Time  =  19:40

Interview Cover THREE

Interview  Part  THREE  –  Time  =  19:48

Interview Cover FOUR

Interview  Part  FOUR  –  Time  =  21:40