Update With Dennis Provisor 2006
Early in November, Dennis’ current group The Hits performed a concert at the Isle of Capri Casino in Marquette, Iowa. Site contributor Tina Reichow was fortunate to be a guest of The Hits at the show. Dennis and his band mates Cookee Coquoz and Glen Shulfer were very accommodating with their time to answer a few questions.
One of the enduring songs of The Grass Roots is Where Were You When I Needed You. First there was the Steve Barri & P.F. Sloan demo version. Second was the Denny Ellis, Bill Fulton, Joel Larson and Dave Stensen single version. Then there was the third version most well known, featuring Rob Grill on lead vocals. Now I have heard a fourth version hauntingly performed by Dennis Provisor and The Hits. Dennis has rearranged and made this song his own - a moodier, slower moving version, ripe with emotion. His band mate Cookee says this song is one of The Hits’ most requested songs at weddings although it deals with love lost. Dennis takes center stage to showcase his vocal and keyboard talents as the lights dim and the band relinquishes the stage to him. It is a moment to fondly cherish. Dennis is one of the most asked about Grass Roots. He is a man of few words, yet full of knowledge and compassion. He seems to feel most comfortable not talking about his own accomplishments, but talking about those around him. He was born in California on November 9, 19??. His father was in the clothing business. His mother is currently a spry young woman of 88 years of age. Dennis currently resides in the Midwest portion of the country with his wife, son and daughter. His son is an accomplished Greco-Roman wrestler. His wife is a World Gold Wrestling Club Leader. Musical talent flows throughout the family with his daughter who sings and has performed with The Hits. Her vocal talents compliment her father’s on the song “Wait A Million Years”. Dennis received his start as a musician with piano lessons and his career rocketed from there. He landed a recording contract as a teenager. Many bands have been the recipient of his fine musical talents since his childhood. His musical influences early on were The Doors, Elvis, Ray Charles, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. In 1969, he was in a band with guitarist Terry Furlong called Blue Rose. By this time Creed Bratton had left The Grass Roots and the group was in need of a guitar player. What to do? Rob and Warren came into a Los Angeles club to hear Terry play and possibly hire him to replace Creed. Much to the disappointment of Terry, Dennis was hired instead and thus began a new chapter in The Grass Roots music legacy. Dennis recalls that Terry was none too pleased that they took his band’s keyboardist. Later, Terry did do some session work with the Grass Roots until finally becoming a full fledged Grass Root at a later date. It is also good to note that time has healed all wounds and Terry can laugh about this now.
Those early Grass Root days yielded a wealth of memories for Dennis. When he was first signed as a group member, he went out and bought his “dream” car. It was a Corvette in a metallic green paint. The first concert in which Dennis played with The Grass Roots was a double bill with Creedence Clearwater Revival. He was “initiated” into The Grass Roots by being given the cold shower treatment by Rick Coonce. Dennis was in the shower when Rick dumped a bunch of shaved ice on him. Welcome!
One time Dennis was running late for a concert and had to pound on the back door of the venue and beg to be let in. The guard didn’t believe he was in the band. Dennis finally convinced him right before The Grass Roots took the stage, with only seconds to spare. One aspect of being in the group that Dennis doesn’t miss was the questionable private planes the band flew in. It seems some were held together with rubber bands, paper clips and duct tape. Some of the roughest flights Dennis experienced were over the midsection of the country, such as Clear Lake, Iowa. Also, not such a fond memory was flying with a number of questionable pilots. One time when the group was appearing in Las Vegas they had a flight to Atlanta for a concert. As we know, Vegas is known for a shortage of clocks in casinos. Dennis and the guitarist were sitting at the hotel bar and lost track of time, missing the chartered plane. They were finally able to secure a jet after much searching. This was a jet that was used by celebrities such as Barbra Streisand, Elvis and Frank Sinatra (as evidenced by the autographs on the door). The cost of the flight was very high. Rob and six other people were crammed into the chartered plane that only held four adults comfortably. To make a long story short, everyone got to Atlanta on time for the show but Dennis recalled that during that concert, he had to endure many “dirty” looks from Rob, due to the high cost of travel in that jet. It cost more to fly everyone to Atlanta then The Grass Roots made that night! Yes, Dennis did add his autograph to the door of celebrities on that jet.
As a Grass Root from 1969-1972 and from 1974-1982, Dennis has produced a legacy of music for all to enjoy. Such classics as “Two Divided By Love”, “Let’s Live For Today”, “I Can Turn Off The Rain” and “Walking Through The Country” are examples of what Dennis feels conveyed the greatest vocal harmonies during their live shows. A special fond memory for Dennis was being on the Ed Sullivan show and staying at the Plaza Hotel. The Grass Roots also hold the record for the most appearances on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Dennis related that The Grass Roots were all set to have their own variety show – in concept similar to the The Donny and Marie Variety Hour. This show was produced by Dick Clark. In fact, they had taped several skits for the show. Their first guest was Eric Burdon, but for some reason, the show was never picked up. To Dennis’ knowledge those few tapes are still in existence.
In 1972, Dennis left The Grass Roots having been given an opportunity to record with Clive Davis. Before Dennis officially left the group, he completed recording the album “Move Along”. His vocal harmonies are clearly evident on this album. However, the label decided that Dennis would be given the songwriting credits only for this album. Two new members were inducted to replace Dennis and their photos appear on the album jacket. Virgil Weber was hired to play keyboards, but he didn’t sing, so Reed Kailing was hired to be the guitarist and fill in vocally for Dennis. Rounding out the new line-up was original Grass Roots drummer Joel Larson replacing Rick Coonce who immigrated to Canada. Dennis was signed by Clive Davis and began in earnest to record a solo album. Unfortunately, Clive was fired and Dennis’ album was never completed so he was left without a contract or a label. He rejoined The Grass Roots in 1974. The Grass Roots were on Haven Records at this time. A self titled album was produced. Dennis related that he feels this album was thrown together but it does offer several great songs.
During the later part of the 70’s, The Grass Roots continued to play throughout the US. Their opening band was Kansas Road. In fact the guitar player in Kansas Road, Glen Shulfer became a guitarist for The Grass Roots for 6 years. For a time, Glen would put on a moustache and big hat and open shows for The Grass Roots as a solo performer. Once that set was done, he would strip off the moustache and change clothes and go out as The Grass Roots’ guitarist. On more then one occasion, members of the audience could be heard debating who the more “talented” guitar player was - the solo guy or the guitarist for The Grass Roots? Many times the “solo” Glen won. Both Dennis and Glen fondly recalled a time when The Grass Roots played a small venue in rural Wisconsin. The owner declined to pay them. Thanks to the keen negotiating skills of Joel Larson, the group was able to be paid in several antique wagon wheels, a TV and a microwave. Glen said that the wheels sat in his mother’s garage for months. The Grass Roots stopped touring for awhile, then Rob reformed the group with new members.
Dennis joined his current band The Hits in 1984 at the request of Glen who had joined in 1983. Dennis moved to Wisconsin at that time. All the current members of The Hits are accomplished musicians in their own right. They are all very supportive of each other and have an “honest to goodness” fun time performing together. The Hits do perform a number of The Grass Roots hits as well as other classic tunes and they do take requests. Both Glen and Cookee have solo projects out. Cookee has three folk flavored CDs and Glen has a CD of inspirational music, in which he wrote all the songs. Dennis continues to write songs. His voice is just as crystal clear and soulful as ever. This summer, Rob stopped by to play a few Grass Root songs with The Hits. It was just like old times all over again.
The song which Dennis wrote that he feels best conveys his songwriting ability isn’t one of the million sellers you may have heard. It is a little known song titled “Take Pride In Love”. This song was used in 2000, for the United Way of Portage County campaign. How does Dennis relax? You can find him on the computer, either writing or playing video games. He loves to fish for freshwater fish. He fishes with a jig and releases what he catches. He credits Rob with passing his love of fishing on to him. He related that Rob is such an accomplished fisherman that he was once offered a professional sponsorship for Bass fishing.
Dennis would like to be remembered as a songwriter and as a singer - especially for the high vocal parts and for the vocal bridges in the songs. With the many albums he has recorded and the songs he has written, this wish is already a reality.
Tina Reichow - New photos of The Hits courtesy of Randy Reichow
The Grass Roots promotional photo circa 1970