Conor talks with Charlie Rose about songwriting, the making of Salutations, and living life. The episode features two performances, “Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out” and “Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch),” with help from Greg Farley and James Felice on vocals, violin, and accordion. Conor also had the honor of the show’s quote of the week:
If you’re an artist, that doesn’t mean you surrender your rights as a citizen. And if you have a platform to express yourself, do it if you’re compelled to.
Dennis Teel Brewer Sr. passed away on April 23rd, 2017 at 7:23 pm. He was 73 years old. His family is his wife Norma, daughter Helen, and sons Dennis Jr., Josh, Jesse and Buck. Denny was an amazing man with an amazing life that touched many. He was a professional welder, star athlete and a fantastic musician. Denny was born in Houston, Texas on July 2, 1943, but he grew up in El Paso.
He attended Ysleta High School and was a star football player under coach ‘Red’ Coats. He graduated in 1962 and attended Texas Western College of the Mines under coach Bum Phillips after turning down a chance to play professional football for the early Dallas Cowboys. His father had warned him that he would probably end up in a lot of trouble on his own in Dallas after all of the wild experiences he had had in El Paso and Juarez at that time. The pay for the Cowboys was only $1600 so it didn’t seem like that much of a loss. During his teen years Denny built hot rods in his dad’s garage. He built a 1930 Plymouth coupe he nick named “Tweety” that sported a cool yellow paint job, his dragster was nicknamed “Mojo”, after the old blues song “I got my mojo working, but it just don’t work on you.” The motor was so hot, he seemed to always break an axle. Probably his fastest car was his 1955 Chevy 4 door station wagon painted black with a Corvette 327 V-8 and 4-speed that could beat dragsters even though it was his tow car. He also built custom chopper motorcycles. His 1967 Shovel Head was built off of a wrecked California Patrol bike he chopped, raked and ran. It was fast. One Arizona Patrol officer clocked him at 120 cruizin’ I-10 back from California. He was not a member of any clubs, but he knew the outlaw bikers from these early days, and they respected his custom bike work. He also had a career as a professional boxer, but injury sidelined him before his last fight against Randy “Tex” Cobb.
Denny traveled out to California in the 60’s to try and make it in the music industry. He met Mama Cass of The Mamas and the Papas through his artist friends and ended up as a bodyguard instead. He ran with some of the wildest guys of the 60’s and 70’s like Eagles’ Album cover artist Boyd Elder, Grateful Dead artist Rick Griffin and experienced some really incredible adventures in altered realities as well. He shared his experiences through song and story telling. He came back to El Paso and started a family with his wife Norma in the 70’s and built his own house on some irrigated farmland in the lower valley. He raised kids, donkeys, hogs, goats, chickens, bulls, dogs, cats, and parrots. He had a natural green thumb and loved to plant fruit and nut trees every year.
He always played music, his grandmother gave him one of those little cowboy guitars in the early 50’s and he sang folk music with his sister in the 60’s. He loved the Blues, which he learned from watching Long John Hunter and Little Joe Washington at the Lobby night club in Juarez, Mexico.He formed a band with friends called Gasher in the 70’s, and then formed his band Refried Ice Cream with his sons in the 1980’s. They started playing motorcycle parties and recording their music. They put out cassette tapes and handed one to Stevie Ray Vaughn which led to an invitation to the Memphis Blues Festival, but lack of money held them back. Refried Ice Cream began releasing cds with their studio Lion’s Den Productions in the 90’s, albums like Fat and Free, American Dreams, and That State of Mind. All of the songs were played for the first time direct to tape no rehearsal, all spontaneous, as he liked it. On the edge of creativity. Through a good friend, Sonic Ranch studio owner Tony Rancich, he met musicians like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes. He really liked these folks and entertained them with his wild histories and theories. They let Refried Ice Cream open shows for them and Conor Oberst had Denny record some of his intriguing wisdom for his Bright Eyes Album The People’s Key. Denny’s wild tales are found throughout this awesome album. Team Love Records put out three albums of Refried Ice Cream and it was a great pride of Denny that the album Witness to the Stormreceived a 4 star rating in the Sunday Times of London in 2011, one of the songs, “Vampires” was also featured in the movie Electric Children also from that year. Denny loved to talk about his wild adventures and the state of the world. He didn’t trust the government at all. He always insisted that it is very important to pay attention and be aware. He had been witness to some crazy stuff in his time and he knew how on the edge everything is. He had a strong belief in other realms of existence, something he had already witnessed. He believed in Love and the freedom to live life like you want to. He was an inspiration and a Great Man. He will be missed for a long time.
Denny Brewer is a legend.
Sunday Times of London – January 30, 2011 by Stewart Lee