Welcome to the Archives

This is my personal collection of classic interviews, favorite photos, and memorable moments in radio history. With over fourty years on-the-air at WNEW-FM, WFUV and SiriusXM I’ve worked with an amazing group of musicians, artists and friends.

Take a look around, listen in and come back again to see what we’ve added.

Audio & video archives below. If you're interested in pictures only, click here to view the Gallery.

For more information regarding the complete interviews and/or use of the materials please contact archives@denniselsas.com

Rock 'n' Roll Never Forgets is a live multimedia presentation of the archives. Click here for a preview and details on our next show.

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John Lennon – The Walrus and Number 9

Dennis Elsas with John Lennon

Dennis Elsas with John Lennon

Without question my most memorable interview and on-air experience to date was on September 28, 1974, a Saturday afternoon I spent with John Lennon.

I had met him just a few weeks before at the Record Plant recording studio and casually asked him if he’d like to come up to the station to talk about his forthcoming album Walls and Bridges. I doubted anything would come of it, since none of the Beatles had ever visited our station before.  When he showed up eager to talk, bringing with him some obscure 45’s he wanted to share with the audience, I didn’t know what to expect.

What began as an opportunity to promote the new album, turned into two hours of rare Beatle stories, insights into his immigration struggles, and John as the DJ, introducing and commenting on all the music, commercials and weather.  Highlights from the interview were used in the Beatles Anthology and it is featured prominently in the award winning PBS American Masters film, LENNONYC.  The complete show is part of the permanent collection of the Paley Center For Media (formerly the Museum of Television and Radio).  Here are some favorite moments.

Graham Nash

Dennis with Graham Nash

Dennis with Graham Nash

I didn’t realize that I was listening to Graham Nash when I first heard his voice coming out of my AM radio as part of The Hollies.

It was the mid 1960’s and his group was yet another one of those hit-making English bands that was part of the British Invasion. Their songs, including “Bus Stop,” “Look Through Any Window,” and “On a Carousel” stood out with their soaring harmonies and crisp production. However, just a few years later in 1969, I would become very familiar with Graham’s name as he joined with David Crosby and Stephen Stills to create an amazing debut album – Crosby, Stills and Nash. Its unique sound from a magical blend of voices and a diverse collection of original songs helped to define the new FM radio sensibilty and the beginnings of a musical genre.

Graham and his mates were joined within a year by Neil Young and over the next forty years they would continue to perform, record, break-up, and re-unite as a quartet, trio, duo, or solo act. Embracing political activism and making social commentary became an important part of their musical statement, but their songs never lost their universal appeal and timeless quality. Though each of the group’s members created a separate and strong individual profile, a CSNY identity remained and it was Graham that made sure they never drifted too far apart.

I sat down with Graham Nash in the summer of 2014 just shortly after he had overseen the production and release of CSNY 1974 – a beautiful audio/visual collection capturing the band during one of their most memorable tours. He had also recently completed his fascinating autobiography “Wild Tales” chronicling his historic musical and personal journey. We covered a lot of ground and began our conversation with the opening of his book.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

The Who – Roger Daltrey

Under a raging moon

Under a Raging Moon

Roger Daltrey was just 21 years old in 1965 when he sang “hope I die before I get old” on My Generation, one of the Who’s earliest signature songs. It didn’t take long for that lyric line to take on ironic significance as The Who continued to tour and record over the next four decades.

Roger turned 70 this past March 1, 2014 and this truly classic rocker is still busy with an assortment of musical projects and an ongoing commitment to the charities Teenage Cancer Trust and Teen Cancer America.

I interviewed Roger Daltrey in 1985 for PM Magazine while he was promoting his then newly released solo album Under a Raging Moon. It had been just three years since the Who had broken up (for the first time) and Roger was already reflecting back on “his generation” at the age of 42.


The Who – Pete Townshend

Dennis Elsas with Pete Townshend

Dennis Elsas with Pete Townshend

Meeting Pete Townshend in the 1970’s, I was pleasantly surprised when he told me he often listened to my nighttime show.  I wondered how that was possible, as he was living in England at the time. Pete explained that he had tapes of WNEW-FM sent to him regularly and that he often listened to my show while driving his daughter to school.

Being a huge Who fan, that was a great image to enjoy.

We’ve met up again several times since then and it was on his June 16, 1993 visit to promote his solo project Psychoderelict that he recalled his first NY appearance and the secret behind all those smashed guitars.

Elton John

Dennis Elsas & Elton John

Dennis Elsas & Elton John

Elton John was a frequent and welcome guest at WNEW-FM in the 1970’s.  One of his most historic visits happened November 29, 1974, the day after Thanksgiving, when he stopped by to co-host my show.  The night before he had performed at Madison Square Garden and welcomed a “surprise” guest on-stage.  Though no one could have imagined it at the time, it would turn out to be John Lennon’s final concert performance and we discussed how it happened.

Jerry Garcia – The Grateful Dead

Jerry Garcia

Jerry Garcia

When I met up with Jerry Garcia for a PM Magazine TV interview in a NY hotel room in late Fall 1984, the Grateful Dead were about to celebrate their 20th anniversary. The band had already begun to attract a second generation of Deadheads — extremely loyal fans who may have been too young to experience the 60’s firsthand, but were determined to embrace the experience in every way possible.

Jerry was in town to play a show with John Kahn at the nearby Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ. It was just one of several side projects he would often pursue. Relaxed and happy, it was surprising and sad when just a few months later he entered a difficult period that lasted nearly two years plagued by drug and health issues. Happily he and the band recovered to record 1987’s In the Dark, the album that would provide them with their first (and only) Top 10 single “Touch of Grey” (and the introduction of Cherry Garcia ice cream). “The long strange trip” would continue for almost eight more years until his untimely death in August 1995.

 

Memo From Scott Muni Regading The Grateful Dead

Memo From Scott Muni Regading The Grateful Dead

My first Dead working experience (not just as a listener) was as part of a historic broadcast on December 5, 1971, from New York’s Felt Forum a mid-sized theatre within Madison Square Garden. As was often the case that year, The New Riders of the Purple Sage were the opening act for the Grateful Dead. A Bill Graham production, it was the first live radio broadcast of the Dead in New York City and one of their earliest ever. We had the broadcast at 102.7 WNEW-FM and as the new kid on the staff, I was back at the studio to handle the station ID’s and be ready in case anything went wrong. In his role as Program Director, the legendary Scott Muni outlines the evening’s events as they are expected to unfold in this wonderful memo.

Julian Lennon

Dennis Elsas with Julian Lennon

Dennis Elsas with Julian Lennon

Julian Lennon was twenty-one years old when we first met and talked in 1984. He had just burst onto the music charts with the hit single and album Valotte. But his presence in the music world had been established years before for supplying his father John Lennon with the inspiration for the song “Lucy in The Sky With Diamonds” as well as being the subject of Paul McCartney’s Beatles’ classic “Hey Jude.”

With the platinum success of Valotte and a 1985 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, it seemed that Julian was destined to continue in his father’s footsteps as a long-term recording and touring musician. Four more albums followed over the next thirteen years, but a growing sense of frustration and disappointment with the music business led Julian to pursue other artistic endeavors. He emerged as a talented photographer with well received and critically acclaimed exhibitions.

In 2011 he decided to return to making music and began work on a new album. Officially released worldwide in 2013, Everything Changes is his first album in fifteen years and the title seems to be the perfect description for Julian’s approach to his life and career.

Talking with him at WFUV in November 2013, he performed songs from his new album as we discussed a variety of subjects – including why he chose to reference a well known Beatles’ lyric in his own music, reclaim his family legacy, recording with Steven Tyler, and how a comment John once made inspired Julian to create the charitable White Feather Foundation.

To hear the complete interview and view performance video click here

Ringo Starr

Dennis Elsas with Ringo starr

Dennis Elsas with Ringo starr

He was the last to join the band and it felt like he was the last to leave. His songwriting and musical skills were overshadowed by the others and yet it was his steady backbeat that kept them moving forward.

Richard “Ringo” Starkey turned 70 this year, but you’d never know it as you watch him perform on tour with the “All-Starrs.”

Since 1989 he’s toured with an impressive and ever-changing group of musicians (including Edgar Winter, Levon Helm, Clarence Clemons and Rick Derringer) that serve both as his back-up band and co-stars. Playing their own classic hits and supporting Ringo on his, the show is a joyful experience filled with positive energy and great memories.

I caught up with Ringo in July 2006 backstage at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut just before a show. We talked about his latest group of “All-Starrs,” his most recent solo album and of course that other band, the Beatles

Almost two years later in January 2008 we sat down in a New York Hotel room across from Central Park as he reminisced about Liverpool, the music that influenced him as he was growing up, and possibilities of a reunion with Paul McCartney.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Sid Bernstein and the Beatles

Dennis Elsas with Bernstein

Dennis Elsas with Sid Bernstein

Rock ‘N’ Roll History is filled with a wide assortment of personalities and Sid Bernstein was one of it’s most unlikely heroes. As a 45 year old talent promoter working for the General Artist Corporation in New York City, he was intrigued by the reports he was reading in the British press about a young English group that was creating “hysteria.” Despite the fact that his own agency was not interested in persuing them, he reached out on his own to the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, at home, and wound up booking the Beatles into Carnegie Hall long before America experienced Beatlemania.

The phone call took place early in 1963, the Beatles played Carnegie in February 1964 and Sid brought them back to perform the first rock show in a major sporting arena at Shea Stadium in August 1965. Sid would go on to be involved with an assortment of rock and pop performers, most notably guiding the early career of The Young Rascals. He always held out hope and actively tried to re-unite the Beatles for just one more show, but of course, it was never to be.

Sid Bernstein, who passed away recently (Aug 20, 2013) at the age of 95, was described by almost everyone as a really nice man (‘a mensch’) devoted to his musical passions. I experienced that myself when I got to interview him for my documentary, “It was 40 Years Ago Today” chronicling the initial days of the Beatles conquering America. Sid recalls his first conversation with Brian Epstein, a very unlikely beginning to one of the greatest chapters in Rock ‘N’ Roll history.

To hear the entire documentary, click here

Richie Havens

Dennis Elsas with Richie Havens

Dennis Elsas with Richie Havens

The first time I ever met Richie Havens was in May 1968. I was working at my campus station WQMC (Queens College) and he was a rising folk-star and a staple of the newly blossoming FM airwaves. We talked at his manager’s office on East 55th Street and it was the first artist interview I ever did for the radio. It would be over a year later in August 1969 that a much larger audience would be introduced to him and experience his musical power as he electrified the opening of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival.

We met and spoke many times through the years after that both on and off the air.
In May 2008 (40 years after that initial interview) I was hosting an event for the opening of the Museum at Bethel Woods (on the site of the Woodstock Festival). It was the perfect opportunity to ask Richie just how he happened to become the opening act of the Festival.

Just a few months later we were together again. This time it was in Studio A at WFUV, as Richie was promoting his newly released album Nobody Left to Crown, telling stories, performing live and making everyone that met him that day feel just a little bit better. His recent passing, on April 22, 2013, has left a great void not only in the musical world but also among his many fans and friends who experienced his positive and spiritual energy.

Listen to that complete show here.

 
For details about this Sunday’s remembrance of Richie, click here.