Welcome to the Archives

This is my personal collection of classic interviews, favorite photos, and memorable moments in radio history. With over forty 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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Little Richard



Little Richard was the self-proclaimed “architect of rock ‘n’ roll.” Never one to be shy about his musical contributions, you cannot underestimate his importance and everlasting influence in American popular music. Born Richard Penniman on December 5, 1942, his recent passing on May 9, 2020 brought forth a stream of testimonials and appreciation from a diverse mix of music and entertainment royalty.

I met Little Richard in the fall of 1984 as he was promoting the release of his authorized biography, Quasar of Rock: The Life and Times of Little Richard. It was my first assignment as the rock correspondent for TV’s PM Magazine and a fitting way to begin my latest adventure in rock ‘n’ roll. We filmed the segment in the fall of 1984 at the Limelight, a New York City nightclub that was once a church. It was the perfect setting for the rocker evangelist who was about to be born once again.

Beginning with “Tutti Frutti” in 1955 and continuing with “Long Tall Sally,” “Lucille,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Rip It Up,” “Ready Teddy,” and so many more, his signature sound and look were defining contributions to the development of rock ‘n’ roll. From Paul McCartney’s falsetto “woos” to the pompadour of Prince, Little Richard’s style transcends generations of rock performers.

Richard’s career was never a smooth one. After an amazing string of hits on Specialty Records and show-stopping performances (including TV and film) he suddenly announced that he was abandoning rock ‘n’ roll for religion. In 1958 he formed the Little Richard Evangelistic Team and traveled across the country to preach. His musical releases turned to gospel, but while on tour in England in 1962 he began a return to rock. Greeted with enthusiastic audiences and adulation from young British rockers, it wasn’t long before he was back touring as the headliner. Among his opening acts on that tour were the up and coming Beatles and later, The Rolling Stones.

His touring band, The Upsetters, featured the teenage keyboard player Billy Preston and a developing guitarist named Jimmy (later Jimi) Hendrix who joined the Upsetters in 1964. Jimi only lasted till the following year. He was fired over his tardiness, wardrobe, and especially his on-stage antics which threatened to upstage the legendarily flamboyant Richard.

Throughout the rest of the 60’s and 70’s, Little Richard recorded for a succession of record labels and often was featured as a guest performer on other artists’ records. He quit rock ‘n’ roll again in 1977 after battling alcohol and drug abuse and returned to evangelism.

In January 1986 Little Richard was one of the original ten performers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Later that year he had a featured role in the acclaimed film “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and soon became a frequent guest on numerous TV talk and variety shows. He resumed recording and touring and finally seemed to be receiving the recognition he deserved for his contributions to the musical genre he had helped to create.
Richard announced his retirement in the fall of 2013, just shy of his 81st birthday following a heart attack, but remained very resolute about his legacy. “When I started in show business,” he told Rolling Stone magazine, “there wasn’t no such thing as rock ’n’ roll. When I started with ‘Tutti Frutti’ that’s when rock really started rocking.”

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.

Woodstock Remembered – The 50th Anniversary

Dennis Elsas with Richie Havens, John Sebastian and Vernon Reid

Woodstock didn’t happen in the town of Woodstock, NY. The three-day festival that defined a generation actually took place fifty miles away in Bethel, NY. The actual site is still there and remains just as it was with rolling hills that form a natural amphitheater like setting. Nothing blocks your view and there is a small commemorative plaque that was put up in 1984 that lists most of the performer’s names. (Interesting that the spelling of John Sebastian’s name as “Sabastian” has never been corrected.)

Next door is the beautiful Bethel Center for the Arts which includes The Pavillion, an outdoor concert venue that seats over 5,000 people and The Museum at Bethel Woods, that tells the story of the 60’s and Woodstock. I’m very proud to be featured as “The Voice of Rock History” throughout the Museum. Stunning visual displays, films and interactive exhibits allow you to experience what it must have been like to be at the Festival and explore the legacy of the 60’s.

The proposed location for the concert was changed three times (Woodstock to Walkill to Bethel) and the concert’s promoters were forced to make the decision to move the Festival just weeks before the scheduled dates. They turned to FM radio to spread the word. In this clip, legendary WNEW-FM personalities Scott Muni and Rosko give their listeners all the details, newsman Mike Eisgrau reports from the scene as the extraordinary events unfold in August 1969, and nearly forty years later (May 2008) Richie Havens and John Sebastian told me how they became a part of rock n’ roll history.

Clarence Clemons – The E Street Band

Dennis Elsas with Clarence Clemons

Dennis Elsas with Clarence Clemons

The first time I met Clarence Clemons was backstage at New York’s Bottom Line in August 1975 during his historic series of performances with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

In 1985 I did a TV profile about him for PM Magazine spotlighting his solo career. When we sat down again in Feb 2004 he was working on some solo projects, but still very much a pivotal member of Bruce’s band and firmly established as one of the defining saxophone players of rock n’ roll. We talked about all of these things and he shared the wonderful story of the night forever immortalized in “Tenth Avenue Freezout” when “the Big Man joined the band. ”

Click here to listen to the full audio

Jake Clemons – The E Street Band

Jake Clemons and Dennis Elsas

Jake Clemons and Dennis Elsas

If the name Jake Clemons is familiar to you, it might be as one of the newer members of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. He’s also the nephew of Clarence Clemons, the legendary and charismatic saxophone player for Bruce’s band.

When Clarence passed away in June 2011, it was not only a great loss for fans, friends and family, but a major challenge to somehow try and fill his role in the group. Jake was already an established musician pursuing his own career, but when Bruce called him in for an audition he knew he had to go. It didn’t start off well, but ultimately he “passed the audition” and made his debut with the E Street Band at the Apollo theatre in Harlem.

Jake shared the complete story with me when he visited WFUV to promote his own new album Fear and Love.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Robert Plant – Led Zeppelin

Robert Plant

Robert Plant

Robert Plant keeps moving forward with his musical choices, without abandoning or ignoring his glorious past. Since Led Zeppelin ended in December 1980 (following the death of their drummer John Bonham) Plant has recorded numerous solo albums, reunited with Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page for several projects, and ventured into Americana and world music. He successfully and surprisingly teamed up with bluegrass star Alison Krauss in 2007 and then joined Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller for Band of Joy in 2010 and took up residence in Austin, Texas.

In 2014 Robert decided it was time to return home – the West Midlands region of England. His latest album lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar was recorded there with his current band The Sensational Space Shifters.  I spoke with him from a studio in the English countryside not far from where he grew up and currently lives. We talked about the new album, his upcoming shows in the area, his love for soccer and why despite all the musical and personal changes, there’s still a part of his song that remains the same.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

Dion

Dennis Elsas & Dion

Dennis Elsas & Dion

Dion is a rock ‘n’ roll original. Born Dion Francis DiMucci and raised in the Bronx, NY he initially achieved fame with the distinctive doo-wop sound of the Belmonts in the late 1950’s. Dion’s career rose to a higher level after going solo in 1960 with hits like “Ruby Baby,” “Runaround Sue,” and “The Wanderer.” Like many American rock singers his star faded a bit in the mid-60’s, but resurged in 1968 with the success of the very timely “Abraham, Martin and John.”

I would have been excited to talk with Dion in almost any location, but to have him and his guitar sitting across from me in WFUV’s Studio A (in January 2006) just a few blocks away from the Little Italy section of the Bronx where he had grown up, was truly magical. We talked about the neighborhood, his early love for Hank Williams, country music, and the influence of the blues and how that all came together in the release of his then latest album Bronx In Blue. What was even more fun for me were his stories of how some other musical threads and sounds had influenced some of my favorite “oldies but goodies.” Take a listen.

Click here to listen to the full audio.

Levon Helm – The Band

Dennis Elsas with Levon Helm

Dennis Elsas with Levon Helm

Levon Helm is an American treasure. Beginning as a drummer with Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, later working with Bob Dylan and then as a founding member of the legendary Band, he was always  regarded as a “musician’s musician.” In recent years that respect  continued to grow and Levon’s Midnight Ramble sessions at his Woodstock studio became sold out must see events with a stellar list of all-star performers and celebrities.
 
He’s also an accomplished film actor with critically acclaimed performances in Coal Miner’s Daughter and The Right Stuff.  His book This Wheel’s on Fire provided an insiders look into the Band’s storied history.
 
In 1996 Levon was diagnosed with throat cancer and his distinctive singing voice was silenced for awhile. When he stopped by for a live studio visit in November 2000 he sat in on drums with a local band, The Electrix, unable to sing, but lighting up the room with his energy and enthusiasm.  We spoke about his history, the dawn of the new century and since it was Thanksgiving weekend, reminisced about The Band’s farewell performance, dubbed The Last Waltz.

Justin Hayward – The Moody Blues

Moody Blues

Days of Future Passed

The Moody Blues began in 1964 as a rhythm and blues based band from Birmingham, England . Within the year their single “Go Now” was a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite their early success, lead singer Denny Laine quit in 1966 and the band reformed with Justin Hayward and John Lodge as the newest members.

The first time I met Justin Hayward and John Lodge was backstage at Carnegie Hall in March 1975. They were taking a break from the Moody Blues and introducing their new Blue Jays album in a special listening party event promoted by WNEW-FM. Sixteen years later (December 1991) we were backstage at the Theater at Madison Square Garden as the reunited Moodys were preparing to headline the annual WNEW-FM Christmas concert.

When I spoke with Justin in November 1996 for Classic FM, he recalled how the group’s distinctive sound emerged from a record label’s desire to test a new recording technology for classical music. The result was the landmark album Days of Future Passed and the enduring composition “Nights in White Satin.”

Seven consecutive hit albums from 1967-1972 together with their 1980’s MTV introduction to a new generation firmly established them as rock royalty. Justin, John and original group member Graeme Edge continue to tour consistently to a loyal, large, and enthusiastic audience.

Bev Bevan – ELO

Dennis Elsas and Bev Bevan

Dennis Elsas and Bev Bevan

The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) were always one of my favorite bands, and in the midst of one of their most creative periods I welcomed drummer and co-founder Bev Bevan to the studio on December 5, 1977.

Although Jeff Lynne would eventually emerge as the group’s de facto leader, it was Bev who was the band’s spokesman. We discussed their origins as The Move and how they transitioned into ELO, breaking new ground with orchestral rock. I asked how he felt about being compared to The Beatles and he unknowingly referenced a comment John Lennon had made about them on my show just a few years earlier. Bev explained the process behind their graphics and album covers including A New World Record which featured the very colorful ELO logo floating above the New York skyline at night. It was the perfect opportunity to share the story of how I just happened to be playing that very album only a few months before at the very moment that New York City plunged into darkness with a major summer blackout.

 

New York Times

New York Times


It was ELO that was spinning on the turntable during my show just a few months earlier on July 13, 1977 when a major blackout crippled the New York area.  Here’s how it sounded at WNEW-FM when Scott Muni and I returned to the airwaves the following day.