His friends in the “mines” suggested to him that if he wanted to continue his study of French culture, he needed to go to Louisiana where there were over 3/4 of a million French speakers. Thus eventually Dennis did move to Lafayette, LA where he worked and interned at the famous Vermilionville Folklife Village. There Dennis increased his fluency in French (though more heavily Cajun) thanks to Blanche Quebedeaux and Evelyn Goller, spent countless hours with Cajun and Creole master fiddlers including Faren Serrette, Black Allemand, Canray Fontenot, and Merlin Fontenot, and eventually just became one of the locals.
Dennis finally returned to Illinois to purse a Masters of History at Southern Illinois University. After arriving in Carbondale, Dennis met up with Jon Watson and John Giffin and they formed a band called the Brown Baggers in late 1995. Starting out playing a wide variety of traditional folk music, French festivals in Missouri and Illinois began calling and thus the Brown Baggers started to focus on the Creole and Cajun music in which Dennis was steeped. Eventually the Brown Baggers became a popular Midwest band. Though the original Brown Baggers never broke up, for a few years the band morphed into an alter ego, beginning in 2000, with a somewhat changed lineup called Bon Temps Roulez. This group, BTR, disbanded in 2002. But the original Brown Baggers consisting of Dennis, Jon Watson, and John Giffin never considered letting the music stop. During that same year, 2002, Dennis and Jon Watson formed Creole Stomp as a full-time touring Louisiana Creole-Zydeco and Cajun band.
During the late 90’s into 2002 Dennis did move extensively, and in 1999 after being awarded a Masters of History from SIU, he attended The University of Quebec at Chicoutimi, Canada where he was awarded a Certificate in Quebec French Language and Culture in the Fall of 1999. After returning to the United States, he continued to work with his Illinois based band but went back to his roots and started traveling with Louisiana based groups such as Sheryl Cormier and Cajun Sounds, The Acadian Aces, The Bayou Teche Band, and the Creole group The Ardoin Family Band. He still works heavily with the Morris Ardoin Creole Trio and Dexter Ardoin and the Creole Ramblers as well as the Nashville, TN based “Roux de Bayou” on occassion. When he started touring with the Ardoin’s several years ago, Dennis took up playing Creole style accordion under the direction of Morris and Dexter Ardoin leading him deeper into African Creole Music which ignited in him the desire to create Creole Stomp…
Presently Dennis and his wife Jennifer live near his home town of Albion, Illinois. Of course one can always find him popping up in Lafayette or Eunice, LA or Old Mines, MO.
As is his goal, Dennis continues to carefully preserve the language, culture, and music that he learned in Missouri and Louisiana. Outside of Creole Stomp he offers workshops, seminars, and solo performances (acoustic) that encompass the full range of North American French Music and Culture. For more information on a performance or workshop please follow the link below.
Edited by FrancisMorin on 5 Dec 2010, 21:53
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