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Friday, May 29, 2015

NKY Music Scene: Adrian Belew on The Denems, The Beatles and a time of innocence

I had the honor of speaking with Adrian Belew about the induction of The Denems into the NKY Music Legends Hall of Fame taking place on June 4th. You could hear the pride and joy in his voice while we discussed the band and the era.

"It was a time of innocence. No worries. Talking about it is like taking a walk back in time. We lived and breathed the music of The Beatles." said Belew. "The Beatles were about love. Much of todays music is dark and glorified violence. So much sensationalism in the world. There is some wonderful music being released still...but, the mystery has been stripped with most of the music currently being recorded."

After The Beatles invaded the shores of America in 1964, Mike Wilshire and Terry Dalhover (students of Boone County High School) wanted to get a four-piece rock group together. They had been bitten by the bug called Beatlemania. Wilshire knew a guitar player from Covington Catholic High School named Dave Behle. He was asked to join Wilshire and Dalhover in the band. Once Behle agreed, the search for a drummer began. Wilshire also knew of a new kid that just started at BCHS. A talented drummer and vocalist named Steve Belew completed the original lineup. All that was left was a name for the band. After Dalhover saw a performance from Glen Campbell on the television wearing all denim, they had their name. The Denems were born.

"We had the support of family and friends." Belew said. "We played everywhere people would let us. We practiced constantly and played every weekend."

The band played at school dances, backyards and local bowling alleys. A DJ at WSAI took interest in the band after seeing them play and soon contracted them to play sponsored dances in the area.

Wilshire departed the group in 1965 to pursue playing different music and a new bass player was needed. A transfer student from Augusta, Robbie Workman, was asked and joined. With Workman, the band perfected their harmony and become more popular. They attracted the attention of college student, Ray Lehmkuhl, while home visiting from Eastern Kentucky University. He loved the band's sound and asked them if they would be interested in playing around the campus at EKU. Lehmkuhl soon made an agreement with the group to become their agent and began booking the band all around EKU and Southern Kentucky.

Belew pointed out "From the beginning we wanted to play Beatles songs. Our goal was to have fun. It was the main event of our lives."

The Denems continued to perform everywhere they could. They performed at high schools, dances and riverboat cruises. Their determination paid off. They were invited to be part of a tour sponsored by Dick Clark Productions with performances in Eastern Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Sharing the stage with the likes of Tommy James and The Shondells and the Lemon Pipers, the band even performed on the Phil Donahue Show.

In 1968, The Denems disbanded.

Belew explains "Sgt. Pepper broke up the band. The music changed after The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The music became more complex and difficult to recreate. It wasn't as fun to play."

So where did they go? Behle continued playing music by performing in various bands in the area and teaching carpentry. Married with grown children, he has retired from teaching at Holmes High School and is a jewelry maker. Dalhover had 2 children and retired from a General Manager position of a vending company. He is now the grandfather of 5 grandchildren. Workman continued his passion for music, writing and recording his own material (even reuniting with Belew on several songs). Workman is the owner and President of Shelving Systems Plus, Inc. in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Belew went on to become Adrian Belew and world wide fame. Aside from his many wonderful solo recordings, he has worked with David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Paul Simon, The Bears, Talking Heads and many others.

The band has reunited a few times since their breakup in 1968. It is their reunion on June 4th that excites Belew more than any of the other reunions. "It is important to recognize the beginning. Looking back now, it's a window into a wonderful world when the world was not so dark. It feels as if we all took a Coke break and are coming back together and reconnecting to an era that was simple and fun. There was an innocence of the early 60s that is gone in todays music. This could be the last time that we all get to play together again. The Denems are a band that deserves recognition. It's about the band...not us as individuals. You never know...this could be the last time we ever get to play together again. You just never know."

The band will be honored and perform at the induction on June 4th at the Tower Park Amphitheater in Fort Thomas. The Northern Kentucky Music Hall of Fame ceremonies will be from 6-7 and the music begins immediately after. Free admission. Get ready for a wonderful evening of music from an era long missed.


  1. How nice to read an article about music and musicians instead of the author. Nice job!

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  3. Nicely done Mr. Stenger. I admit I would have not taken notice if it were not for Mr. Belew being in the lineup. But I appreciate your recognition of each member of The Denems. In my imagination I fully expect Adrian to play his drum kit at the reunion concert and not even strap on his Parker Fly. That would be totally Adrian, no self promotion, just making music with his friends. Can't wait.

    1. Thanks, James! I am really excited to see the show on Thursday. I have seen the Denems once before and Adrian was FANTASTIC to watch on drums. It was odd at first to not see him shred it out on guitar.

  4. I see where Gale Watson is being inducted into the Legend Hall of Fame...Although Gale is no longer with us it is still an honor for his Family to see this...I did not know about this until this evening 6/3/15....but I am going to try a get a hold of his sister Diana
    and let her know about this.....Hoping some of Gale's cousins will be there.....Thanks to everyone for doing this for Gale.....He would be some proud! Thank you, Patty Robertson (Gale's Cousin).