In 1996, the Western Reserve Historical Society took Dennis's music, newspaper articles and writings, and organized them and placed them permanently in the historical society because they believed Dennis's history would have significance to future researchers of Northeastern Ohio's history of music.
Dennis's career started in 1965 with his high school band The Lost Souls. The band played local CYO'S teen dances, K of C halls, armories amd Hullabaloos. The Lost Souls popularity peaked in 1967 when they played at the Cleveland Stadium. From 1965 to 1968 the Lost Souls established 24 attendance records at various clubs. The group did covers and originals that used flute, sax and mandolin along with the usual guitar bass and drums. The band broke up when the members went to college and went their seperate ways.
After the Lost Souls disbanded Dennis was asked to join the Choir. The Choir had gone through some personell changes and was looking to regroup after their national hit "It's Cold Outside". (# 57 U.S. billboard 1967) This version of the Choir competed with Eric Carmen's Cyrus Erie for local popularity. The band recorded an album that paved the way for a new record deal, but the band broke up when two members of the Choir joined the Cyrus Erie. Dennis played with the Choir for 9 months.
A day after the Choir broke up Dennis was asked to join Moses a rock theatrical band that became very popular. Moses played in the metro Cleveland and Pittsburgh areas. The group was known for it's theatrics, humor and high energy music. Moses opened for such acts as Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, MC5 and Ted Nugent. The group broke up due to conflicts over direction of the band.
In the beginning of the 1970's, Dennis began to play folk music in Ohio, Pennyslvania, and as far away as Toronto, Canada. Throughout the rest of his rock and writing career, to this very day, Dennis has remained active playing solo, acoustic music even while he was playing in bands. He also at this time became part of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church which helped to center his life.
In 1974, Brian Sands and Dennis Carleton agreed to re-form Moses as a new group - Milk. Randy Klawon was replaced on lead guitar by Al Globakar and Dave Alexy played drums. Moses had been high energy and danceable - Milk was artistic, avante garde, and basically off the wall. Tiny Tim melodies, Rudy Vallee songs, baseball cards thrown from the stage along with group photos posing with man-sized shampoo bottles made Milk too much for most audiences' tastes. There were also originals such as Dennis's "Boy can I dance Good". Locally, Milk remains most notorious for nearly starting a riot as the ill-chosen opening act for a Canned Heat concert.
Dennis's next band was just as eventful. The Fa band was the trio of Dennis (guitar and vocals), Fred Grupe (bass), and Mac Chaefer on drums. They played local YMCAs, bars, and schools, developing a large cult following who enjoyed hearing Dennis's originals as well the band satirizing the 70's rock scene. Mac wanted to be more serious and left, but Dennis and Fred continued playing every night to the beat of a different drummer - literally! Occasionally an extra guitar player appeared, or perhaps a harmony singer, usually ending in a free-for-all jam sessiom with anyone who wished joining in. During this time, Dennis wrote a full page article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer telling his views on the local rock scene and the next week appeared on WMMS Coffee Break Concert, doing 12 of his originals.
After the coffee break concert, Dennis was approached by Dave "99" Hayward's Precious Records about putting out an E.P. Dennis's "Could She Love Me" and "Pregnant Molly" was on one side, while Al Globakars' "If I Only Had The Bomb" was on the other.
All this publicity changed the Fa band which was re-formed with permanent members: Dennis Carleton (vocals and guitar), Ralph Viviano (drums), Dann Schneider (lead guitar), Fred Grupe (bass),and Joe Balaszic (vocals). The band played locally for about a year until getting into the usual band conflicts, changing their name to Inner City and adding Bruce and Pam Moore and subtracting Joe and Ralph. Inner City added Pam's female vocals doing Heart covers along with Dennis's and Dan's originals. The band played mostly at the Phantasy Theatre in Lakewood before breaking up after just 5 months. Pam went on to sing back up with Bob Seger and then Meatloaf, while Dann became a staff songwriter for a N.Y. publishing firm.
After so many bands breaking up for so long, Dennis decided to play out locally, doing 60's covers, to make money to invest in publishing his own music on his own label "Green Light". Around this time, Dennis also became a guitar teacher - eventually being hired at the Willoughby Fine Arts, Goose Acres and The Music Emporium. He also teaches Lakeland Community College Students for college credit through the Fine Arts.
Dennis's first cover band was the "Last Street Band". Every Friday, for the 9 months the band lasted, Doug, the band's lead guitar players younger,12 year old brother would sit in and jam. The place would be packed to see"The Kid" play guitar. Doug's little brother is Tom Bukovec, who has gone on to play with Tanya Tucker, and is currently Wynona Judd's lead player.
In 1981-1989, Dennis played locally with the "Surprize Band", which eventually changed its name to "The Window", because no one could figure out who the "Surprize Band" was. The original band was: Mike Wey (bass), Mark Luthardt (lead guitar), Dennis Carleton (vocals and guitar), and Roy Laboy (drums). Later, Mac Chafer replaced Roy, and Tom Mackle stepped in when Mike dropped out. "The Window", in 1982, was WMJI's house rock band and hosted many food for the poor jam sessions for Clevelander's in need from 1982-1989.
In 1983, Greenlight released it's first tape, Dennis' "In With The Out Takes". This was followed in 1984 by the unreleased Lost Souls' recording sessions. Both cassettes were well received locally, and distributed by Important Records out of N.Y., when L.A.'s Option magazine, and Gorilla Beat from West Germany reviewed both tapes favorably.
After being reviewed by these international magazines, Dennis was contacted by many musicians and artists throughout the world who were interested in experimental music. Dennis decided to record his own experimental tape, "Color with Crayons", which Richie Unterberger of Option Magazine called "the cutting edge of rock" in the 80's and voted it as his #1 favourite tape of the year, in 1985.
In 1985, Green Light also issued "The New Cleveland Green Light Sampler" featuring many local Cleveland artists including Wally Bryson's Sittin Ducks. Because of the success of all these tapes, Dennis was featured in a full page article about his career in 1985 in Option Magazine.
As a result of the article, mail poured in and Jim Marquardt joined Green Light and helped organized it. In 1986, the first Green Light catalog was issued, featuring Dennis's tapes, a dozen local artists, the "Cleaners from Venus", from England, and other musicians from around the world. The tape label was similar to "K cassettes." Green Light was mentioned by the New York Times as one of the established cassette only companies in the U.S, and Anastasia Pantsios, in her Plain Dealer article, said that Green Light was one of Cleveland's 5 legitimate record labels.
Between 1983 and 1990, Dennis released 9 solo cassettes and established himself as a well known home taper in the Alternative underground music scene. His music was played on over 300 College and Public Radio stations, including WFMU in New Jersey, and CKLN in Toronto, Ontario. CKLN in Toronto and WAIF in Cincinnatti, Ohio both did two hour programs on Dennis's home tapes and sixties music.
One of the most interesting home tapes is a radio drama "Who's been fooling Who?" It concerns an idealistic musician in the future who is trying to escape the confusion in the world through music, communication and art. This Sci-Fi. Lo-Fi drama was reviewed favourably by Dino Dimuro, in Option magazine, and it was also performed by the Willoughby School of Fine Arts Theatre Workshop.
In 1988, received a scholarship from Cuyahoga Community College, where he sharpened his teaching skills and broadened his music to include classical, jazz and arrangement. Dennis was then hired by the College to teach music, be a consultant and play bass for their cultural art shows about the history of rock at the State Theatre at Playhouse Square. During this time fellow teacher and friend Paul Schmidt recorded Dennis's song "If I Had a Bride".
Bob Pilskaln started Just Guise as a group that did parodies for John Lanigan on Cleveland's most popular morning drive program. Just Guise would take a song like Margaritaville and do a parody singing Cuyahogaville instead. (Cuyahoga county is the county where Cleveland is located). They would use famous songs to poke fun at Cleveland and it's politicians and leaders. At some point Bob wanted to expand into more original songs and into college radio. That is where Dennis entered the picture.
Bob and Dennis did skits on Just Guises' college radio program that was broadcast locally on WUJC (John Carrols radio station) and the syndicated nationally (via satellite) by u-net to 300 college radio stations. Dennis was in "Just Guise" from 1988 to 1990 when Bob decided to go in another direction with his creativity: he began teaching college.
In 1989, Dennis married Theresa Galish; they play in bands for awhile, but found their niche as a folk duet in area coffee shops, libraries, churches and bookstores. The Carletons play Dennis's originals, and have a song list of over 350 tunes in the progressive folk music tradition of Austin City Limits. They have played on the same bill as country artists Radney Foster, Leroy Parnell and Steve Wariner. The duo have two tapes released in 1995 and 1996, play regionaly and have had two newpaper articles done about their folk act. Describing their musical relationship Dennis jokes "It's like Willie Nelson meets Karen Carpenter."
In the 90's, Dennis released his "Retro" tape, "Low Tech Highlights", and wrote music for a childrens play: "The Phantom Tollbooth"
The Phantom Tollbooth Music(Composed in 1990) that was performed at the Willoughby School of Fine Arts. Dennis has also written music for his distant cousin, Will Carleton poems (1845-1912), who is the poet laureate of Michigan.
Dennis and Theresa went their separate ways up in 1999. Dennis continues to teach guitar, write literature, and do his weekly radio program on WELW.www.welw.com 6;30-7:10 pm est
He is also performing solo and recording new music. His newest solo acoustic CD Whiskey Island was released Dec. 1, 1999.