DENNIS LEWCHUK

 

Another of the great performers to emerge from Northeast Nebraska, Dennis Lewchuk's musical career began in the early 1960's when his mother Burnetta purchased Dennis a $19.00 guitar from tips she earned working at Hested's and Woolworth's in Norfolk, NE. She worked with Ann Allison, who was the mother of a number of great Norfolk musicians; Dick Allison (see Ron Thompson & The Broughams), Bob Allison of the Allison Brothers Band, Chuck Allison & the late Johnny Allison. In the 70's Chuck Allison's son Rodney Allison, played some monster guitar with the Dennis Lewchuk Show.

Along with the guitar came a copy of Johnny Horton's "North to Alaska" , and Denny's musical career had begun. His father, Frank Lewchuk, took him to Shady Inn, located on the outskirts of Norfolk, to hear Hall of Fame inductee the late Bill Legate, one of Nebraska's great country singers. Legate let the young Lewchuk on stage to sing the Johnny Tillotson verson of "Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On", and it was no looking back for Dennis Lewchuk.

Soon after that, Lewchuk jumped on stage with a Columbus NE band, The Prisms, at Kings Ballroom in Norfolk. After singing the correct words to "Wooly Bully", which their lead singer had jumbled previously, he became their vocalist.

He was approached shortly thereafter by another very fine local musician, Kenny Scheerger, to play in a trio with Roger Volk (The Smoke Ring/Don Sohl & The Roadrunners). Later, Roger's mother, Evelyn Volk, The Queen of Northeast Nebraska Rock, joined them. This band played at "Trails End", playing everything from 30's-40's big band swing to "What'd I Say" by Ray Charles. Evelyn Volk, at age 80, can still humiliate younger rockers on the keys, jammin' Ray Charles to Nat King Cole.

By 1965, Lewchuk had honed his vocal and instrumental chops and perfected the courage to be a "performer". He had no fear, and did whatever was needed to draw and hold a crowd. He formed "The Sound of Fate", a very successful Northeast Nebraska band. Toward the late 60's he joined Bloomfield, NE's "The Bandits" with Perry Hansen, Arlen and Milburn Johnson and Sam Newton.

They toured the country in 1969 and recorded the soundtrack for the movie "The Playpen" in Denver, Co. In 1970, Lewchuk formed "The Jokers Four" and again toured the country. He ended up playing for 39 months at a club in Billings, Mt. He returned to Norfolk in 1975 and formed "The Dennis Lewchuk Show". They became a regular and very popular act at Doug Speidel's "Red Bull Lounge" north of Norfolk. He recorded a version of The Beau-Marks' "I've Had It" and it became a regional smash.

Lewchuk's band packed the Red Bull, 6 nights a week, for over a year. No national performer pulled larger crowds there than "The Dennis Lewchuk Show". He was the consummate entertainer. He was not only blessed with a great voice, but also the ability to draw and hold a crowd. Dennis, also known as "Little Denny Wonder" during his career, would do anything (legal) to please the crowd, from driving a motorcycle into the ballroom and tearing up the stage to diving offstage to the delight of the fans lined up to see his show. Having lived in the South for a number of years, he returns to Norfolk to entertain his fans and to be inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame in July 2001.