Dennis grew up in Tyndall, South Dakota. Legendary band director Don Paul taught Denny to play the trumpet. He also played guitar and keyboards, and was a natural musician.
Denny founded the Hearts of Stone with Tyndall friends Don Hajek, Larry Meyer, and Don Hinzman. They were mostly ninth graders. A couple of years later that band became the Tensions (inducted in 2016). They began as a 6-8 piece horn band, and condensed to a four-piece group. Denny had made the guitar his instrument of choice.
After the Tensions disbanded, Denny went on to play with Spectacle from northwest Iowa. They spent one entire year entertaining at George’s in the Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota. That is where Denny met his future wife, Judy. He later joined The Flippers in late 1973 for a few months, returning to Scotland where his mail-carrier father had been transferred.
He started Cokeley with brother Curtis. The two commuted to nearby Yankton, where they were employed by M-Tron. They were able to keep steady employment there while also traveling with Cokeley.
The Coca Cola company in Atlanta contacted Denny and Curtis about using the “Cokeley” name and similar lettering style. After explaining that Cokeley was indeed their surname and that they would not stop using the name with their band, they agreed to change the Coke style of lettering on their bus and posters.
Denny continued to write and record originals as he raised his family in Freeman. In January of 1983, Denny lost his life in a tragic car accident. He left behind his wife, Judy, and two small children and a legacy as one of the region’s finest guitar players. Denny mentored many musicians during his too-short stay on earth.
2020/2021Spirit of the Music Award