About three months ago I came across a nice flight case for a Fender Twin Reverb at Future Music in Highland Park. A little light in the wallet at the time, I couldn't see my way to buying it. The case's placard gave a name and phone number in the 818— a/k/a THE VALLEY. So I snapped a photo of it and placed a call a few days later to inquire. Maybe the company would have a few road weary, less expensive cases lurking around.
A guy named Dennis answered. He spoke quickly and enthusiastically of his mobile case repair business, and his side work selling new and reconditioned flight cases.
Regarding cases for Fender Twins, he said he didn't often get them in; too in-demand, but that he would call if one came along. I liked his manner and decided I needed a case from him. The dude seemed like good luck. So I did not care how long it'd take to get my hands on one. I would wait. Something about him told me he would call, eventually. Not soon, but some time for certain. So I gave him my name and cell number, saying, "Thanks Dennis, talk to ya soon!"
About ten days ago, while still in Chicago, Dennis phoned my cell saying he'd come across a twin case in decent shape. It was like time collapsing. Though months had gone by, it felt as if we'd just spoken the day prior; as plain and friendly as could be. Mind like a steel trap. After reconditioning it, he said he'd sell it for $200 clams. Sold. Thanks Dennis.
A few nights ago Tam and I drove out to his home deep in the valley to pick it up. The landscape is pretty but bizarre, like a cross between a spaghetti western set and a trailer park in Burien, WA. Shirtless, tanned and ponytailed, Dennis was a vision of loveliness and goodwill. He kindly walked us around the grounds showing off his impressive collection of cases. Though most people probably could care nothing for these things, Tam and I were losing our minds. Over there a custom case for Fleetwood Mac's off-stage oxygen tank, in forest green and featuring a stenciled penguin. Over here a beautiful cream colored Beach Boys timpanie (kettledrum) case, Pet Sounds era. Over there Dokken's ominous black bass rig. Custom cases for the Goo Goo Dolls workout benches. Piles of Toni Braxton matching white mega-cases.
As we walked, Dennis regaled us with stories of custom cases, upcoming tours and tours of old, general rock trivia, the minutia of custom case repair work, major label deals gone wrong, Nirvana & 90s grunge destroying Hollywood glamrock and his employment as sound-guy to the Roxy's hair bands, Warrant, Winger, Autograph, Faster Pussycat, Ratt, foam, casters, archaic mixing consoles, PA gear, vintage drum kit hardware, where are they now-style rockstar stories and sightings... All of it made Dennis ecstatic. Euphoric. Delighted. Dennis offers a goldmine of weird, fascinating rock knowledge. And he's a real gentleman. Fun to be around.
But the real mind eraser was this thing: a burnt orange flight case custom built for David Lee Roth's traveling Jack Daniels stash. Room enough for 36 full-sized bottles. Oh, Diamond Dave. The 80s were so wonderfully fucked.
My favorite thing about Dennis and his case company though is this— to find him requires word of mouth or stumbling upon one of his cases in a shop somewhere. No website, no Myspace, no Facebook. Not even a listing in the Yellowpages. None of that. He says he doesn't have time, he's too busy making and repairing cases for all that. No computer data base, no Excel spreadsheets. To keep all the cases and clients straight he just uses a high schooler's spiral notebook and a pencil. Dennis is epic.