Interview: Arkansas Concert Producer Dennis Stone Talks About Growing up In the Music Business

Broadway World's favorite MC Blake Woodson interviews Concert Royalty

By: Sep. 21, 2023
Interview: Arkansas Concert Producer Dennis Stone Talks About Growing up In the Music Business

Sometimes when you travel, the trip is long and boring. There are crying babies, you sit next to someone who snores, and/or you’re lonely. This was not the case with Broadway World’s favorite MC and guest writer Blake Woodson during his recent trip to Denver. Blake had the privilege to sit next to Arkansas Concert Royalty Dennis Stone and decided to seize the moment by getting to know him better.  

 This interview was conducted by Guest Writer Blake Woodson

Interview: Arkansas Concert Producer Dennis Stone Talks About Growing up In the Music Business Note: Somewhere in the skies between Denver and Little Rock

I'm currently sitting on an airplane on the way back to Arkansas from Denver, Colorado, where I was honored to be part of the best concert production crew in the country for the sold out, two days show K-LOVE PRESENTS: LIVE AT RED ROCKS. This production team was headed up by Dennis Stone, a LEGEND in the concert world and my flying buddy on this trip.

 I have worked with Dennis Stone since 2001 on many shows, most of them being at the First Security Amphitheater in Little Rock. I've learned so much from him, and I keep learning. Even on this trip I learned a ton as I soaked up a wealth of knowledge from just being around him, listening and watching, as he made this concert look easier than making a glass of ice water.

It is a must that I share some of his story to the people of Arkansas and the world. However, I could never do his story justice. Only one person could, Dennis Stone himself. So, sit back, fasten your seatbelts, and prepare to learn about the greatest man behind the scenes in the Concert World.

Blake: Dennis, you are not only the man who has taught me 99.9% of what I know about the concert business, but I am truly honored to call you my friend, actually, my brother. I've interviewed a lot of people over the years and this interview with you excites me more than any of the others, including Justin Bieber (which isn't hard to not be excited about, since he was a jerk), to Rikki Rocket, the drummer of the rock band Poison (who invited me back to his bedroom on his bus....long story and not what most people are thinking but it was funny). I can't thank you enough for letting me bring your story to the people of Arkansas. How did you get started on your journey to being the greatest in the industry?

Interview: Arkansas Concert Producer Dennis Stone Talks About Growing up In the Music Business

Dennis: I went on tour with a band called Black Oak Arkansas in November 1972, when I was 9yrs old. 

Blake: Not many people get to go on tour with one of the biggest rock bands of the time at such a young age. How did this opportunity come about for you?

Dennis: My mom was in a relationship with their manager, and they thought it would be a good experience for me. Tommy Aldridge was the drummer and use to pick on me constantly.

Blake: What is your family history with music?

Dennis: My Dad was the drummer for Iron Butterfly, who released “In-A- Godda -da-Vida," which was a top seller and the first million selling platinum RIAA record awarded in the modern pop rock music era.

Blake: Did you follow in his footsteps of being a drummer?

Dennis: I started to but turned to guitar, because I thought Mike Panera was cool. He fronted the second version of Iron Butterfly.

Blake: And where did turning to the guitar lead you?

Dennis: I left college to work on a tour with KROKUS as a guitar tech in 1982. We toured with Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and then did the Def Leppard Pyromania Tour in 1983. Then I joined my first real band when I was 20 was a band called Cobra with Jimi Jamison and Jack Holder who my dad Butch had previously managed and put the band together. It was a great band that he got signed to Epic Records but had the typical self-destruct member. Jimi went on to join Survivor after this.

Interview: Arkansas Concert Producer Dennis Stone Talks About Growing up In the Music Business

Blake: Incredible. What happened after that experience?

Dennis: I guitar teched in between bands. Then, the next band I joined was called Hanover, which was signed to MCA and had a song in the movie called “Wildlife.” Eddie Van Halen did the soundtrack. Then I had a band with Roger Clinton- Bill Clinton’s brother in 1986. I also did the Judas Priest Fuel for Life Tour in late ‘86. Then I joined a band called Illusion out of Atlanta that was signed to Geffen. Butch my stepdad got me the spots in all these bands, or at least the auditions where I sealed the deal.

Blake: Do you think starting out on the road and doing all the tours throughout your younger years set you apart from everyone else in the industry?

Dennis: Yes, I saw the music business from the early years, where there were actual music people running it instead of accountants and lawyers. That started in the 80’s or late 70’s.

Blake: So nowadays it is business people who run shows and tours instead of music people?

Dennis: Yeah, the music people are extinct in the music business. Now it’s about product and money these days and who run the labels.

Interview: Arkansas Concert Producer Dennis Stone Talks About Growing up In the Music Business

Blake: How do you think you have been able to stay around? What lessons have you learned that have helped you survive in this Business lead industry?

Dennis: Being consistent and rolling with the changes.

Blake: What advice would you give anyone who wants to get into the concert business?

Dennis: Have a well-rounded skill set where you are able to multitask and flex to rapidly changing situations.

Blake: Is it very difficult to break into the field?......without a famous dad or step-dad that is... lol

Dennis: I think it is tough breaking into most industries that don’t have degree programs to walk you in, but if it’s in your DNA and you have talent, it’s certainly not out of reach.

Blake: How would someone go about getting a foot in the door?

Dennis: Volunteer at a festival or venue is a first start for someone trying to get hired on, or apply at a local venue, seems like they are hiring since covid, and be dependable in whatever role you are in.

Interview: Arkansas Concert Producer Dennis Stone Talks About Growing up In the Music Business

Blake: Do you love what you do? I know that's a dumb question but....

Dennis: Sometimes I wonder these days but I mostly just miss the old days! It used to be more about the music. Now it’s mostly just about the dollars because everything is expensive. 

Blake: But you do still love what you do?

Dennis: Yeah, I think so.

Blake: You think so? There are tons of people who think they would love to have your job. What do you say to those people?

Dennis: Actually It’s a great job with a lot of challenges and adventure.

Blake: What are the biggest challenges these days?

Dennis: Making budgets work. Everything has gotten so expensive, and you can only pass along so much cost to the consumer, and labor shortages after Covid have made it more difficult to staff events.

Blake: There are a lot of misconceptions about working shows. For example, most people think that being backstage is a pass to a great party, but it's not. It's a place where people work. What are some other things people should know that they may not know is the way it really is?

Dennis: Backstage is where people on tour live, so it's more than just a workplace. People don’t understand why artists want so many different things, and it’s to accommodate life on the road for some to keep some normalcy.

Interview: Arkansas Concert Producer Dennis Stone Talks About Growing up In the Music Business

Blake: Are the stories about "No Brown M&Ms" and "All Green M&Ms” true"? Are there other stories like that?

Dennis: Yes, Van Halen did that, some say it was to see if promoters were paying attention to details. But they may have just been following in Led Zepplin footsteps who were the first band to have a rider that was non-negotiable, there are many stories that don’t go public.

Blake: LOL. None you can share?

Dennis: you mean like Marilyn Manson has to have the temperature in the dressing room at 50° and black walls and furniture. Or Skynyrd calling the night before saying they had to have an ounce of coke at load in or no show. Fleetwood Mac was another one that wanted blow.

Blake: Yes, I totally remember that one....and a small table with a candle on it in the center of that room. Didn’t MM steal one of your lamps?

Dennis: Yes, he sure did!

Dennis: Funny, once for Fleetwood Mac, Bill Graham painted a bunch of noses on a dressing room wall once and put a large pile of coke on it for them in their green room, I mean white room. 

Blake: Is there anything else you would like to share about your years in the concert business? Like who has been your best Prodigy? Don't answer that unless you say me. LOL

Dennis: You and Peggy have both been great.

Blake: WOW, comparing me to Peggy is the biggest compliment I could ever dream of. Can you share with the people reading this who Peggy is?

Dennis: Peggy came to Little Rock to manage and saved one of Little Rock’s most iconic music venues, was called Juanita's, which was run into the ground by prior poor management. Not only did Peggy resurrect Juanita's into the premier live room for touring artists, but she also was my assistant for all the big shows I did. 

Blake: I know you have seen a lot of people come and go in your years in this industry, like our brother JR. Are there any one of those brothers and sisters in the industry that you wouldn't be the same if they had not have crossed your path in the concert world?

Interview: Arkansas Concert Producer Dennis Stone Talks About Growing up In the Music Business

Dennis: There have been a lot of great people along the way, And we sure miss JR (John Ramsey) but if I were to say one, it would be my stepdad Butch Stone who has been at the top levels of the music industry. He was also one of the most controversial people in the music industry and is still considered a legend by the old school guys. He was one of Frank Barcelona’s proteges and also gave the eagles their first tour and has had a friend named Irving Azoff ever since.

Blake: Who else has been a great influence on you in your career? 

Dennis: I worked for LD Glover on tour when I was younger, and he was a great mentor on the road. Plus all the older guys in the biz I grew up around

Blake: You have had an amazing life. I can't wait for you to write the book. 

Blake: What jobs have you done in the concert world?

Dennis:  General Roadie - back in the 70’s like they all were.1980’s forward - Guitar player- Performer; Band leader; Song writer; Music Producer; Studio mixer; Band Manager; Guitar Tech; Tour Manager; Promoter; FOH engineer; MON engineer; Promoter Rep; Venue Manager; Stage Manager; Production Manager; and Event Manager. There’s a few and too many more to list from when we get our hands dirty.

Blake: I think I know the answer, but what has been your favorite role?

Dennis: Playing Guitar. Studio recording a close second. 

Blake: And when are you getting the band back together, since you can play again?

Dennis: We are in talks now, so maybe soon. We have some industry people telling me to put Great Southern Railroad back together. They’ve heard the recordings I did 30 years ago.

Blake: I, for one, cannot wait for that! What is your favorite venue?

Dennis: That’s a tough one. MSG is the most iconic, Red Rocks is the most unique, NBA arenas are the best to do shows in. 

Blake: What has been your favorite band to work with? Least favorite band to work with?

Dennis: I’ve got to dig for this one, hard to remember all of them, lots of great days working with many artists and camps, I had the most fun working with Great Southern Railroad, but that was my band. Willie Nelson and Lionel Richie are the two nicest guys, Also loved it when Rob Kern was Journey’s tour and production manager, I loved working with him. Slipknot at Edgefest/Mudfest was the hardest show ever. The craziest show was Pantera. That tour drank 15 gallons of whiskey that day. 

Blake: Was it all Jack Daniels?

Dennis: I think so. It was called “The Extreme Steel Tour” with four hard metal bands.

Blake: Vinnie Paul loved his JD.

Dennis: Yes, he did, and so did everyone else. Guy Sykes was Pantara’s Tour Manager. He was known as the #1 hard a**! But we always had good days when we worked together!Dennis: And now I do Christian shows with Dan Fife and Awakening Events, which is a turn from some of the other shows I’ve done.

Blake: What was the biggest show you have ever done?

Dennis: It was probably the Eagles “Hell Freezes Over Tour” in 95 at War Memorial Stadium. It had the biggest selling and grossing show in Arkansas history until Garth Brooks last year.

Interview: Arkansas Concert Producer Dennis Stone Talks About Growing up In the Music Business

Blake: I was at that the stands.

Dennis: That was a great show and crazy behind the scenes.

Blake: What was so crazy about it?

Dennis: From one of the partners and his family getting kicked out by Irving Azoff’s bodyguards to Joe Walsh destroying his RV we borrowed from a local RV lot. Yes they were still doing drugs then!

Blake: Lol. Oh??? Ok. I love Joe Walsh. He was one of the nicest Rockstars I have ever met.

Blake: Now, most Arkansans would experience the fruits of your labor at the First Security Amphitheater. Can you tell me about your history with that venue? 

Dennis: I did my first show at Riverfront Amphitheater now called First Security Amphitheater in May of 1993 with a buddy Donnie Frizzell, who persuaded a guy to put up the money. It was Skynyrd/Bad Company/ Great Southern Railroad. It sold out around 16,000 tickets. then we got an offer from Cellar Door after that show to stay in LR and run the Amp and do shows, wasn’t necessarily the plan but I have been the consistent person there ever since. FYI-- my band opened that show with Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Blake: The sold-out number is much lower now than it was in 1993. What is it now and why did it decrease?

Dennis: There were no River Market, AG&F building or statues in the park in those days. It was much more open.

Blake: What is that number now?

Dennis: 8,200 people. When the River Market was first built, it was 10,500 for a lot of years. The AG&F building took the cap down to where it is now.

Blake: So, on the first show, they oversold it by 7500 people?

Dennis: There was no real cap in the early days. We figured it out in ‘94, so we could make the offers consistent. Butch also got the exclusive with the city to manage the Amphitheater, so it became the Summer Concert Series, 

Blake: I didn’t think a promoter would over sell an event....

Dennis: Lol! There are a couple of priceless Butch stories on that front.....And then we landed and I was unable to get those stories. I would like to thank Dennis for taking the time to tell everyone his story. We look forward to seeing him at the next concert and know that it will be a great one in Dennis’ hands.

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