January 23rd, 2016

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I had been playing Gibson guitars for my entire musical career but never got the chance to be endorsed by Gibson. That was about to change. One day in 2005 I received a telephone call from Dr. Ira Padnos known as Doctor Ike in New Orleans. He was in charge of the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation. The purpose of the foundation was to celebrate and recognize the unsung heroes of American Music. Dr. Ike told me I had been designated as an unsung hero and invited me to play at the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation Festival in New Orleans in 2006. I agreed and he gave me a date to perform. Later that year Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and everything changed.

Director of the Ponderosa Stomp Foundation

Dr Ike








Ponderosa Stomp Festival

Millie and Dennis and Robert Whitall








Dr. Ike called me back and told me they were moving the festival to the Gibson Guitar Factory in Memphis and changed it to a benefit for Katrina victims. They would pay artists expenses but were asking us to donate our fees to the victims. I agreed and when I performed at the Gibson Guitar factory, the people at Gibson finally knew who I was.

The next event that occurred was when Jim Felber at Gibson invited me to participate in the 50th Anniversary of the ES-335 Guitar as a guest of Larry Carlton at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.The Gibson ES-335 was the world’s first commercial semi-hollow body electric guitar originally released by the musical giant in 1958. The ES in the series is for “electric Spanish”. The guitar isn’t hollow or solid. It has a solid wooden block that runs through the center of its body but the sides are hollow sporting violin – style f-holes. Artists from around the world have succeeded in recording top charting songs and played to hundreds of thousands of fans with the ES-335 guitar.
“Mr. ES-335” himself, Larry Carlton and a collection of other greats paid homage to this important guitar classic. Larry led an all-star performance with his famous friends and musicians including John Pizzarelli, Gary Pucket, Joe Bonamassa, Dennis Coffey, Joel Hoffner and Matthew Shariff-Hobley. The event was held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and hosted Museum Director of Curatorial Affairs, Howard Kramer.

In 2008 I got another call from Jim Felber at Gibson to play with Les Paul at the Playhouse Theater in Cleveland. The Playhouse Theater seats about 3000 people. The event was called the 13th Annual American Music Masters featuring “The Wizard of Waukesha” Les Paul. Internationally known guitarists were invited to play at this event to honor Les. We each did one song and then Les wrapped up the show by playing a few songs with Les Paul Trio. We then took turns soloing with Les on “Guitar Boogie Shuffle”. Some of the guest guitarists on the show were James Burton (Ricky Nelson, Elvis), Duanne Eddy, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Steve Lukather (Toto), Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (Doobie Brothers), Lonnie Mack, The Ventures, Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith), Slash (Guns and Roses), and Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi). It was a fantastic night of music!

Jim Felber called me again and told me Gibson wanted to give me a brand new 355 guitar made at their custom shop in Memphis. He also told me I could decide what hardware I wanted on the guitar. I was surprised at their offer and couldn’t wait to get my hands on the newest addition to my Gibson Guitar collection. The Gibson Custom Shop did a great job building that guitar. I used it on my last album “Dennis Coffey” on Strut Records and played it with the Roots Band on the Jimmy Fallon Show. I also used that guitar on my US and Canadian tour and in London and Paris. Gibson still creates great guitars, which is why I will always play one in my shows and in the recording studio.


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Dennis Coffey