Corey Dennison listened to a lot of music growing up in Chattanooga TN and various other southern burgs. But he said everything changed once he heard Howlin' Wolf's "London Sessions" album.
"Right then and there is when I said 'whoa ... I gotta have this.'"
From there he said he dug into other blues artists, especially Muddy Waters, Freddy King, and B.B. King.
"Once I found the Wolf and the Kings, I didn't listen to any more rock music. My friends were all into Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and Slayer. And I'm in my bedroom listening to Petey Wheatstraw or Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, stuff like that."
Dennison said once his mother saw how enamored he was with blues music, she bought him a guitar for Christmas. He said his uncle took him from noodling with chords to learning how to play the instrument.
"They used to tell me I would sleep with it. Fall asleep in front of the radio, in front of the TV. When I got older, I did the same thing. I would play with it constantly. I should have been chasing women, but no, I was playing guitar!"
His eponymous recording on Delmark Records is Dennison's recording debut, if you don't count a live recording from a Buddy Guy's Legends concert a few years back. Dennison said considers it his debut, and chuckled when asked how long he had envisioned the album in his head.
"I will say this. When we did the last master and I finally listened to the record, I was coming home from the studio and it was about 3:00 in the afternoon. I was driving across the city of Chicago crying like a little newborn baby because everything that had been in my head for a number of years from playing with Carl Weathersby to when I knew I knew how to write songs ... everything I heard in my head, music wise, sound wise, was on that record."
Dennison says he was caught by surprise on the first day of the scheduled recording. He and the band had rehearsed in the studio the previous night. Or at least he thought it was a rehearsal.
"It's 9:00 in the morning and we're fired up and ready to go, Steve (the producer) said 'give me seven new songs, you got seven keepers from last night.' I didn't know he was rolling. So we did seven new songs and by the next Tuesday everything was pretty much done."
He said when the recording was finished, he had another emotional moment outside the studio.
"I had to take a minute while I was outside smoking and I broke down. I'm still breaking down, I'm 40 years old and tattooed head to toe and I'm in this pizza place and I have tears coming down my cheeks. I turned to my band leader Gerry Hundt and said 'man I had no idea how hard this was.'"
Carl Weathersby has been a mentor and friend of Dennison's from the time they met years ago. When the album was completed, he asked the former Albert King sideman to add some flourishes to a few songs. Dennison said Weathersby declined.
"And that was the greatest thing anybody ever told me. And he said one more thing, 'If somebody listens to this record and says they like blues and start nit-picking it, Corey, they're full of it ...they're lying.' He said 'Corey it's a great record and there's something for everyone on this record.'"