Local Musician Spotlight – Dennis Cordellos
Born in San Francisco, the Cordellos family made the trek north to Sonoma in 1956, when young Dennis Cordellos was just three years old. Originally Greek immigrants, they bought the vacant lot on the Northwest corner of Napa St. and Fifth Street West from the Norrboms and proceeded to build what, at the time, was the largest grocery store in Sonoma Valley, Valley Mart. You may know it now as Sonoma Market.
Cordellos attended school here in the Valley and by seven years of age, was playing in the Prestwood School band. Throughout high school, he played with many long-time Sonoma musicians, of which many are still here today. Jeff Falconer, Ed Delaney, Johnn ‘King Daddy” Murphy, the late Michael Hinton, to name a few. His parents saw that Cordellos had a gift for music on the guitar, and in his senior year, he attended a school that focused just on music, the Bear Wallow School, a short lived, experimental high school that was at the Westerbeke Ranch in El Verano.
Fresh out of high school, Cordellos was playing large venues with a number of musicians, the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos with Sonoma vocalist Paula Sumante. By 20 years of age, Cordellos was fronting his own act, Pacific Coast Highway, and landed a steady gig at the Playboy Club in San Francisco, playing five nights a week. After a couple years they took the act on the road, touring the country playing popular cover songs and even landing at another Playboy Club in Phoenix Az. But tragedy would soon strike the band with the death of their bass player in a car accident and Cordellos, reflecting on the circumstances, made it back to Sonoma.
His father gave him a full-time job at the Valley Mart where he stayed for a couple years, got married, raised a daughter, still playing music and eventually putting Pacific Coast Highway back together, this time as an original act playing around Northern California. By 1980, Cordellos had gotten his real estate license and had a job with the flexibility to still play music, both of which he still does. Currently living in Santa Rosa, Cordellos is still a fixture in the Sonoma Valley music scene.
Cordellos will be appearing with the Jami Jamison Band tonight, July 29, for a show at Sebastiani Winery kicking off at 6 p.m. We managed to touch bases with Cordellos, so let’s find out a little more about him with the usual six questions.
1) Many musicians in our generation cite the Beatles on Ed Sullivan as that moment when they knew music was what they wanted to do. When and what was it that made you realize you wanted to be a musician?
DC > It was watching Ozzie and Harriet, believe it or not. At the end of the show, their son, Ricky Nelson always came out and played a song. I saw that and knew I wanted to do that too.
2) That first instrument you owned. What was it and do you still have it?
DC> No, I don’t have it. It was a Stella small-body guitar that I bought at Ruggles Music on the Plaza for 15 dollars. I honestly don’t know where it went.
3) Who are you’re primary influences in your music?
DC > A combination of people, Duane Allman to George Benson, Kenny Burrell to Carlos Santana. I’ve listened to a lot of different musicians.
4) What CD or playlist is in your car or your iPod?
DC> Funny, the CD in there now is Jerry Douglas, likely the best slide guitar player in Nashville, but it could be anything. I’m not really particular and like to hear things I don’t hear often. I could throw the last Eagles CD in and be happy.
5) Tell us about your current acts.
DC > The Jami Jamison Band has been my primary gig over the last 20 years, under a couple different names with a number of players, with Jami and I being the anchors. But I have a couple other things going as well. Jeff Falconer and I have our Jaydub and Dino duo that we gig out a lot with, (side note: That act will be at Schug Winery on Saturday, July 30. See the Set List for more details) I also have a jazz trio with Keith Ridenhour and Tom Buckman, a jazz quartet called Ambiance and a project with Ed Delaney, Al Rice and Mark Gallagher.
6) If you could have written one song, which one would it be and why?
DC> Man, I can’t answer that. Maybe Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum. It’s a song that has lived on and we know him and he’s a great guy, so I guess that would be one.
Set List – The Rundown
Annex Wine Bar, 865 W. Napa St. Sonoma, 938-7779
Tonight, July 29: Full Circle. 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 30: Mark Larson Band. 7:30 p.m.
Barking Dog Roasters, 18133 Sonoma Hwy. Sonoma, 939-1905
Saturday, July 30: Michael L. Castle. 3 p.m.
Sunday, July 31: Tim McNamee. 3 p.m.
B. R. Cohn Winery, 15000 Sonoma Hwy. Glen Ellen, 800-330-4064
Sunday, July 31: Don Trotta and Dann Walters. 2 p.m.
Cornerstone, 23570 Arnold Dr, Carneros, 933-3010
Saturday, July 30: Pete Olson. 1 p.m.
Sunday, July 31: Dale Geist. 1 p.m.
Friday Farmers Market, Depot Park, 270 First St W. Sonoma
Today, July 29: Stewart Degner. 9:30 a.m.
HopMonk Tavern, 691 Broadway Sonoma, 935-9100
Tonight, July 29: John Lester. 5 p.m. Timothy O’Neil. 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 30: Michael Bloch. 1 p.m. Sean Carscadden. 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 31: Smorgy. 1 p.m.
Hood Mansion Lawn, N. Pythian Rd off Hwy 12, Santa Rosa, 833-6288
Tonight, July 29: “Funky Fridays” with Gator Nation. 7 p.m.
Murphy’s Irish Pub, 464 First St. E. Sonoma, 935-0660
Tonight, July 29: Sonoma Sound Syndicate. 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 30: Tsunami. 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 31: Dave Hooper Trio. 2 p.m.
Olde Sonoma Public House, 18615 Sonoma Hwy. Boyes Hot Springs, 938-7587
Saturday, July 30: Karaoke. 7:30 p.m.
Plaza Bistro, 420 First St E. Sonoma, 996-4466
Saturday, July 30: Hannah Lind. 6 p.m.
Rossi’s 1906 Dancehall, 401 Grove St. El Verano, 343-0044
Tonight, July 29: Closed for private event
Saturday, July 30: Gethen Jenkins and the Freightshakers. 9 p.m.
Sunday, July 31: Hot Grubb. 5 p.m. Blues Jam. 9:30 p.m.
Schellville Grill, 22900 Broadway, Sonoma, 996-5151
Saturday, July 30: Butch Engle and Styx. 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 31: Butch Engle and Styx. 12:30 p.m.
Schug Carneros Winery, 602 Bonneau Road, Carneros, 939-9363
Saturday, July 30: Jaydub and Dino. 1 p.m.
Sebastiani Winery and Vineyards, 389 Fourth St. E. Sonoma, 933-3230
Tonight, July 29: Jami Jamison Band. 6 p.m.
Sonoma Speakeasy and American Music Hall, 452 First St. E. ste. G. Sonoma, 996-1364
Tonight, July 29: Bossonova Duo. 5 p.m. The Disclosures. 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 30: Full Circle. 5 p.m. S. E. Willis, Bobby Cochran and Ruth Davies. 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 31: “Open Mic and Mimosas.” 1 to 7 p.m. Acrosonics. 5 p.m.
Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club, 574 First St. E., 938-8313
Saturday, July 30: Hawaiian Jam Session. 2 p.m.
If your gig isn’t in my column, you didn’t tell me about it. firstname.lastname@example.org