Matablog

Dennis Flemion

July 9th, 2012 at 8:53 pm by Gerard

(l-r : Dennis, some guy, Jimmy)

Dennis Flemion, one half of the Milwaukee duo known as The Frogs, was identified earlier today as the missing swimmer from a Saturday afternoon disappearance on Racine, WI’s Wind Lake.

With their recordings for the Matador, Homestead, Four Alarm and Scratchie labels, but most importantly thru their exhaustive ‘Made Up Songs’ cassettes (and later compact discs), Dennis and brother Jimmy were one of the most crucial, if not one of the strangest American bands of the last quarter century. Though best known (and not universally beloved) for the explicit subject matter found on ‘It’s Only Right & Natural’, as well as for their associations with a number of celebrity patrons, the Frogs’ comedic gifts have occasionally (and I’d say unfairly) overshadowed their musical depth. Much as ‘It’s Only Right & Natural’ was a huge conceptual departure from their self-issued debut, subsequent works like 1997′s grunge-baiting ‘Star Job’ were a world away from from the DIY folk affectations of ‘IOR&N’. With the possible exception of Bob Pollard, it’s hard to think of anyone nearly as prolific as the Flemions, and you could certainly make a case for their catalog being every bit as impressive.

While I’d hate to put too much focus on just one part of the Frogs oeuvre, the initial ‘Made Up Songs’ cassettes (the first couple of which constituted the bulk of ‘It’s Only Right & Natural’ as well as the subsequent Matador LP, ‘My Daughter The Broad’) were probably played in my home, car, head, as much as any music recorded before or since. There was certainly a stretch of my life in the late 1980′s in which you were not leaving my apartment if you hadn’t heard “I’ve Done Drugs (Out Of The Mist)” at least once. I suspect there’s others who have similar stories. There are few “what the fuck was that?” moments in music that quite compare to someone’s reaction the first time you play them The Frogs.

Dennis was without question, one of the funniest persons I’ve ever encountered. Painfully so.  It would not be an exaggeration to say there were several times in which his verbal evisceration chops were almost impossible to keep up with (those who’ve attended Frogs shows over the years know exactly what I’m talking about).

There’s a couple of new Frogs albums that came out last week on iTunes ; ‘Squirrel Bunny Juniper Deluxe’ and ‘Count Yer Blessingz’. The Dennis that we saw onstage would’ve recognized this tragic event as a huge opportunity to plug some new recordings. Sans wig, drum sticks, etc. he might’ve preferred I’d not even mention it. The fantastic output and fleeting moments of near-fame aside, I hope he’s remembered as a really sweet guy first, and a hugely talented artist second. Our thoughts go out to Jimmy, the rest of the Flemion family, their friends and everyone who was lucky enough to know Dennis.  Simply saying, “he’ll be missed” doesn’t come close to covering it.

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27 Responses to “Dennis Flemion”

  1. Mykel Board Says:

    Very sad news! I remember when Gerard told me about these guys. “Mykel,” he said, “they’re right up your alley.” He was right. I’m glad I got to see them at CBGBs.

  2. Ken Katkin Says:

    This is a very moving obit. Thanks for writing it.

  3. Mike Dutkewych Says:

    R.I.P. Dennis Frog

  4. John Says:

    Nice, and very well said. This is terrible, terrible news. I remember finding out about The Frogs from their Pearl Jam cover of “Rearviewmirror” back in the mid-90s, but was unable to find other material until I stumbled across a cassette of It’s Only Right and Natural in a back alley record shop in the French Quarter. Once I got my hands on My Daughter The Broad, no one rode in my car without hearing a handful of songs…. partly bc I wanted them to hear The Frogs, and partly bc I loved their contorted reactions.

    As a teen, The Frogs were the first band that showed me art inside of music. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

  5. Damian Says:

    Thank you Gerard. This was very moving. And thank you for helping to introduce so many people to Jimmy & Dennis’s music. You meant a lot to Dennis…

  6. Sarah R Says:

    We’re sad…But in a way we’re happy he didn’t suffer too much…He only got the cramps once!

  7. Dave Says:

    My life is better because of The Frogs. Thank you, Dennis.

  8. Joe Greenwald Says:

    this is really sad news, Frogs were such a big part of my musical growth and Dennis i started communicating when i was running Third Gear and i would send him my records and he would send me cassette tapes. We went to dinner at a Detroit show years ago and decided to potentially release a box set. I asked him to send me songs he thought would be right and within a week i had about 400 songs, took me weeks to go through them and while we never released it it dealing with him and Jimmy was one of the high points of running that label and i couldn’t believe i was going to get to release a record from a band i loved that much. Throughout it all Dennis was funny, caring and kind and we rarely talked about money it was always about the music and getting it out there. Truly an awesome person and will be missed..

  9. Adam O. Says:

    Tragic news…I was just thinking about The Frogs, having seen them several times in the late 90s/early 00s and missing their last show in the Twin Cities, I was wondering when they’d hit town again. Thanks Gerard for bringing this band to light…you’re totally correct about there being a level of genius to these guys’ music that transcends the subject matter, as funny and hilarious as those songs are, esp. on the “Made-Up Songs” tapes. They even had interesting takes on modern-day racism via “Racially Yours”. Truly missed.

  10. Brooks M Says:

    Thanks for such a nice obit. Very sad news.

  11. Chris Squire Says:

    Fuck. This is horrible news. The Frogs were crucial in getting me to that weird place that so few of us get and feel at home in. I spent two weeks in San Fransisco one summer and I.O.R.A.N remained in the car’s cassette deck on permanent play. My friends and I were consuming a lot of LSD, pot, booze, exstacy, and cocaine, cruising the Mission and Haight Ashbury in a volvo, and the soundtrack could have never been better.

  12. Ryan Says:

    Such sad news. A true gentleman and family man. My heart goes out to all affected. RIP, Frogman.

  13. Evil Arnold Says:

    Good bye Dennis. You were an inspiration. Have fun on all the cocks in heaven

  14. Paul Gubbels Says:

    Incredibly influential to me as a musician, and one of the kindest people I ever met. I will cherish the first hug he gave me. On my radio tonight and forever… RIP Dennis

  15. popegreg Says:

    Unfortunately confirmed now

    http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/body-of-musician-flemion-recovered-from-wind-lake-ka632es-162023705.html

    Sad news indeed.

  16. Willy Scotch Says:

    Very to sad to hear the news. These guys were part of the soundtrack of my youth and provided much needed levity during some depressing moments. I was looking forward to seing them live but I suppose that’s over now. Still, the power to evoke humor and laughter, even of the oddball nature of the Frogs, is one of the greatest gifts any human can possess. Sail on Dennis, to whatever rosy jack world you find your way to. RIP

    Will

    Greensboro, NC

  17. raw pogo Says:

    that was a good drum break,,,,, RIP

  18. Nick West Says:

    “some guy” in the middle is Kurt Cobain of Nirvana. This was a terrible tragedy. Keep the Flemion family in everyone’s prayers. Dennis was a very kind man with a sense of humor that i consider myself lucky to have known on a personal level. He was really a one of a kind human being, who loved his family and making music. He could have conformed to society, and used his music talents to create your typical sounding music, but that wasn’t Dennis. He rather would do exactly what him and his brother wanted to do, and forget the rest. He will truly be missed. RIP Dennis…

  19. Gerard Says:

    “some guy” in the middle is Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.

    Even in the midst of a tragedy, you can’t get anything past Frogs fans.

  20. Matthew Says:

    RIP Dennis…you will be missed. La da da di, la da da dum dum…ahhh…

  21. herbie headkick Says:

    Dennis I met you once at Spaceland and have pictures with you and Jimmy .It was such a great show and you were very nice.I got your number and used to try to crank call and never got any funny response i was looking for ..Anyways your music and stage persona was awesome.Besides all the funny stuff you were a great musician !I kept bugging you for a new record and now you have two and would be coming to Cali for a tour I would presume .Damn it!I’m glad that I saw you at Spaceland and have those pictures .

    I thank you for being such a down to earth person when I met you and for being part of a truly great band with Jimmy..

    I will make sure someone does a cover of my fave alltime Frogs song “Hot Cock Annie” and Adam and Steve played live by you was on my bucket list that I guess I kick it now..
    R>I>P> Dennis!We will miss you and bless your family friends Jimmy and fans!You will be missed but not forgotten.

  22. Priapism Says:

    Maybe Matador could release a deluxe edition of “My Daughter the Broad” in tribute?

  23. Jay Says:

    Thanks Gerard, that was a spot-on tribute. You were his favorite impresario, and a true friend. Thaks for getting the ball rolling in the old show -biz days.

  24. Gerard Says:

    high praise from one of my favorite guitar players, ever. And where “getting the ball rolling” is concerned, let the record state that Jay Tiller was entirely responsible for my introduction to The Frogs. Though others had sung their praises, it was Jay that put ‘Made Up Songs I’ on the flipside of a live Die Kreuzen cassette. The rest is either rock history or mental health history, depending on your point of view. Or maybe a little of both.

  25. Dave Frazee Says:

    Rest In Peace Dennis Frog. On your radio, tonight and forever!!!

  26. Ken Katkin Says:

    In honor of Dennis Flemion, Trash Flow Radio
    (Cincinnati OH) has just released a NSFW podcast full of Frogs ultra-rarities, covers, favorites, and remembrances. It can be downloaded, ad-free, here.

  27. Ken Says:

    I cant believe this! Very sad news!