Dennis Elsas grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens with a transistor radio under his pillow, listening to the great New York AM rock ‘n’ roll stations. As FM began to emerge, so did his broadcast career with the founding of campus radio station WQMC at Queens College in the mid-sixties. His first paid on-air job was at WVOX, a suburban radio station in New Rochelle, New York, where he created a free-form progressive rock show called Something Else Again. And, then – just after midnight on July 11, 1971 – he launched what would be a 25 plus-year career at WNEW- FM (102.7) in New York City.
Dennis was hired at WNEW-FM by the station’s program director, Scott Muni, one of the legendary DJs he had grown up listening to. He quickly ascended to the position of Music Director, and received the rock ‘n’ roll music industry education of a lifetime. The station was emerging as one of the premiere rock radio stations and Dennis was integral to creating its sound. He was also meeting and interviewing a stream of his rock ‘n’ roll heroes, including Elton John, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
The John Lennon Interview
John Lennon was Dennis’s in-studio guest on Saturday afternoon, September 28, 1974. They had met previously at the Record Plant Recording Studio as Lennon was finishing his latest album Walls and Bridges. During the conversation, Dennis casually invited him to visit WNEW-FM. When Lennon actually showed up, Dennis seized the opportunity. What began as a discussion of the new album quickly turned into two hours of rare Beatles’ memories, speculation on a reunion, and candor about his immigration fight. Lennon even took over as DJ, playing some favorite, obscure 45s he’d brought with him, reading live commercials, and giving the weather reports.
Years later, excerpts of that historic afternoon were used in the Beatles Anthology, numerous books, and various documentaries. The entire show has become part of the permanent collection of the Paley Center for Media (formally the Museum of Television and Radio). It is also a pivotal part of the recent award-winning PBS American Masters film LENNONYC.
That interview along with his lifelong passion for The Beatles also inspired Dennis to produce, co-write and host the radio documentary It Was Forty Years Ago Today: The Beatles Invade America, which aired on WFUV in 2004 and won a number of prestigious awards including the New York State Broadcasters Association Best Documentary and New York Festivals World Medal. Revised for the fiftieth anniversary in 2014, it is now featured in the Grammy Museum’s traveling exhibit Ladies and Gentleman…The Beatles!
On the occasion of Lennon’s 80th birthday in 2020, Dennis’s legendary interview was added to John Lennon’s official website – the first time the the audio with transcript were posted together in their entirety.
In May 1976, Dennis took over the prime 6 – 10 p.m. slot on WNEW-FM, bringing his creative programming of the station’s vast rock ‘n’ roll record library to the nighttime audience. Rock ‘n’ roll history was being made at 102.7, and whether he was in the studio with Elton John, backstage with Bob Seger or onstage with John Mellencamp, Dennis was sharing the experience with his listeners. In the 1980’s he created the popular Beach Party program. The station became known as the place “Where Rock Lives” and Dennis remained there through 1998.
While still at WNEW-FM, Dennis expanded his broadcasting activities to include two years as the music correspondent for television’s PM Magazine, and to host such syndicated radio shows as Rock Today, Rock ‘n Roll Never Forgets, and Billboard Entertainment News.
Dennis is proud to be featured at Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s exhibit of the most influential American disc jockeys.
Since the summer of 2000, Dennis has been hosting weekday afternoons (2-6PM) on New York’s WFUV (90.7 FM, and streaming at WFUV.org). With an eclectic mix of rock, folk, jazz and blues and, guests in the studio that have included Elvis Costello, Ben Folds, Patti Smith, Edie Brickell and Ringo Starr, Dennis continues the tradition of progressive radio he helped to create.
In May 2004, he joined Sirius/XM’s Classic Vinyl (26) and can be heard every Saturday and Sunday sharing his Classic Rock knowledge and memories with a worldwide audience. When Sirius launched the exclusive Beatles Channel (18) in May 2017 Dennis became the co-host of the weekly Beatles Fab Fourum, a weekly live talk and call-in show. Recent guests have included Paul McCartney, Julian Lennon, Giles Martin and Ringo’s All-Starrs.
Dennis capitalized on his distinctive voice by launching a diverse voiceover career including numerous projects for HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and The Movie Channel. Corporate and commercial clients include American Express, Time, Lancôme, Procter and Gamble, and Kraft Foods. He is now featured as the “Voice of Rock History” at the Museum at Bethel Woods – the story of the Sixties and Woodstock and has been the announcer for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame broadcasts and VH1’s Concert of the Century at the White House. Dennis was the narrator of Discovery Magazine on the Discover Network and the “voice” of the Smithsonian Channel.
Rock ‘N’ Roll Never Forgets
In 2010 Dennis created Rock ‘N’ Roll Never Forgets – a live multi-media show featuring highlights from his history making interviews with John Lennon, Elton John, Jerry Garcia and more. Combining his stories as one of the pioneers of the progressive FM radio revolution at WNEW-FM and his current insights from WFUV and Sirius/XM, Dennis shares his unique perspective on rock and radio in person with enthusiastic audiences.
Dennis’s abiding passion is to be on-the-air; programming music that blends old favorites with new discoveries, interviewing artists and interacting with his listeners. Today he’s happily doing that seven days a week. Every weekday afternoon Dennis can be heard on New York’s WFUV (90.7 FM, and streaming at WFUV.org). He hosts Sirius/XM’s Classic Vinyl (26) every Saturday and Sunday and the Beatles Channel (18) weekly Fab Fourum.
When Dennis isn’t working, he spends time with his great and growing family, enjoys live music, roots for all the right teams, and volunteers with the local food bank.