“I’ve been ‘on the road’ for years” says Denny Hemingson. It has been a long scenic road filled with more twists and turns than an Iowa tornado. Since embarking on his journey with no map or GPS device, it's a wonder that he has made enough correct rights and lefts to find his way to an amazing and rewarding career playing music and living in Nashville, TN.
With a discography containing many hits at the top the charts, including eight #1 hits, Denny has been embraced by Nashville as a musician (guitar, steel, dobro) and a producer. He's made his most indelible mark with country superstar Tim McGraw as a long time member of McGraw's band "The Dancehall Doctors."
This long musical expedition started in Sioux City . Born in Ames, Denny's family moved to Sioux City when he was 5 years old. By 9 he had picked up his first guitar. Denny remembers some of his earliest performances, "playing a 4-H meeting with Bob and Duane Leach and Jerry Minter. Also, a junior high talent contest with a band that included Jack Seaton on drums (2009 Hall of Fame – Natural Color). “I can't remember if we won, but I know we rocked out!” Then Denny joined Jack Langley (2005 IRRMA Matousek Lifetime Award) and his band, Sound Crew. “It was my first pro gig, and it included at various times - Bob and Dwayne Leach, John Wells, Mick Doran, Bob Burrell and probably others that I may be forgetting after so many years."
Then the road took Denny to Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1975 where he took up the pedal steel. "Winter in Minneapolis seemed longer than usual in 1986 so my wife, Diana, and I headed southwest. WAY southwest," he said. The tour stopped several thousand miles away in Honolulu where Denny further honed his craft on guitar and steel, performing and recording with local and national artists including: Howie Mandell, Keith Zeller, Ray Sanders, Kapena, Pierre Grille, Dave Tucciarone, Gary Sterling, Tina Marie, Anita Hill and many others.
It was in 1993 that he landed in Nashville . By 2001 Denny had garnered an ACM nomination for Steel Guitarist of The Year. Aside from McGraw, Denny has also performed with many other Nashville artists including: Faith Hill, Paulette Carlson (Hwy 101), Randy Owen (Alabama), T. Graham Brown, Little Jimmy Dickens, Eddie Raven, Chely Wright, and more.
"I've done some pretty cool gigs over the years. I played the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo, with Tim [McGraw] in 2003. We also played the Live 8 concerts in Rome, . Then I went to D.C. with Faith Hill and played for the presidential inauguration last year." Denny has played the Grand Ole Opry stage several times, and has played the legendary Hollywood Bowl and Madison Square Garden . "I remember the last time we played at Madison Square Garden we had a surprise guest - none other than Tony Bennett! He and Tim [McGraw] sang Cold, Cold Heart together, and I got to play jazz guitar, just me and Tony on the first verse...that was awesome!" Another impromptu moment came on a nationally televised benefit for hurricane Katrina, “A Concert For Relief” on MSNBC. “It was definitely a quickly thrown together deal. It was airing live and I was in my chair for Tim's performance. Before I knew it, jazz great Wynton Marsalis kicked off "Bourbon Street Parade" with his band and Harry Connick, Jr. to open the show...I was sitting right there on camera. No one told me about it...so I just started playing along with them...incredible!” Then there was the American Music Awards performance of “Tiny Dancer” with McGraw and Sir Elton John, and cranking up the guitar with Kid Rock at the Harley-Davidson 100 year Anniversary Concert in Milwaukee as well as the ESPN 2009 NFL season opener concert, and the 2010 Daytona 500 opening concert with Tim McGraw and The Dancehall Doctors.
Add to these special moments all the TV talk shows including: Letterman, Leno, Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel, The View, Good Morning America, The Today Show, etc. And all the award shows: Grammys, AMA, CMA, ACM, Blockbuster, People's Choice, CMT, VH-1 Fashion Rocks, RMA, Billboard Awards, etc.
"I'm filled with gratitude for all the things I've been able to do and see. It wouldn't have been possible without good friends, some luck, and the gift of music. I'm just waiting to see what's around the next curve and over the next hill," he concluded.
For this Iowa native whose music has been heard around the world, we proudly honor Denny Hemingson with induction into the IRRMA Hall of Fame!