2019 Ottawa Valley Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Whitty has been energizing crowds with his inspired performances for over 40 years.
The second oldest of 6 children, Dennis remembers the songs of Patty Page, Johnny Mathis, Patsy Cline, The Platters, Billy Vaughn, Nat King Cole, and Elvis playing on the stereo. His inspiration came from his mother who sang and played piano, and his father who played accordion at family parties and events. Dennis’ talent was first realized at age 5 when his parents brought home an old upright piano. Shortly after opening the lid for the first time, he played a cognizant version of The Mexican Hat and was immediately enrolled in lessons. This lasted a couple of years, followed by a short stint of accordion lessons at age 10. At age 14 Dennis got his first guitar and immediately knew he had found his instrument of choice. He started writing songs and performing for family and friends shortly thereafter.
Dennis was raised in the the Niagara Pennisula, but started honing his musical and performance talents with his first paid solo gig, a 2-night stint at the Hart House Pub on U of T campus, shortly before he finished college in Toronto. After college, he moved back home and joined his first country-rock band, Waterfall, later that same year. In ‘79 he moved to Toronto to write and begin a solo career as a folk singer/songwriter that ultimately lead him to the Ottawa Valley in 1980. It was here Dennis transitioned into his country niche and was playing enthusiastic solos to sold out clubs. In 1981 he re-formed the band Wheatstone Bridge, and later Dennis Whitty and Bushwhacker in ‘92. The original Bushwhacker spun off a couple years later and became Ambush.
Ross McCallum heard a Wheatstone Bridge performance at a small club in Aylmer, Quebec in 1981 and became Dennis' agent, booking him the next week in Old Montreal. Ross kept Dennis working 50 weeks of the year performing the "A" club country circuit from St John's, Nfld., to Fort MacMurray, Alberta. When not touring, Dennis played extensively at home in the Ottawa Valley from the summer of '81 until Ross retired in the late ‘90’s. This included most jamborees, fairs, festivals and events in the Valley and the city, including regular gigs at The Golden Rail Hotel and the Hitching Post in Ottawa. Dennis performed regularly on Wayne Rostad's Gatineau Clog, and opened and closed Saturday shows on Ross McCallum’s Mac-Ce-dar-Est Jamboree in Eganville every year of its running all through the 80's and early '90's.
Dennis also began his recording career in ‘81 with the national release of his first single, "Boots" that received moderate success, followed by two other singles in that span: "Christmas Vision", and "411". Before the original Bushwhacker band departed, they recorded a live performance "Dennis Whitty and Bushwhacker - Wanted Live", at the Rodeo Roadhouse in Kingston. This release can be heard online today on Spotify and the CD can still be ordered online.
In the late 90’s Dennis moved to Kingston and released another live performance, "Country With a Kick" with the new Bushwhacker, followed by the original "Going Out of My Head" as a single, and then an album of originals, "Sidetracked", in 2004.
Dennis moved to the Quinte region in 2000 and started creating and booking Jamborees in Prince Edward County and Adolphustown (later relocated to Napanee Fair grounds). He still runs a jamboree near Kirkland Lake which is in its 10th year this year. During this time he also created the Cangig Country Singing Competition, recognizing and promoting new country talent in Eastern Ontario. It ran for 7 years until 2013.
Dennis still performs regularly on many festivals, fairs, clubs and events throughout Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec bringing his mix of old and new country favourites to the ears of country music fans throughout the region. He also stays involved in promoting new country talent at every opportunity.