By Richard Canny
He managed one of the biggest selling bands of all time, stayed in five star hotels, and lived a jet set lifestyle, but former Fleetwood Mac manager Dennis Dunstan has just fallen in love with Roscommon!
Australian-born Dennis Dunstan managed Fleetwood Mac for almost 20 years and is still very involved in the music industry, including his management of an acclaimed Tina Turner tribute act, which is currently touring Ireland.
His need for a central midlands base for the Irish tour of Rebecca O’Connor’s Tina Turner tribute act brought him to a property in Fourmilehouse, owned by Serena and Aidan Dolan.
“Accommodation is really hard to find in Ireland and I started researching Airbnbs back at home four months before I came here, and I stumbled across Serena’s place. It was completely random, but since I’ve been here, I’m definitely going to come back, I love it here.” That affection for Roscommon was very evident when the Roscommon Herald went to visit him at his Fourmilehouse retreat last week.
“I love the Roscommon/Athlone area. It’s so green and beautiful, I grew up going to my uncle’s dairy farm in Victoria as a kid so I’d go out on holidays to the farm. Roscommon (town) is beautiful and clean and I am just so impressed with how clean it is and how everything is so well maintained. I noticed it straight away. I’m very particular and very impressed — it’s just beautiful.
“It’s great to be out of a city for once, it’s great to be here. It’s the perfect location for wagon wheeling around Ireland — an absolutely amazing location.”
When the Roscommon Herald spoke to him recently week over a cup of coffee, it was hard to imagine the affable music industry veteran managed a megaband that has sold more than 120m records worldwide.
From very humble roots outside Melbourne, his journey in the music business started off with time as a session drummer before he got involved in band security, helped in no small way by being a national kick-boxing champion. He then graduated to becoming a very successful road manager in Australia for touring supergroups such as Rolling Stones, ABBA, and Paul McCartney.
While still in his early twenties, he also got to work on the Australian leg of Fleetwood Mac’s ground-breaking Rumours tour in 1977 as their Australian road manager and security manager. After the tour was over, band member Mick Fleetwood asked him would he be interested in doing the last leg of the tour in America and to expect a call in a month or two. Dennis never expected anything to materialise, but he was wrong.
“I was back with my mother in our housing commission (local authority) house in Glen Royal, I had just broken up with my girlfriend and it was pouring rain in the middle of winter when my mother knocked on my door and said, ‘Dennis, wake up, Mick Fleetwood is on the phone.’ I said to my mum that’s just my friends joking. She said no and then I heard the beeps on the phone.
“Back then, if an international call came in you could hear the beeps. This mega star from a megaband was on the other end of the phone. It was about three o’clock in the morning and it was like getting a call from John Lennon. Mick had promised to call me and he did and we’re still best friends.”
By the time Fleetwood’s 18-month global tour had finished, Dennis became Mick Fleetwood’s personal manager and then the band’s co-manager, roles he held for the next 15 years.
Not surprisingly he is writing a book about his amazing life, and no surprises that there’s no shortage of content during a time he managed one of the world’s biggest bands during their heyday. He also worked on Stevie Nicks and other band members’ solo tours, along with discovering Australian rock band Men at Work.
He brought Men at Work to America and in 1983 they became the first Australian group to have a simultaneous number 1 album and number 1 single in the US Billboard charts.
While excess was a huge part of Fleetwood Mac’s rock and roll lifestyle, Dennis had one characteristic that was very rare during those heady days.
“I never took drugs in my life. I was Mr Reliable, my nickname became the ‘Big D’. I’d get a call from Stevie or Mick or Christine, and they say ‘Is the Big D there’…it’s an endearing nickname. When you are managing one of the biggest bands in the world, we (him and his co-manager) had a lot of power in LA,” said the proud married father of two daughters.
And after all of those years, Dennis still keeps in touch with the surviving members of Fleetwood Mac.
“With me they let their guard down, we laughed, we talked, and I helped them through so much and they’ve appreciated that. They love the fact that I am still the same guy that they met when I was 23 years of age. I haven’t changed and I don’t want to change.” He is currently busy managing Cork-born Rebecca O’Connor’s Tina Turner tribute act as part of her 10th anniversary tour, which is selling out all over Ireland.
Rebecca is the only such tribute act officially endorsed by Tina Turner herself. Ten years ago, Dennis sent a tape of Rebecca’s to Tina Turner and the superstar’s response to him over a phone call was: “She’s so god-damn good, she’s scary.”
Invited by his Airbnb host, Serena, a teacher at Athlone Community College, Dennis was a special guest speaker at the recent school’s awards night in the Hodson Bay Hotel. Even during his short time in Roscommon, he appears very happy to put down some roots in the local area. “I could buy a nice country house here,” he said with a smile.
Details of the remaining dates for Rebecca O’Connor’s Tina Turner tribute can be found at rebeccaoconnorsimplythebest.com