enny Breau is carrying on a remarkable musical heritage that includes the country/western traditions of his parents, RCA recording artists Hal Lone Pine and Betty Cody, and the guitar jazz legend of his late brother, Lenny Breau.

He will perform Saturday, June 26, when numerous guitar greats get together as Lewiston-Auburn celebrates its guitar heritage with the first Source Guitar and Arts Festival, presented by L/A Arts and WCSH6.

In a sense, he has been the middle man between famous parents and a legendary brother, and the role fits him perfectly. He’s a family man, happy to go on limited tours so he can be home as often as possible. He’s pleased when guitar fans all over the country still ask him about his brother; and he takes part in annual family country music tributes that honor his mother, who has continued performing throughout her life.

Denny was born in Lewiston May 26, 1952. He was 9 years old when he first showed an interest in the guitar and he quickly taught himself to play many folk and rock songs he heard on the radio. Soon, he was practicing with other local players in a number of early rock ‘n’ roll garage bands; but he said a whole new world of guitar playing opened up when he was a high school freshman and his brother Lenny spent some time with him between tours. Lenny, born Aug. 5, 1941, in Auburn, was 11 years older than Denny.

Their parents had become well known as a live and recording country/western duo from the mid-1940s to the late 1950s. Lenny took up the guitar at age 7 and by age 12 had performed regularly as part of Lone Pine and Betty Cody’s traveling band, which moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1957.

Lenny left Lone Pine’s band around 1959 and began to perform with Winnipeg jazz musicians. A group he formed appeared on television’s “Jackie Gleason Show” and “The Joey Bishop Show.” From late 1969 through 1973 Lenny played primarily in Toronto and Ottawa and worked as a sideman for Moe Koffman, Jimmy Dale, Beverly Glenn Copeland and Anne Murray. Other musicians he worked with included pedal steel great Buddy Emmons, guitarists Chet Atkins and Phil Upchurch and country fiddler Buddy Spicher.

A cornerstone of the Lenny Breau style was his uncanny ability to play chords with his right-hand thumb and first two fingers, while superimposing single-note lines with the third and fourth fingers. Early explorations of Chet Atkins’ right-hand approach led him to master the coordination of two distinct parts and develop the skill to emphasize a voice at will. He occasionally added a bass line to this concept, resulting in a mind-boggling three-voice tapestry that made an indelible impression on all who heard it. He also was known for stunning harmonic arpeggios.

Lenny experimented a lot with seven strings on his guitar. He would attach fishing line as the highest string because it could be tuned to a higher pitch than a normal guitar’s strings.

A student of jazz, classical, and country styles, as well as more exotic forms such as flamenco and East Indian music, Lenny had a vast array of sounds and textures at his disposal.

However, he was unable to cope with the pressures of performing and financial struggles and he turned to drugs and alcohol which plagued him on and off for the rest of his life. Lenny was found dead in the swimming pool of his apartment complex in Los Angeles Aug. 12, 1984.

Although his death was originally thought to be an accidental drowning, it was soon discovered that he had been murdered. The case remains unsolved

Denny credits his brother as the primary influence on his musical career.

“Always having guitars around the house” also was a factor, he said. His mother accompanied herself on guitar and Breau recalled that “she had an impeccable ear. She always knew just where a diminished chord went.”

Denny was in the U.S. Army from 1972 to 1975 and was a part of the 389th Army Band at Fort Monmouth, N.J. During this time, he also played with a combo in local New Jersey clubs and rubbed elbows with soon-to-be famous local musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, Clarence Clemons and Groove Holmes.

Denny’s command of many different musical styles led to his being in demand as a studio musician following his discharge. His recording credits include playing on albums with Schooner Fare, Don Campbell, Dick Curless, Melinda Liberty, Josee Vachon and blues great Pine Top Perkins. He has also done a number of jingles and sound tracks for radio and television and he has arranged and produced albums for other artists. Denny released one solo album of his own country songs, “Lotta My Old Man in Me,” as well as an album with Portland-based guitarist and singer/songwriter Brad Harnois titled “Winterwood.” They toured together for six years.

Denny fulfilled a lifetime dream in 1996 when he opened for Chet Atkins at the State Theater in Portland.

In 1998, he joined old friend Tom Rowe, who died recently, and Rowe’s son Dave to form Turkey Hollow.The band recorded two albums which contain several songs written by Denny.

Within the past year, Denny has played guitar alongside some of the world’s premier acoustic guitarists, including Bryan Sutton, J.P. Cormier, Pat Donohue, Dan Crary and Harvey Reid. He also teaches guitar and volunteers his talents at local schools and elder care facilities.

Over the past 20 years, Denny has garnered numerous awards from the Maine Country Music Association. He won Entertainer of the Year, Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year and Instrumentalist of the Year so many times that he was eventually retired from the running with an All-time Great award. Denny has been featured on Maine Public Television’s “True North” as well as “Made in Maine.”

Denny lives in Lewiston with wife. He said it doesn’t look like his children will be following in his professional musical footsteps. Thirteen-year-old Alyssa plays the flute and “she has a beautiful voice,” he said. Aaron, who’s 19, is employed at Bates College; and Joshua, a son from a previous marriage, is an engineer. Neither of them were inclined to take up music, although Denny said he’s confident they could have matched all the Breau family talents.


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