Our Community - Dennis Wolfe - "Not just another Gringo in Belize"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 9, No. 49            Demember 23, 1999

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Dennis Wolfe

Our Community prides itself in introducing various personalities in San Pedro who have made a lasting impact and/or contribution to our society. This week's personality was not the routine interview; he won't sit still that long. This is a collection of what we scribbled down furiously as San Pedro's own Dennis Wolfe rambled his monologue every week for the five minutes he visited the San Pedro Sun.

    A few months ago Dennis Junior's teacher was conducting an informal survey of her class and she asked how many of the children had parents who worked. When Dennisito didn't raise his hand, Teacher Andrea was surprised because she knows Dennis works every night. "Dennis, doesn't your dad work?" she asked. "No," he said. "My mom works all the time. In the day my dad just goes out for coffee and messes with the computer. He plays music at night."

    According to Dennis Wolfe, that is a fairly accurate description of his life. "Some people say it's not work if you enjoy doing it," he said.

    Anyone visiting San Pedro is almost assured of encountering Dennis Wolfe and his music. He currently plays two nights a week at Fido's Courtyard, two nights at Journey's End, two nights at The Palace Casino and one night at the Playador. He hardly ever misses a benefit concert and every other Friday he travels to the nearby island of Caye Caulker where he plays at the Oceanside Bar and Restaurant. Working alone or with his band, Dennis' unique style of music and his funny original songs have delighted tourists on Ambergris Caye for twelve years. His song, Gringo in Belize, has become an island classic and was recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker on his Cowboy Boots and Bathing Suits album. The Wolfe's Woofers joke column has been a mainstay of the San Pedro Sun since the first year of its publication.

    Dennis came to San Pedro from Tampa, Florida with long time friend and fellow musician Charles Worthington of Estel's Restaurant. He did not plan to stay long but he quickly succumbed to the charm of the island and the country of Belize.

    His college education in Florida was interrupted by the United States military draft. While he was in the Army, a friend taught him to play bass guitar and in Dennis' words, "set him on the road to ruin." After serving in Vietnam he returned to school at the University of South Florida where he earned a degree in Business Administration while playing in a band at night. It took only a short while in business to discover that working as a musician was much more enjoyable than working as a businessman.

    "I really wanted to be a songwriter, not a performer," he said. "By the time I discovered I wasn't very good at either, it was too late. I was already making a living doing it. I remember telling my dad that instead of working with my hands, I wanted to live by my wits. He said that would be wonderful but I should expect to live on half-pay. It was either his way of calling me a half-wit or preparing me for the reality of life as a musician."

    Dennis' roots in North Florida and rural South Georgia are always close to the surface. "If I seem a little rough around the edges," he says, "it's just that those Okeefeenokee Swamp roots are always sticking out and knocking into things. I may not live in the country anymore but I still have plenty of country in me. It shows in the music, too. If I played Beethoven's Fifth Symphony it would sound just a little bit country. It's in my blood and I can't help it."

    He comes from a religious family that enjoys laughter and music like other families enjoy money. "It's a good thing, too," he says, "because we never had much money but we were rich in music and laughter. My sisters and their children are all gospel singers and I'm ashamed to sing in the same room with them. Those people really know how to sing."

    Where does the penchant for storytelling and jokes come from? "My mother had a funny story to illustrate any situation," Dennis says. "Her uncle was a consistent winner of Liar's Contests in South Georgia around the Okeefeenokee Swamp area. I guess you could say that lying and storytelling are part of my heritage. Put those two together and you have the Woofers column."

    Dennis met Dulce Vasquez as she was preparing to leave the island and return to Mexico where she had worked in Acapulco. They were married in a beachside ceremony at the Holiday Hotel with Charlie Worth- ington acting as best man. "A couple of years ago Dennis Jr. was looking through the wedding pictures and he saw a picture of Dulce, Charlie and I," Dennis said. "He asked his mom if she had married both of us. She told him that she had only married me and that Charlie was the best man. Dennisito thought about that for a while and then asked, ŽIs Charlie still the best man?' Dulce said, ŽProbably."

    Before the wedding ceremony, Melody, who was four years old at the time, invited everyone she knew to the wedding. "My mom and I are getting married to Dennis," she told them. 

    Melody and Dennisito have two older sisters in the United States. Nikki is a schoolteacher and Michelle is a restaurant manager. Neither of them work as musicians, although Nikki has played guitar in a band and Michelle can sing.

    As for hobbies and outside interests, he spends a lot of his spare time drinking coffee and talking to people but he always carries a notebook and pen. "I carry it just in case I have a thought," he said. "I had one back in 1995 and I wrote it down. Since then I've had several others and now I have all five of my thoughts written out for posterity." In reality, he is always writing a book. He has two manuscripts in his computer. One is a non-fiction book about life as a club musician and the other is a mystery/suspense novel set in San Pedro.

    "My priority after music has always been writing," he said. "Now that I have two manuscripts written, it is time to try to sell them and I plan to work at selling them this year. Unfortunately, I am notoriously non-ambitious. As a matter of fact, I have already picked out the epitaph for my tombstone. I got it from my report cards when I was in school." He wants it to say, "He had a lot of potential."

    Son, brother, husband, father, musician and jokester. All of these make up Dennis Wolfe - keeping us entertained in Our Community.

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