Photo courtesy of Robin Risvold
When his sister came to visit her rock singer brother Fergie Frederiksen in Mound, she called him “Denny” and everyone in the room looked at her like she was crazy.
Then she learned to toe the line around her younger brother, who was the second lead singer of the Grammy-winning, hit-making Los Angeles band Toto. He recorded only one album, “Isolation,” with the band, in 1984,and stayed with Toto for only two years. But he sang with many rock bands including Trillion, LeRoux and World Classic Rockers.
Frederiksen, who lived in the Twin Cities since the 1990s, died Saturday of liver cancer in his home. He was 62.
“He loved music, he loved golf, he loved his family and his kids, and he loved the Lord first of all,” said his sister, Charlene Wilkerson, of Kentwood, Mich.
Frederiksen last performed in the summer in Sweden and Japan with Legends: Voices of Rock, a collection of classic-rock singers including Bobby Kimball of Toto and Bill Champlin of Chicago.
On Dec. 15, friend Mike Woodley helped put together a celebration of Frederiksen’s life at the Bayview Event Center in Excelsior. “There was a turn-away crowd,” said Woodley, a veteran Twin Cities broadcaster, “and people flew in on their own dime – Bobby Kimball, Jimi Jamison of Survivor, Alex Ligertwood of Santana, Fran Cosmo of Boston. Isn’t that cool to do something while you’re still around? He was still strong enough to talk.”
Woodley figures that Frederiksen was “lucky because he fixed everything that was wrong in his life.” That included taking his ex-wife on a date to the State Fair in 2012 to see Loverboy singer Mike Reno perform.
Dennis Frederiksen got his nickname in grade school in Grand Rapids, Mich., according to his sister. “The kids thought his name was Ferguson, so they named him ‘Fergie,’” she said.
It stuck. As did his love of music. He began rocking as a teenager with Flying Home in Grand Rapids. In 1975, he moved to Chicago and replaced Tommy Shaw, who left for Styx, in MSFunk. In Chicago, Frederiksen formed Trillion with Patrick Leonard and got signed to Epic Records. (Leonard would later go on to produce five albums for Madonna and serve as music director on two of hers tours).
Meanwhile, Frederiksen joined LeRoux and, in 1980, moved to Los Angeles, released a solo album under the pseudonym David London, sang backup vocals for Survivor on “Eye of the Tiger” and landed in a group called Abandon Shame (with future Journey keyboardist Jonathan Cain).
One member of that band passed a video to a member of Toto, and Frederiksen was invited to join Toto as a replacement for Kimball, the voice of such hits as “Rosanna” and “Africa,” who was fired because he got busted on drug charges.
Frederiksen’s two-year stint with Toto included the 1984 album “Isolation,” which went gold and yielded the modest hit “Stranger in Town,” which peaked at No. 30. The singer was let go by Toto and left music for a while to join his father in the restaurant business.
Music beckoned and Frederiksen made a solo album, “Equilibrium,” in 1999 and worked with the World Classic Rockers, whose members have included Nick St. Nicholas (Steppenwolf), Randall Hall (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Aynsley Dunbar (Journey).
In 2007, Frederiksen sat in with Toto at the now-defunct Trocadero’s in Minneapolis. “When they called him onstage to sing ‘Africa’ with Bobby Kimball, that was a big deal,” Woodley said. “That took care of his Toto [issues]. That was his redemption.”
Working with producer Jim Peterik of Survivor fame, Frederiksen recently released solo albums “Happiness Is the Road” (2011) and “Any Given Moment” (2013). Over the years, he performed in the Twin Cities with the Fergie Frederiksen Band.
Frederiksen moved to Minnesota because his then-wife was from here. He suffered from Hepatitis C and presented a few fundraisers to raise awareness of the disease.
“Four years ago April, they gave him less than six months,” his sister said. “He fought right till the end.”
Survivors include sons Kyler, Kolten (Kody) and Danny, who live in Minnesota, and his sister of Kentwood, Mich.
A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Bayview Event Center in Excelsior; visitation is 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Huber Funeral Home Chapel in Excelsior.
Follow Your Heart video, 2011