Denver left school at 15 to join the Norwegian merchant navy. In 1951 he enlisted in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and fought in the Korean war. Wounded, he practised guitar during his convalescence and developed a taste for country and folk music. After being discharged from the army he again went to sea. By this time he had set his sights on a career as a singer, and he jumped ship in the United States and made for Nashville, the centre of country and western music. Taking the stage name Karl Denver, he appeared on radio and television, and the prestigious Grand Ole Opry show, before the immigration department caught up with him and he was deported in 1959.
(Marty Wilde, Billy Fury & Karl Denver)
Back in Britain he settled in Manchester, where he teamed up with Gerry Cottrell and Kevin Neill to form the Karl Denver Trio. They toured the Northern clubs and appeared on Granada Television's Band Stand. In 1961 the trio was 'discovered' by impresario Jack Good, who presented them on his television series Wham! and got them on to a national tour headed by Jess Conrad and Billy Fury.
Good also negotiated a record deal with Decca and acted as producer on the series of hit singles enjoyed by the group over the next three years. This was an interregnum in British pop; after rock 'n' roll and before the Beatles. During it Karl Denver found a niche. He appealed to the curious British penchant for yodelling cowboys exemplified in the1950s by Slim Whitman, whose signature tune Indian Love Call was part of the Denver stage act. Denver himself was hailed in the
New Musical Express as 'an artist with a totally different and distinctive approach'.
(Peter Jay, Marty Wide, Karl Denver and Billy Fury 1962)
Denver's hits included a pre-1914 Victor Schertzinger song Marcheta, an equally antique French song, A Little Love A Little Kiss, the hillbilly tune Mexicali Rose and Wimoweh.
Denver claimed to have discovered the song in South Africa during his days as a seaman but it had already been a hit in the hands of American folk group The Weavers, and The Tokens had re-recorded it with new lyrics as The Lion Sleeps Tonight. The Karl Denver Trio version displayed Denver's vocal gymnastics to full effect and its success propelled the group into the upper reaches of British show business. Denver's song "Never Goodbye" was an entry in A Song for Europe in 1962.
There were small hits for the Trio in 1964, but their music sounded decidedly old-fashioned compared with that of the Fab Four and the numerous beat groups who now dominated the pop scene. Although The Karl Denver Trio faded from the media limelight, they continued to perform in cabaret at home and overseas. There was a brief, unexpected return to the charts in 1989 when the eccentric Happy Mondays had them guesting on their track Lazyitis and on an updated recording of Wimoweh on the fashionable Factory label. This made no impact on the psyche of the acid house generation, however, and Denver returned to the cabaret circuit.
Karl Denver died of a brain tumor a few days after his 67th birthday at the end of 1998 although Karl had claimed that he was born during 1934- probably because he liked to appear younger than he really was.
(info mainly from Dave Laing, The Guardian, 1998)
The Karl Denver Trio, all in fine voice, at the Peterborough Country Music Festival (UK) 1983 singing Rose Marie & Love me with all your heart.
Karls website: http://members.tele2.nl/p.bodemeijer/