Thursday, 20 December 2012
Terry Dene born 20 December 1938
Terry Dene was one of the most promising rock & rollers of pre-Beatles England. With a recording contract with Decca UK and a regular spot on BBC TV's first pop television show, Six 5 Special, Dene seemed to be on the verge of stardom. His first three singles reached the British Top 20. Dene's potential for success was severely damaged, however, by a series of self-imposed mishaps.
Terry Dene was born Terence Williams on 20th December 1938 above a sweet-shop in Lancaster Road
in London's Elephant and Castle area. Elephant And Castle, like a lot of South London, had been heavily bombed in the Second World War (most of the damage occurring over just two nights in 1941) and for over a decade the streets, where once music halls, brothels, pubs and tightly-packed terraced houses had stood, now lay desolate and dilapidated. From this grim and desperate south London district a new phenomenon grew, The Teddy Boys - Britain's first youth cult. The Teds pre-dated American rock and roll but they grew to love the rebellious aspect of this new musical fashion, and this part of South London in one way or another produced many of the British stars that were coming to prominence at the time, basically copying their US counterparts.
Terry and was one of the many early UK rock and rollers to benefit from the opportunity to sing at London's 2 'I's Coffee Bar. This was the same venue that helped host the early musical careers of Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, Adam Faith and many others. During 1956 and 1957 Terry Dene had worked as a record packer, but was convinced that he could sing as well as the American stars on the discs he handled during his day-job. He very much admired Elvis and also tried to emulate Gene Vincent in the tiny room at the 2 "I"s. He was fortunate that rock and roll impresario Jack Good witnessed one of his performances and through this to obtain an opportunity to record with Decca and to find a weekly spot on TV's 'Six-5 Special'.
Although a good deal 'softer' than the stage material he was used to, his early releases were moderately successful. His first release A White Sports Coat was an instant hit but he felt this did not allow him to sing rock and roll as he wanted, as fans wanted more mellow tunes.
(photo from left Gene Vincent, Eddie Cochran, Larry Parnes and Terry Dene)
However Terry Dene fell foul of the press following a drunken incident which led to his arrest. This was at a time when rock and roll was viewed with deep suspicion by the establishment and Dene was painted by the newspapers as a symbol of all that was bad about the music and its followers. Dene was also one of the first teen idol to get married (to singer Edna Savage). Unfortunately, his misfortunes did not end there for in early 1958 the already mentally stressed singer was called up for National Service. Although Terry Dene's emotional state made him unsuitable material for the call-up and he was discharged within a few days, the press decided that his apparent keenness to avoid it was further evidence that the singer was a thoroughly bad lot. It became a stigma that the poor wretched Dene could not cast off and his chart career effectively ceased at that point.
After finally recovering from the nervous breakdown that followed the demise of his professional music career, Terry was still keen to carry on singing. He turned to religion during the 1970s but used his singing skills to produce gospel music. Dene became a street-singing Evangelist, recording three albums of gospel music. He spent the early '70s residing in Sweden.
Despite the adverse publicity of his early career, the artist eventually became accepted by fans as one of Britain's most significant rock and roll pioneers. Dene has unsuccessfully attempted several comebacks. In 1974, he released a book and album, I Thought Terry Dene Was Dead, and began to perform with a rock band, the Dene Aces, featuring Brian Gregg, composer of classic rock tune "Shakin' All Over," in the 1980s. He released an album, Real Terry Dene, in 1997.
He has thus managed to carve out a career at nostalgia and revivalist concerts that would last him for many years. Terry can still be heard singing in clubs mainly in the London area. (info edited from numerous sources, mainly from 45-rpm.org.uk)