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Friday, 1 November 2013

Denny Dennis born 1 November 1913

Denny Dennis (born Derby, 1 November 1913; died Barrow-in-Furness 2 November 1993) was one of the finest romantic vocalists of what is now fondly remembered as the golden age of British dance bands, with a career as a band singer, solo recording star and broadcaster which spanned three decades. In the late 1930’s and the 1940’s, Denny Dennis was regularly voted one of the top vocalists in Great Britain. Sometimes called ‘Britain’s Bing Crosby’ because of his similarity to the young Bing in the lower vocal register. 

Denny Dennis was born Ronald Dennis Pountain in Derby, England on November 1, 1913. Denny had an older brother, Eric, who under the stage name Barry Gray was also to find a successful career as a vocalist with the popular bands of the 1930’s. The two brothers were very musical, and both aspired to enter the world of music and entertainment when they were young men. With help from Eric, Denny began playing drums in a semi professional outfit called the ‘New Mayfair Dance Band’, where he sung in a Melody Maker dance band contest. He continued to work as an apprentice electrician and  took up singing lessons, which carried on even during the height of his popularity. 

In 1932 Denny gained work with the Freddy Bretherton Band at the ‘Spider's Web’ Roadhouse Club on the Watford Bypass, the main north road out of London. In 1933 Jack Jackson offered Denny the chance to do some broadcasts and to make some recordings with his band, when Jackson replaced Henry Hall for a spell as the resident BBC Orchestra.  Denny later joined the Roy Fox Band where he changed his name from Denny Pontain to Denny Dennis. #

He quit his electrician job and turned professional as a singer. Denny then joined Ambrose from 1938 – 1939, then going solo with the Decca ‘Rex’ label.But almost as soon as it had begun, Denny’s solo career was hindered dramatically by the war years. He was engaged by the BBC where he made broadcasts on shows as  ‘Composer Cavalcade’, ‘Songs From The Shows’, ‘ITMA’ and later ‘Much Binding In The Marsh’ coming from ‘Somewhere in England’, plus a whole host of other shows.

On June 24th 1940, Denny enlisted in the RAF. Ordinary Aircraftsman Denny Dennis, on 2s6d a day. (12.5 p) was to remain in the RAF until  November 1945, when  as a Corporal he was demobolised . Denny still had his Decca recording contract, and he was still making broadcasts and despite his tremendous popularity, Denny struggled a little during these years. In 1948 however, he left Britain to become the featured vocalist with Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Unfortunately for Denny, the ‘American Federation of Musicians’ recording ban was still in operation during the time that Denny was with the Dorsey Band. The ban was coming to an end at the very end of 1948, and therefore Denny was only to make a handful of actual recordings with Dorsey. Due to personal reasons Denny had to leave the Dorsey band in 1949.

The above recording of ‘It's The Bluest Kind Of Blues’ was to prove a milestone for Denny and his career. It was not a hit in Britain, but it proved very popular in the United States with key people who knew real talent when they heard it. This was recorded on September 12th 1946, with the Stanley Black Orchestra. It features Joe Crossman on alto sax. This recording is from Denny's own copy. Duke Ellington played it on his radio show several times a day, and when Tommy Dorsey heard it, he was more than impressed with Denny's performance. Originally, the title was not one of the selected titles for release on the Decca / London label in the States, but somehow it ‘mysteriously’ got through. This recording earned him a contract with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in the United States.

Denny found himself back in the old routine of singing with various bands throughout the 50’s and made budget records on the Embassy label he then circuited the Northern club scene until his retirement music business in 1965. Denny Dennis drifted into a number of non-musical jobs in the North, including clerk at a paper mill and manager of a holiday camp supermarket, and public house manager. He made various appearances on TV nostalgia shows and in 1982 he was brought out of retirement from running his own public house, when he appeared at the Royal Albert Hall for a tribute show for Roy Fox who died earlier that year.

Denny's musical contribution was never forgotten, and only a week before his final illness he was in London to accept an award from Basca (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) for his services to music. Denny could look back with more than a sense of accomplishment. But sadly, after finally gaining some of the belated recognition that he deserved, Denny passed away 2 November 1993. He was eighty years of age. The world had lost one of its great performers, and a real gentlemen of song, and of life.  (info mainly edited from

A big thank you to Pete Lindup for posting this great 3 part bio on YouTube.

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

Couldn't find any compilation albums on the web but go here for some Denny Dennis mp3's