Together with The Mamas & The Papas he became one of the most successful artists of the 1960’s
The Mamas & The Papas’ Denny Doherty was born on this day in 1940
Denny Doherty was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on November 29th, 1940. Doherty started his musical career there in 1956 with a band called the Hepsters. In 1963, Doherty established a friendship with Cass Elliot when she was with a band called “The Big 3”. While on tour with “The Halifax III”, Doherty met John Phillips and his new wife, model Michelle Gilliam.A few months later, The Halifax III dissolved, and Doherty and their accompanist, Zal Yanovsky, were left broke in Hollywood. Elliot heard of their troubles and convinced her manager to hire them. About this time, John Phillips’ new band, “The New Journeymen”, needed a singer.Doherty, then unemployed, filled the opening. After the New Journeymen called it quits as a band in early 1965, Elliot was invited into the formation of a new band, which became “The Magic Cyrcle”. Six months later in September 1965, the group signed a recording contract with Dunhill Records. Changing their name to The Mamas & the Papas, the band soon began to record their debut album, “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears”. The Mamas & the Papas song “Creeque Alley” briefly outlines this history.In late 1965, Denny Doherty and Michelle Phillips started an affair. They were able to keep it secret during the early days of the band’s new-found success. After a continuing string of hit singles such as “Monday, Monday”, “California Dreamin'”, “I Saw Her Again” and “Dedicated to the One I Love” among several others, many television appearances (including a notable and critically well-received TV special featuring the music of Rodgers and Hart), a successful third studio album “Deliver” in 1967, and the groundbreaking sociological impact of the Monterey International Pop Festival (which had been organized by John Phillips and Lou Adler) in June 1967, an ill-fated trip to England in October 1967 fragmented the already damaged group dynamic.
Cass Elliot quit, after a stinging insult from John Phillips, (although she returned to complete her parts for the group’s overdue fourth album, “The Papas and the Mamas”, which was finally released in May 1968). By then, Michelle Phillips had given birth to Chynna Phillips and a formal statement had been released, announcing the group’s demise.Elliot and Doherty remained friends after the band’s break-up, while Elliot had a hit solo show. She eventually asked Doherty to marry her, but he declined. He released a few solo LPs and singles during this period, two of note being 1971’s Watcha Gonna Do? and 1974’s “Waiting for a Song”, the latter of which went unreleased in the US. Featuring both Michelle and Cass on background vocals, the recordings would be Elliot’s last, as she died after a sold-out run in London a few months later after the record was finished. Doherty was stunned and saddened to hear about her death in 1974 at age 32. He attended her funeral several days later in early August along with the Phillipses. During the 1980’s He produced an off-Broadway show called “Dream a Little Dream”, which was a narrative of his perspective of the story of The Mamas & the Papas and it was well received and garnered favourable reviews. The show was in part a response to John’s PBS documentary “Straight Shooter: The True Story of John Phillips and The Mamas and the Papas”. It featured music from the group and focused on his relationship with Mama Cass. It was, he said, to “set the record straight”.One of his last appearances was in the Canadian TV series “Trailer Park Boys” as FBI Special Agent Ryan Shockneck. Denny Doherty died shortly after it on January 19, 2007, at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, from kidney failure following surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Doherty was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 as part of The Mamas & the Papas.
Look back at The Mamas & The Papas performing their hit “California Dreamin'” in 1966 featuring Doherty on lead vocals
Listen to the “The Best Of The Mamas & The Papas” on Spotify
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