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Karl Denver
Birth name Angus Murdo McKenzie
Born 16 December 1931(1931-12-16)
Springburn, Glasgow, Scotland
Died 21 December 1998 (aged 67)
Manchester, England[1]
Genres Pop
Years active 1956–1993
Labels Decca, Factory

Karl Denver (born Angus Murdo McKenzie, 16 December 1931, Springburn, Glasgow — died 21 December 1998[2]), was a Scottish singer, who, with his trio {Kevin Neil (born 25 July 1931, Manchester, Lancashire); Gerry Cottrell (born Gerard Cottrell, 18 December 1933, Manchester, Lancashire — died 24 November 2006[3], at Trafford General Hospital, Urmston, Manchester)} had a series of UK hit singles in the early 1960s. Most famous of these was a 1961 version of Solomon Linda's, "Wimoweh", which showed off Denver's falsetto yodelling register. This unique artist, whose yodel-laced style added colour and contrast to the charts, reached the Top 20 with his first five singles.[4 ]



He left school at 14 and went on a decade long wanderlust. Firstly he joined the Scandinavian Mercantile Marine as a deckhand. Denver practised the guitar and entertained shipmates, before joining the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and was wounded during the Korean War. He subsequently returned to the sea in the British Merchant Navy, before at the age of 21 jumping ship in the United States. He played in clubs in Tennessee and Denver and befriended the country singers, Faron Young and Lefty Frizzell and became the first British performer to play on the Grand Ole Opry radio show. In 1956, he was offered a management and recording contract, but, as he said, "I was asked to sign up, but I had to do the bump as I shouldn't have been there in the first place".[1]

He had lived in Nashville, Tennessee for a short time before being deported as an illegal immigrant during 1959. It was in the U.S. that he had adopted the new name that he retained for the remainder of his singing career.[5]

Upon his return to the UK he settled in Blackburn, Lancashire, and soon established himself around the Lancashire clubs and pubs, notably the Yew Tree in Manchester. The television producer, Jack Good offered him Denver on a new television programme, Wham!. Good ultimately acted as record producer for Denver's records for Decca. With the guitarist Kevin Neill from the Joe Loss Orchestra and bassist Jerry Cottrell, the Karl Denver Trio was formed.[1]

The highlight of Denver's act was his version of "Wimoweh", which he recorded at the end of his first session with Decca in 1961, but the record label decided was too bizarre to release as his first single. Instead they selected "Marcheta", a revival of a 1912 ballad. The press release from June 1961 stated, "A pint-sized Scot with a king-sized yodel and a siren voice that packs the power of a hurricane blows onto the disc world this week". Denver, conscious of his size, was one of the first performers to wear Cuban heels.[1] "Marcheta" reached #8 in the UK Singles Chart, as did his second single, a revival of "Mexicali Rose".[4 ] Around this time The Tokens alighted on "Wimoweh" and added some lyrics, calling it "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". It made both the U.S. and UK charts, but Decca quickly issued Denver's version that stormed past The Tokens to reach #4 in March 1962.[1][4 ] Denver's first album, also called Wimoweh, reached the UK Top Ten.[1][4 ]

Denver, by then an experienced man in his late twenties, found himself touring on package shows with the teen idols of the day. He would supplement his income by playing roulette with the adolescent stars. He admitted later, "They thought I was a boozer and a ne'er-do-well. I was always in the pub across the road when the bus was about to go". Another musician, Clinton Ford, recalled, "He could be a pest at times, but I really liked the guy. We were playing together at the Yew Tree pub in Manchester and there was a girl magician on the bill. She produced a chihuahua out of a doll's house, and Karl was always annoying the dog, trying to disrupt the act. I was so pleased when the dog bit his finger that I went and bought the dog a drink".[1]

Denver's song, "Never Goodbye", penned by Jimmy Kennedy, was an entry in A Song for Europe in 1962. Denver himself felt a little intimidated - "Everybody else had big orchestras and I was just a wee Glaswegian standing in the middle of a big stage". Although Ronnie Carroll won the UK nomination, Denver had a Top 10 hit with "Never Goodbye".[1] On 15 April 1962, the Karl Denver Trio appeared at the annual NME reader's poll-winners concert staged in London.[6 ]

Denver appeared in the film, Just For Fun (1963) and hosted the BBC Radio series, Side By Side, working in three programmes with The Beatles. He found hit records hard to come by once beat music started, but the Beatles viewed him kindly and had him as their special guest on the U.S. television programme, Shindig!. In 1963 Denver and Ken Dodd both covered Bill Anderson's "Still". Denver recalled, "I was at Manchester Airport flying out, and Ken Dodd was in front of me. I went up behind him and started sing-ing `Still' in a silly voice. He said, `Bloody hell, it's you. You've not done it very well, have you?'". In 1964 Denver recorded the live album, Karl Denver at the Yew Tree which was recorded during the day while he was in pantomime each night at the Palace Theatre, Manchester. Denver saw no reason to pay his tax demands and was declared bankrupt in 1966, 1973 and finally 1978.[1]

After the mid 1960s, Denver worked mainly on the cabaret circuit. However in 1989 he enjoyed a brief raise in profile after guesting on Madchester band, the Happy Mondays' single, "Lazyitis (One-Armed Boxer)", on Factory Records (FAC 222). Denver also appeared in The Happy Mondays' video for the song, although he contracted pneumonia during filming.[1] Following this collaboration Factory released two further Denver recordings, "Wimoweh '89" (FAC 228) and "Indambinigi" (FAC 278; credited to Karl Denver and Steve Lima).

In 1993 he released his final album, Just Loving You, aimed at the country music market. By then, Denver missed almost as many notes as he hit. He was a frail man whose condition was not improved through heavy drinking. The final song he recorded was Burt Bacharach's "The Story of My Life".[1]


Denver died from a brain tumour[7] in December 1998, at the age of 67 in St Annes Hospice, Heald Green, Stockport. His ashes are buried at Stockport Cemetery.

Family life

Karl Denver left five sons and two daughters. Jean and Karl (who predeceased him) from his first wife Jean; Fiona and Dolian from his second partner Alma; a second son called Karl from his third partner Jean; and two sons, Justin and Richard, from his second and last marriage to Andrea.

Contemporary useage

In the 2002 film, 24 Hour Party People, archival video footage is used showing Denver singing "Wimoweh", on the Granada Television programme, The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club.



  • "Marcheta" - 1961 - UK #8
  • "Mexicali Rose" - 1961 - UK #8
  • "Wimoweh" - 1962 - UK #4
  • "Never Goodbye" - 1962 - UK #9
  • "A Little Love a Little Kiss" - 1962 - UK #19
  • "Blue Week-end" - 1962 - UK #33
  • "Can You Forgive Me" - 1963 - UK #32
  • "Indian Love Call" - 1963 - UK #32
  • "Still" - 1963 - UK #13
  • "My World of Blue" - 1964 - UK #29
  • "Love Me with All Your Heart" - 1964 - UK #37
  • "Lazyitis - One Armed Boxer" - 1990 - UK #46 $

$ Happy Mondays and Karl Denver

[4 ]


  • Wimoweh - 1961 - UK #7
  • Karl Denver at The Yew Tree - 1964

[4 ]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Obituary by Spencer Leigh". Retrieved 2 July 2009.  
  2. ^ IMDb biography
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e f Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. p. 151. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.  
  5. ^
  6. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. pp. 105. CN 5585.  
  7. ^ IMDb biography page

External links

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