Martin Denny

Artist / Band / Musician
Lounge / Hawaiian
Martin Denny was born on April 10, 1911 in New York City. Raised in Los Angles Calif., Denny began playing the Piano at an early age. After four and half years of touring South America with the Don Dean Orchestra, he began his passion for Latin Rhythm. After serving in WWII, Denny returned to Los Angeles to continue his passion for music. He studied piano and composition under Dr. Wesley La Violette, and orchestration under Arthur Lange at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. He also studied at the University of Southern California. In January of 1954, Don the Beachcomber's (which later became Duke Kahanamoku's) brought Denny to Honolulu, Hawaii. He performed there for ten years, forming his own combo in 1955 and signing to Liberty Records. The original combo consisted of Augie Colon on percussion and birdcalls, Arthur Lyman on vibes, John Kramer on string bass, and Denny on piano. Lyman soon left to form his own group and future Herb Alpert sideman and Baja Marimba founder Julius Wechter replaces him. Harvey Ragsdale later replaced John Kramer. Denny described the music his combo played as "window dressing, a background". It is the perfect compliment to the exotic setting of Hawaii. "A lot of what I'm doing", he stated in Incredibly Strange Music Volume 1 "is just window dressing familiar tunes. I can take a tune like "Flamingo" and give it a tropical feel, in my style. In my arrangement of a Japanese farewell song, "Sayonara", I include a Japanese three stringed instrument, the shamisen. We distinguished each song by a different ethnic instrument, usually on top of a semi jazz or Latin beat. Even though it remained familiar, each song would take on a strange, exotic character". Denny built a collection of strange and exotic instruments from several airline friends. They would bring Denny back these instruments and he would build arrangements around them. His music is a combination of the following ethnic styles: South Pacific, the Orient and Latin rhythms. It is the music a lot of people believed came from the islands. A musical fantasy created by Denny. During an engagement at the Shell Bar, Denny discovered what would become his trademark and the birth of "Exotica". The bar had a very exotic setting of palm trees, rocks, and a little pool of water right outside the bandstand, making it very quiet and relaxing. As the group played into the night, Denny became aware of bullfrogs croaking. The croaking blended with the music and when the band stopped, so did the frogs. Denny thought this to be a coincidence, but when he tried the tune again later, the same thing happened. This time, his bandmates began mimicing all sorts of tropical bird calls as a gag. The band thought it quite amusing, but as nothing more than a joke. The next day, someone approached Denny and asked if he would do the arrangement with the birds and frogs. While at first he thought of this to be ridiculous, the more Denny thought about it, the more it made sense. At rehearsal, he had the band do "Quiet Village" with each doing a birdcall spaced apart. Denny did the frog part on a grooved cylinder and the whole thing became incorporated into the arrangement. It caught on like wildfire and everyone wanted to hear "Quiet Village". There is much speculation as to who was the first musician to actively use the animal noises on a RECORDING. Many say Martin Denny, others say it was his Vibes player Arthur Lyman (who later branched off after the Exotica Album). Even though the two men were competitors on vinyl, they remained close friends until the end. "He had a keen ear for music and a great imagination," Denny once remarked, "and I would say that his success and exposure paralleled mine". "There were debates on who came first, but as far as I'm concerned we did it together." After both had ceased to record, Denny and Lyman often appeared together at performances on Oahu. And when Lyman entered a hospice as he entered the last stages of his fight with throat cancer, "Martin would take Arthur out in the sunshine and give a private show," according to a family friend. Sadly Martin Denny passed away on 2 March 2005, Hawaii Kai, Hawaii We dedicated this Page to Martin Denny and to his family, friends and fans. For those of you who would like to know our sources please contact us via Message or e-mail Thanks
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