Martin Denny Biography

10 April 1911, New York City, New York, USA, d. 2 March 2005, Hawaii Kai, Hawaii, USA A pianist, composer, arranger, and conductor, Denny trained as a classical pianist and toured with various bands before moving to Hawaii in 1954. The story goes that while playing in the Shell Bar of the alfresco Hawaiian Village nightclub in Honolulu, he began to incorporate the sounds of the frogs, birds, and various other nocturnal creatures into his music. He also used unusual (some say, weird) instruments to create a kind of Latin/Hawaiian ‘exotic fruit cocktail’. The recipe was a tremendous success, and the Exotic Sounds Of Martin Denny had a US number 1 album in 1959 with Exotica. One of the tracks, ‘Quiet Village’, a 1951 Les Baxter composition, also made the Top 5. The group, which initially comprised Denny (piano), John Kramer (bass), August Colon (bongos), and Arthur Lyman (vibes), later featured Julius Wechter (vibes and marimba), who went on to form the Baja Marimba Band.

There followed a series of phenomenally successful albums as Denny’s music permeated into the most unexpected areas. In the late 70s, Genesis P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle was an enthusiastic fan. After touring throughout America in his heyday, Denny eventually opted for semi-retirement in Honolulu. He emerged in 1995 to take part in Without Walls: The Air-Conditioned Eden, a UK Channel 4 television documentary that reflected post-war America’s obsession with the ‘tiki’ culture. His catalogue was revived following the rediscovery of people such as Esquivel! and a vogue for ‘space age bachelor pad music’ in the mid-90s.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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