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Dennis Gerrard Stephen Doherty (November 29, 1940 – January 19, 2007) was a Canadianmarker singer and songwriter. He was most widely known as a founding member of the 1960s musical group The Mamas & the Papas.


Early career

Denny Doherty was born on November 29, 1940 in Halifaxmarker, Nova Scotiamarker. Doherty started his musical career in Halifax in 1956 with a band called the Hepsters. With friends Richard Sheehan, Eddie Thibodeau and Mike O'Connell, the Hepsters played at clubs in the Halifax area. The band was together for about 2 years. Sheehan recalls that they drew crowds wherever they went due to Denny's incredible voice. In 1960, at the age of 19, Doherty co-founded a folk group called The Colonials in Montrealmarker, Quebecmarker. When they got a record deal with Columbia Records, they changed their name to The Halifax Three. The band had a minor hit, "The Man Who Wouldn't Sing Along With Mitch", but ultimately broke up in 1963. Coincidentally, they broke up at a hotel called "The Colonial".

In 1963, Doherty established a friendship with Cass Elliot when she was with a band called "The Big Three". While on tour with "The Halifax III", Doherty met John Phillips and his new wife, model Michelle Gilliam.

A few months later, Doherty's band dissolved, and he and his accompanist, Zal Yanovsky, were left broke in New York Citymarker. Elliot heard of their troubles and convinced her manager to hire them. Thus, Doherty and Yanovsky joined the Big Three (increasing the number of band members to four). Soon after adding even more band members, they changed their name to "The Mugwumps". The Mugwumps soon broke up also due to insolvency. The Mamas & Papas song "Creeque Alley" briefly outlines this history.

About this time, John Phillips' new band, "The New Journeymen", needed a replacement for tenor Marshall Brickman. Brickman had left the folk trio to pursue a career in television writing, and the group needed a quick replacement for their remaining tour dates. 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.

Relationship with Michelle Phillips

In late 1965, 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.

When the affair was discovered, John and Michelle moved to their own residence (they had been sharing a house with Doherty), and the band continued recording together. Eventually the band signed a statement in June 1966 with their record label's full support, firing Michelle from the band. She was quickly replaced by Jill Gibson, girlfriend of the band's producer Lou Adler. Gibson's stint as a "Mama" lasted two and a half months.

Due to fan demand and mostly to John, Michelle was allowed to rejoin the band in late August 1966, while Gibson was given a lump sum for her efforts. However, by the time of Michelle's return, the band had lost focus, momentum and direction. While trying to create another album, Elliot left the group, bringing about the end of The Mamas & the Papas. The band finally broke up in the summer of 1968.

After the break-up

Elliot and Doherty remained friends. After the band's break-up, Elliot had a hit solo show. She eventually asked Doherty to marry her, but he declined. Doherty released a few solo LP's and singles. Of note are 1971's Watcha Gonna Do? and 1974's Waiting For A Song. The latter LP went unreleased in the USA and featured both Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot on background vocals. The recordings would be Elliot's last as she died a few months after the record was finished. Doherty was stunned and saddened to hear of Elliot's passing in 1974 at age 32. He and the other former members of the band attended her funeral.

In 1982, Doherty joined a reconstitution of the Mamas and the Papas consisting of John Phillips, his daughter Mackenzie Phillips and Elaine Spanky McFarlane, which toured and performed old standards and new tunes written by John Phillips.

Doherty 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. It was well received and garnered favourable reviews.

In 1993, Doherty played the part of Harbour Master, as well as the voice-overs of the characters, in Theodore Tugboat, a CBC Television children's show chronicling the "lives" of vessels in a busy harbour loosely based upon Halifax Harbourmarker.

In 1999, Doherty also played a character by the name of "Charley McGinnis" in twenty-two episodes of the CBC Television series Pit Pony.

Personal and death

Denny Doherty died on January 19, 2007 at his home in Mississauga, Ontariomarker, from a second abdominal aneurysm after going to get the first one removed.

Doherty had three children: a daughter, Jessica Woods, from a brief first marriage, and a daughter, Emberly, and son, John by his 20-year marriage to his second wife, Jeannette, who died in 1998.

Doherty appeared in the Canadianmarker TV series Trailer Park Boys, Season 7 Episode 10 (season's finale) as an FBI figure. Filming was completed just shortly before his death in early 2007. The episode ended with "This episode is dedicated to the memory of DENNY DOHERTY."

His son, John Doherty, is in a Canadian ska/punk band, illScarlett.


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