Monday, August 24, 2015

Will F. Denny, the silenced singing wonder

Well, he's a largely forgotten singer on the earlier records, but those collectors who know him, love his records well. He was really a riot on the records. The boys in the studios found his expressions and comical tunes, just priceless, which made them keep him on their staff. Denny's style was absolutely hilarious, and full of energy. He was a favourite of Columbia and Edison alike, which as an unusual thing, which few artsists were able to pull off without getting the companies in nasty fights over them.
Denny was neutral in his preferences of record companies, as he balanced out the sessions for different companies evenly in 1898 to 1901, which was not an easy thing to do.  
As in 1898 to 1901 he did hot Rag-Time records with Banta at Edison, such as these few greats:
From 1901: (this one is really hot! Banta kills it on this one!)
From 1901:
from 1899:
from 1899:
(killer ending Banta!)
Other than his fun and Ragged cylinders with classical Banta, he also had Hylands on the other end of the spectrum at Columbia. His records with Hylands are a very interesting mix of creativity, oddity, high energy, and comedy. Here are a few of them(which all involve some kind of syncopation!)
From 1899(with Hylands really drunk):
(that ending is really rough Hylands, even if it skips a bunch, it's still a mess...)
from 1898:
(with suttle Rag-Time at the end!)
From c.early-1899:
(the solo at the end sounds a little like the intro to "Put Me Off at Buffalo"...)
from 1899:
(with really hammered Hylands again...)
It's so contradicting, the song is beautiful, but Hylands' embibing doesn't make it any more so than it needs to be, as it's pretty clear by how he plays it and how he plays the ending thing. Like I have said before, Hylands playing all pretty is really quite a concept. He could do it, and very well if he set his energy on it, but it is odd to think of what he really would have rather played than the pretty stuff. 
from 1898:
(with the most killer Rag-Time at the end!)

Denny remained pretty popular through 1902, but when this odd new minstrel singer named William Murray came on the scene, Denny's popularity dove to ruin quick. He still made records after 1902, but they weren't nearly in as much demand as before 1900. 
He made Zon-O-phones from 1900 to 1903, and his records made for this company are among the most valued of all the records he made, even more so than his brown wax cylinders. I know some collectors who have dozens and dozens of his Zon-O-Phone records. It's not only Denny's high energy and creativity on these Zon-O-Phone records, that the collectors go for, it's the piano playing. As least that's what one of my collector friends is looking for in these Denny records. 
Here are two of them, both from 1901:
(what kind of opium were they on when they did thist take! My God!)

These two Zon-O-Phone's above are prime examples of Columbia intertwined Zon-O-phone's, as they were made when Columbia also made Zono records, so that meant the same piano, same artists, similar studio, and of course, same pianist(Fred Hylands). They are prime examples of hot Rag-Time as well, with Denny and Hylands playing themselves sick by the end of the take. This is why the music-intwined collectors love these early Zon-O-Phone's. Many of these Zono's from the same year sound just like these ones. I must point out one thing on the second one listed above, listen to the interlude at the beginning, just after the announcement. Listen closely. Hear those bass notes? There's three tenths in there, and a three noted octave. That's WEIRD! That's very progressive, and yet very typical of the Indiana saloon pianist Hylands was. It's very noticeable and sticks out terribly on the record. It sounds really great though! 

Denny had stopped making records in 1907, as he hadn't any more desire to make any more records, as this Billy Murray fellow had completely shadowed over him by then. He continued to perform in various vaudeville troupes until late 1908, when he suffered a terrible seizure in his dressing room before a performance, and it didn't take too long for it to kill him. It was unfortunate how short his life was, as he was a very vibrant and high-energied character who was taken too early from his high strung personality and poorly taken care of health. It's good he made some pretty damn entertaining records!

I hipe you enjoyed this! 


  1. ain't you ma lulu is an absolutely great record that I hadn't heard before! being abritish collector I have a ton of early british stuff but notmuch from over the pond,at leastnot physically, but I do have a cylinder or two of his. What a guy!

    1. The piano on that one really caught my attention vey quick, and how jumpy and vibrant Denny was on it really sucked me in to listening to it closely.