Denny Doherty passed away early Friday morning, January 19, at his home in Mississauga, Ontario. He was 66. Denny became a pop star in the late 1960s as the tenor in folk rock band The Mamas and The Papas.
Denny Doherty was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he began his musical career in a local rock and roll band, The Hepsters. In 1959 he formed his first folk trio, The Colonials, played across Canada and finally, after changing their name to The Halifax III signed a recording contract in New York.After the trio broke up, Denny joined Cass Elliot as a member of her group,
The Big Three. Inspired by The Beatles, The Big Three recruited Zal Yanovsky and
John Sebastian and became The Mugwumps, the first folk-rock group. Unfortunately
The Mugwumps were before their time and, unable to get a record released, broke
Sebastian and Zal formed The Lovin’ Spoonful and Denny joined fellow folkies
John and Michelle Phillips of The Journeymen to become The New Journeymen. In
1965 the group relocated to Los Angeles where they teamed up with Cass Elliot to
form The Mamas and The Papas. The group turned out a score of top-selling albums
and singles over the next four years, including: the Grammy Award winning
The unique combination of male and female members, iconic hippie
personalities and gorgeous folk inspired vocals helped make The mamas and The
Papas the first American group to break the dominance of the British Invasion
and define the new American sound that came to be called ‘folk rock’.
After three tumultuous and triumphant years the group didn’t so much break up as
it petered out. They were re-united for final album in 1970 but continued to
work with each other on individual solo projects until 1974 when Cass died of a
In 1975 Denny returned to New York where he played the lead on Broadway in
Phillip’s Man on The Moon. During the production he met his second wife Jeanette
and stayed with her in New York where he worked with The Irish Art Centre
performing in O’Casey’s Juno and The Paycock, among other productions.
In 1978 he returned to his home town of Halifax, Nova Scotia and hosted
Denny’s Show for CBC-TV. In addition to his work in television, Denny continued
to act, playing the lead in Paul Ledoux’s country and western musical, North
Mountain Breakdown, as well as many roles at Neptune Theatre.
During the eighties The Mamas and Papas were reunited with original members
Doherty & Phillips, plus Spanky McFarlane and McKenzie Phillips and toured with
the group off and on for the next ten years. During this time he relocated to
Toronto and continued to develop his acting career.
Stage roles include numerous productions of the plays Fire and The Secret
Garden, as well as the Ed and David Mirvish Production of Needfire. In 1996 he
and Ledoux created the one man show Dream A Little Dream, the nearly true story
of The Mamas and The Papas. Denny continued to appear in the show for the next
ten years, including an extended run production in Toronto that was nominated
for five Dora Mavor Morre Awards and a five month off-Broadway. The play
completed a held-over run at The Cleveland Playhouse in the spring of 2006 and
Denny’s last performance was early this December in Baltimore.
Film/TV credits include a leading role in the turn-of-the-century film and
series Pit Pony shot in Nova Scotia; and The Harbourmaster in the
internationally acclaimed childrens series, Theodore Tugboat, which aired daily
on both CBC-TV and PBS.
Denny was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in March, 1996. The
Mamas and the Papas were inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January,
Biography courtesy of