The British Bing
Ronald Dennis Pountain was born in the city of Derby on November 1st 1913 and while his birth name may not be familiar to too many people, his later stage name and career will have stuck in the memory of many that followed the dance band craze of the thirties and forties. Like many musicians trying to get ahead, Pountain worked a double life; by day he was an LMS railway electrician and by night he was a drummer for a local band. His thirst to prove himself only grew as his gifted brother Eric found success but fate soon stepped in when a chance encounter with the editor of Melody Maker, after a rare vocal performance, sealed Pountain’s fate and his musical career was born.
From Dennis Pountain to Denny Dennis.
As Dennis Pountain began to get a feel for the industry and the dance band scene, he started work with the Freddy Bretherton Band on the outskirts of London and took vocal lessons on the advice of Roy Fox – who had turned him down after an audition. It was not long before he became highly regarded as a “romantic vocalist” whose voice was ideal for the golden age and he climbed further up the ladder becoming a recording artist in his own right, finally earning his position with Roy Fox’s Orchestra and working on BBC broadcasts across the 1930s. It was also during this period that Dennis married his first wife Betty Faye, a marriage that did not last but gave him a son. Dennis was the first Englishman to earn a place with an American dance band and his fame was secured when Roy himself give him a much more memorable name that would stick with him until the day he died – Denny Dennis.
The influence of World War II on Denny Dennis’ career.
When the conflict began, Denny was at the top of his game and was viewed as one of the more exciting figures in the dance band scene and while the war could have put an end to everything, he actually came out of it stronger than ever. Dennis enlisted in the RAF in 1940 believing that he could better entertain the troops and use his talents if he was one of them. The troops may have appreciated his work but it is said that some in higher positions of power wanted him banned from the airways entirely, believing that his overly sentimental style would be a disadvantage. Upon leaving the service in 1946, Dennis did more than simply resume his career and for a few years he enjoyed a limited deal in America. Here he joined local greats such as Stanley Black, with whom he recorded his signature tune “Its The Bluest Kind Of Blues”, and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.
The end of the golden age and Denny’s inevitable decline.
By the time the 1950 rolled around, Dennis’ American contract had come to an end, the musical scene was changing and by this point he had gone back to touring the UK – this time as a variety artist where he was billed as “radio’s most popular vocalist”. Despite this tag, the classic tones of Denny’s voice were starting to lose their appeal and he was forced to take on Bing Crosby impressions – an act he disliked given his career-long attempt to separate himself from the legend and be an individual artist. In 1969 he got married for a second time to Joan Armitage and he eventually retired from music altogether, at one point returning to the railways and at another becoming manager of a holiday park supermarket. He retired completely in 1978.
Denny died a year after his 80th birthday on November 2nd 1993 but he was not forgotten in those decades after his retirement and he is still remembered by fans worldwide and residents of his native Derby. In 1982 he was invited to take part in a tribute concert to Roy Fox at the Royal Albert Hall and just before his death he was presented with an award for services to music by BASCA. This modern entertainer is a different sort of local hero than the historical figures that are usually remembered by the county but he still put Derby on the map in his own way.