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Entertainer led melodic life

Denny Clark wrote music column for the Courier for 11 years

Like many of the songs he was known for belting out, Denny Clark’s life was rich, memorable and beloved.

The former Courier music columnist, drummer and singer died last month of congestive heart failure at the age of 83 in Campbell River, where he lived on Vancouver Island.

“Dad was a well-rounded comic, storyteller, singer drummer and emcee, the consummate entertainer or a musician’s musician as they say,” Clark’s daughter Karen wrote the Courier in an email. “If he did nothing else he made you laugh and he did it all with a glass of Bell’s scotch whisky in his hand. If you read the old resume you will see his sense of humour.”

Indeed, Clark’s enjoyably rambling resume is a colourful one. Born in 1931 in Invergordon, Scotland, he preferred being referred to as “Pictish” rather than Scottish, since Picts were highlanders and Scots lowlanders. His father owned and operated the town’s live theatre, exposing the impressionable lad to the arts at a young age.   

During the Second World War, Clark appeared in a number of public service films, including one as a Cockney boy who picked up an unexploded bomb.

After graduating from high school, Clark played drums and sang in local pubs, completed two years of compulsory service in the British army and performed alongside the likes of Benny Hill, Dickie Dawson and David Niven. After joining the Canadian Air Force, he transferred to Canada in 1956, where he worked in public relations and embarked upon a career in newspapers and radio. Stints in Grand Forks, North Dakota while stationed at NORAD, a stay in Lahr, Germany, and tours of Europe and Russia with the Rothmans Showtime and Armed Forces tour followed.

Over the years, Clark would play drums on The Tommy Hunter Show and share stages with a host of musical icons including Roy Orbison, the Righteous Brothers, Johnny Mathis, the Everly Brothers, Tex Ritter, Joe Williams and Connie Francis, among others.

Clark eventually lighted out for the west in 1982, settling in Vancouver, where he wrote the “Mainly Music” column for the Courier for 11 years, covering events and interviewing entertainers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Rich, Dizzy Gillespie and Red Robinson.

Former Courier editor Mick Maloney has two memories of Clark.

“He would always sing at the Courier Christmas party,” recalls Maloney. “And he’d call the Courier 10 times a day.”

The reason?

That’s where his wife and love of his life, Liz Grant, worked as a typesetter for 14 years before the newspaper went digital.  

During and after his time at the Courier, Clark continued his music career, performing around town five to six nights a week for nearly 30 years. Always one for cracking jokes, Clark often had the rousing folk song “A Scottish Soldier” played as he hit the stage. His rendition of “Danny Boy” was also a favourite, though his daughter Karen had a fondness for his improvised version of “Fly Me to the Moon.”

“It’s the one song he sang to me my whole life,” she said.

The family plans to hold a celebration of life for Denny Clark at the Fairview Pub in July.