Born Angus Mackenzie in Glasgow and once described as “a pint-sized Scot with a king-sized yodel and a siren voice that packs the power of a hurricane”, Karl Denver was one of the most unusual British singing stars in the early 1960s.
“I’m no teenage idol,” Karl acknowledged.”I’m too ugly to be.” But what Karl may have lacked in classic, handsome looks, he made up for in talent.
In 1953, Angus was a seaman who jumped ship in New York and made his way to Nashville, Tennessee, where he lived for three years, working with many of the great country and western singers such as Hank Snow and Hank Locklin.
It was while in Nashville he decided to change his name to Karl Denver. In 1956 his illegal entry into the United States was discovered, and he was deported home to Britain, where he formed his own group playing mostly in pubs and cabaret clubs around Manchester, where he had settled down.
Early in 1960, Jack Good – the talent spotter and television director responsible for the shows Oh Boy! and Boy Meets Girls – visited one of the clubs in which Karl was performing, and was so impressed that he decided to give Karl a break in his new show, Wham!!.
Jack subsequently arranged a recording session with Decca, and Karl moved to London and cut his first disc, a yodelled-up version of the 1913 hit song Marcheta. He enjoyed subsequent hits with Mexicali Rose, Wimoweh and Never Goodbye.
After the 1960s, he worked mainly on the cabaret circuit, but in 1989 he enjoyed a brief rise in profile after guesting on Madchester band, the Happy Mondays‘ single, Lazyitis (One-Armed Boxer). He also appeared in The Happy Mondays’ video for the song, although he contracted pneumonia whilst filming the video.
In 1993 he released his final album, Just Loving You, aimed at the country music market. In mid-1998, Denver began recording a new album but died from a brain tumour in December 1998 before the recording was completed. He was 67.
The final song he recorded was I Can’t Go on This Way.