Denny Cordell (South, 1961)
CLAIM TO FAME
After working as a junior in a series of music offices, he came up with the idea of getting the Moody Blues to record Go Now. He wisely got them to sign a contract and netted £36,000 while they made almost nothing. He went on to produce Whiter Shade of Pale for Procol Harum and With A Little Help From My Friends for Joe Cocker.
Dennis Lavarack (as he was at School) had an undistinguished time at Cranleigh, perhaps best known for trying to break the Guinness Book of Records record for eating bags of crisps. “He returned from the holidays so overweight that he was banned by his housemaster from the tuck, shop,” recalled Peter Witting (1&4 South 1962). “To circumvent the ban Denny had a vanload of crisps delivered to the school for the record attempt. After his ruse was discovered, Smiths were asked to take away the crisps. As this was against policy, the crisps were distributed around the school – all thanks to Denny. The story about him and the green baize waistcoat made from the damaged billiard table in the masters’ common room was I believe apocryphal.”
After working as a junior in a series of music offices, he came up with the idea of getting the Moody Blues to record Go Now. He wisely got them to sign a contract and netted £36,000 while they made almost nothing. He went on to produce Whiter Shade of Pale for Procol Harum and With A Little Help From My Friends for Joe Cocker. Producer Tony Visconti described his style as “just roll a big spliff and let the music flow”.
Moving to the USA in 1970, he founded Shelter Records which recorded artists such as JJ Cale and Leon Russell, and he also discovered Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. As was the norm, most of the relationships ended in litigation. However, he made a mark when he took Cocker from coast to coast across the USA in a caravan of 19 stretch limos on his Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, culminating in an appearance at Woodstock.
From there he went to Jamaica, before moving to Los Angeles where he founded a successful roller-disco club, Flippers. While there he started breeding greyhounds, and this led to him upping sticks again and settling in Ireland where he trained horses. He had a good time but ran up large losses, leading to him to decide to “go back to work”. He returned to music as A&R man for Island Records where he discovered The Cranberries.
In the late 1960s, at the height of his success, he arrived at Cranleigh in a Rolls Royce and offered to buy the School. He died in 1995 aged 51.