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(Soundbite of song, "California Dreamin'")

THE MAMAS AND THE POPAS (Rock Group): (Singing) All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray. I've been for a walk...


Denny Doherty, one of the founding members of the 1960s folk rockers, The Mamas and the Papas, died yesterday at the age of 66. Doherty sang most of the male leads for the group, including this, their first big hit, "California Dreamin'"

(Soundbite of song, "California Dreamin'")

Mr. DOHERTY: (Singing) Stopped into a church, I passed along the way. Well, I got down on my knees and I began to pray.

Mr. LOU ADLER (Producer): It was strange that the voice worked for rock and roll. Actually, it was a big romantic sort of throwback to another era type voice.

ELLIOTT: That's veteran producer Lou Adler. He signed The Mamas and the Papas to his record label Dunhill in 1965 and produced many of their biggest hits. Adler says Denny Doherty was a memorable character.

Mr. ADLER: He was a real Irishman and he told great stories and he had a real lust for life. And he was a handsome, dashing guy, sort of an Errol Flynn-type character.

(Soundbite of song, "Monday, Monday")

Mr. DOHERTY: (Singing) Monday, Monday. So good to me. Monday morning, it was all I hoped it would be.

ELLIOTT: The Mamas and the Papas were one of the first groups to feature male and female singers equally. Their shimmering harmonies arranged by Papa John Phillips propelled them to the top of the charts between 1966 and 1968.

But their gentle folk rock sound hid some rather barbed lyrics and a lot of tension among band members. At one point, Denny Doherty became involved with Mama Michelle Phillips, John's wife, an affair that eventually contributed to the band's break-up.

Again, producer Lou Adler.

Mr. ADLER: It was an unusual blend not only of voices but of people and certainly their relationships lended toward the excitement of the group and the tenseness in the studio that translated into great records.

ELLIOTT: In later life, Denny Doherty toured with the re-formed version of The Mamas and the Papas and produced an Off Broadway musical based on the band's story. He also starred in a hit children's TV show, Theodore Tugboat, that aired on public television from 1993 to 2001.

Producer Lou Adler says Doherty was always a hard worker.

Mr. ADLER: We had been recording for maybe 14, 15 hours and then he had collapsed on top of the piano. And John felt that he needed one more note within the harmony to make it work and we put a mic over Denny's head while he was laying on the piano. And we shook him and woke him up and John hit the note on the piano and Denny hit the note and completed the record.

ELLIOTT: The song was "Go Where You Wanna Go." Denny Doherty died yesterday after a short illness. He was 66.

(Soundbite of "Go Where You Wanna Go")

THE MOMAS AND THE POPAS: (Singing) You gotta go where you wanna go, do what you wanna do with whoever you wanna do it with. You gotta go where you wanna go, and do what you wanna do, with whoever you wanna do it with. You don't understand that a girl like me can love just one man. Three thousand miles...

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