Above is the first promo photo of the band with Denny.
Denny remembers: I was walking by a music store in Cherry Creek and saw a Wurlitzer electric piano. I asked them if you could plug that into an amplifier like a guitar and they said yes. I financed the piano and a Sears Silvertone amplifier.
started with the Outcasts, a local dorm group, and made payments by playing
fraternity parties. I then started The Welshires. After I played for awhile, I realized we had a very different sound. The Esquires were the first
to hire me, but no one could hear me. The Viscounts wouldn’t even talk to me.
I talked to Joel Brandes of the Surfin' Classics and he said they were ready
to make a change. I tried out, they said you're on, you‘ll need a Fender
Amplifier...don’t worry about it...you’ll be making enough to cover it.
I was elated to become
a part of the new group formed out of the Surfin' Classics; The Moonrakers. Up
till then, the sound was all guitar. I was a piano player. We were the first
band in Colorado (and as far as I know the first rock band in the USA) to add
a Wurlitzer Piano, and this gave us our own unique sound. The guys were all
very cool and Van said, "Welcome Denny." I'll never forget it.
They brought me in and treated me like they had played with me forever. After
I became comfortable on stage, I found the Wurlitzer to be sturdy enough for
me to do hand stands, and the insanity began.
The British invasion had just started and the music scene was changing. We needed a new name and MacVittie came up with The Moonrakers. We had a few practices. Bob Holban and Kent Lewis had some ideas. They sponsored the “Battle of the Bands" at D.U.’s Student Center. The rest is history.
Here's Bob MacVittie on how the Moonrakers name came about: "I was reading the Ian Fleming, James Bond novel Moonraker at the time we were preparing for the first Battle of the Bands with the Astronauts. We were trying to come up with a new identity and drop the surfing image and music. We picked the name and came up with the idea of wearing Bond type tuxedos on stage."
In 1964, Bob Groke promoted a concert of the Moonrakers and the Astronauts at the Moonlight Gardens Ballroom at Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver. Below are two items that Bob has contributed to the site that were taken from a KIMN booklet put out in 1965. Click here to read about Bob's memories of promoting the concert along with his take on the Colorado Music Scene at the time.
Below is a newspaper article from the Denver Post from October 28, 1964. The Swingin' Moonrakers were about to play for a High School dance on Halloween night. Then on the 10th of November, they were to perform with the Dave Clark Five who were really hot at the time.
The Moonrakers also played at Denver East High School at least twice during the 1964-65 school year. Below are two photos taken from the school's yearbook. Special thanks go out to Jim Scavo for loaning me his yearbook! For more early shots of The Moonrakers, click on the Photos link below.
(l. to r. Bob MacVittie, Bob Webber, Van Dorn)
(l. to r. Van, Bob M., Denny, Bob W.)