DONALD DENNING

FROM THE NEW BOOK "THE KNAPPS LIVED HERE"

Longtime readers of this website who have read the very first stories in the Buzz & Pee Wee, Butchie & Me section that started the whole thing rolling, will recognise the name of one of my earliest friends on this earth . Late last night (Feb 25, 2008 ) I received an e mail from Chris Moss, a Long Island friend of Don's and a "Knappster" if you will about "The Kid Who Was Stuck In The Chimney " in your story about the Knapp Mansion. Don had suffered a major heart attack and was in the ICU at Hospital in Rockville Center and the prognosis was not good at all. This morning I got the rest of the bad news from Donald's cousin "Patty" another childhood friend who also figures in many of the same Buzz & Pee Wee Stories.

I will have more to say about this down the road a bit , for now I will leave it in the hands of a true American Treasure, Jimmy Webb, my favorite songwriter of all times. I was working on a tune of Jimmy's here in Nashville yesterday, learning the finer points of his intricate suspended and inverted every which way but loose music on my new piano. It's a song titled "Too Young To Die" that kicks off Jimmy's aptly titled album "Suspending Disbelief " I have held it dear ever since I first heard Jimmy play it live on a big concert grand here in town in 1993. There were some real breakthoughs for me yesterday and I think I finally have his keyboard voicings down. It was also for some crazy reason, the only song I played on my piano over & over all afternoon yesterday........ but as I have well known since I was a little kid ....songs can go to places like magic. So click on the link below and turn your speakers up loud.... we all need to suspend disbelief especially on days like this.

A SONG & VIDEO FOR DONALD

1945 - 2008

"Too Young To Die" written by Jimmy Webb ©1989 White Oak Songs ASCAP

DONALD DROVE A LIMO ON LONG ISLAND FOR THE LAST DECADE OR SO. HE WAS ALSO MASTER SGT DENNING, THE PERSONAL DRIVER FOR A GENERAL IN THE USMC IN THE LATE 1960's & DON WAS SITTING IN THE STANDS THE LAST NIGHT I RACED ON RIVERHEAD RACEWAY & GOT T -BONED IN TURN 4. HE WAS THERE WHEN THEY HELPED ME CLIMB OUT OF THE WRECK. A FRIEND FOR LIFE. FUNNY THING IS THAT IS WHERE WE REUNITED AT THE END OF AUGUST IN 2001 AFTER NOT SEEING EACH OTHER FOR MORE THIRTY SEVEN SUMMERS.

This version has some Long Island Referenced Lyrics that I added to Jimmy's tune in 1994 and did a little home recording of. It seems very appropriate today.

I have had a lot of requests about WHO IS SINGING THIS SONG ?... It's an old friend of mine here in Nashville, named Doug Wayne, not only does he do a great job of singing , he is one fine Recording and Mastering engineer. Visit his website here to listen to more of his work

JULY 1999

Thanks to Chris Moss Again For Coming Through With This Photo Of Donald Wearing His Civil War Hat . He had that hat the first time I saw him again after 37 years at the Riverhead Raceway reunion in 2001. I'm still hoping that someone in the Denning family will come through someday with photos of the Don & Donny as kids especially in the good old summertimes at Mastic Beach.

HERE'S ANOTHER BUZZ & PEE WEE BUTCHIE & ME STORY FROM THOSE DAYS

It think it was the summer of 1954, though it could of been '55 because it involved the term "Hot Rodder" and I'm not sure even if I was born one that I was aware of that word in '54. Regardless of what summer it was, here is what happened one Summer Sunday morning....

HOLY ROLLER

I'm pretty sure it was the year we all had our own two wheeler bikes. Butchie would of had his new 26 inch English Racer that he got for Christmas and I had a 24 inch one that my folks bought for me for 5 bucks at a used bike and lawn mower shop in Center Moriches. Donald had inherited his big brother John's 26 inch balloon tire bomber. I 'm pretty sure it was a Schwinn which was Cadillac of Bikes. What I remember distinctly was the dark brown color, the side tank with horn in it, a headlight on the front fender a package rack on the back and I think some V crash bars on the front handlebars that came down to the front axle. In short it was fully loaded. Every Sunday morning Donald and his cousin Patty were in church at St . Judes and there would be no playing until they got home and changed their clothes. I'm not sure where my brother Butch was this particular Sunday morning, but he wasn't around because if he was I don't think what happened next would of.

I hopped on my bike to take a ride up to Dick's to buy a comic book or something else of equal great importance and my chain broke a link . Not knowing how to fix it,and Butch no where in sight, I went across the street and asked Mrs. Denning (Don's grandmother) if I could use his bike to go up to Dick's. She said fine.... great because I had been looking for any excuse to hop on his bike anyway because it looked more like a big Harley.

I think it was the first time I was on a larger two wheeler for any length of time and I found it to be a totally different experience. For some reason it was really hard to pedal. Puffin' and pedaling on the ride home along the sidewalk of Neighborhood road, I had a brilliant idea! When I got home I was going to do Don a big big favor by hot rodding his bike for him .....that is souping it up .....by stripping it down. I flipped it upside down in our pine needle cushioned driveway and I think the wheels were still spinning as I emerged from our cellar with some of Pop's tools; a screwdriver , an adjustable wrench and a pair of grasp pliers. With the speed of a Nascar pit stop crew off came the fenders, the side tanks, luggage rack, chain guard etc and there they sat forlornly in a pile by the pine tree. I tried it out and it really didn't seem to pedal that much easier, but it sure looked different.

The look on Donald's face when he got home from church and came over my house was different too. I could tell he wasn't too thrilled about my customizing job. What was worse though was when he slowly walked it home and his big brother saw it and walked it back over to my yard and said PUT IT BACK THE WAY IT WAS. Of course I tried my best to do that and it took a whole lot longer, as I searched for missing screws and nuts.....Eventually I got it all back together, but for some reason it never looked as good as it did before I hot rodded it. A trip or two to Izzy's Hardware store for some great 59 cents to $1.19 accessories soon hid the scars and a few playing cards held with clothes pins flapping in the spokes soon muffled the yelling Donald got for " loaning " Kenny Joseph his bike!

Don and I along with Doug Percoco (who had a Schwinn "Black Phantom") had a great laugh in the diner on Route 58 in Riverhead the summer 2001 recalling that episode,

1952 Abraham & Strauss Christmas Catalog

Spoonercentral.com