Brando's Feature: Dennis the Musical Menace

Badfinger's 1974 LP - Wish You Were Here Dennis the Musical Menace

(June 13, 2003) In 1974 Badfinger released the what many folks consider their best album, Wish You Were Here. The album was recalled about one month into it's release due to money that was taken from an escrow account that upset Warner executives to the point that they recalled the album immediately. On that album there is a song titled "Dennis." The song was written by Pete Ham about an incident he witnessed when young Blair Ferguson took money from his mother's purse to use in a bubble gum machine.

Ham didn't want to use Blair's name in the song, thus he used "Dennis" in tribute to the Hank Ketcham's comic strip character "Dennis the Menace." Ham most likely reasoned the incident to be something the always mischievous "Dennis" may have attempted.

I got to thinking a few weeks ago if the creator of "Dennis the Menace" actually knew there was a song whose title is a direct reference to "Dennis the Menace." In researching the subject, I found that the creator of "Dennis the Menace", Hank Ketcham, had passed away in 2001. However, the comic strip was still being created (it is in our local paper!). Thus I looked to see who was writing the strip and found there were two gentlemen. The weekday comic strips are currently created by a Marcus Hamilton, while the Sunday strip is created by a gentleman named Ron Ferdinand.

Dennis and Ron Ferdinand I sent emails to both men a few weeks ago. Hamilton's message was returned (the email didn't go through). Ferdinand's letter was received and a few days later I received a reply from Ferdinand. It turns out Ron Ferdinand was intrigued by the fact that the group Badfinger had recorded a song titled "Dennis" in reference to the comic strip he currently creates. He had good reason to be intrigued, he is a huge Badfinger fan!!!

How much of a Badfinger is Ferdinand you ask? Ferdinand purchased the Gary Katz documentary several years ago and found it very interesting. He stated that "Pete Ham had one of the best voices in rock." He has seen the VH-1 Behind the Music special. If all this wasn't enough, he happened to be in the crowd on what Beverly Ellis stated in the VH-1 special has the crowning moment of Pete's career: Appearing on stage with George Harrison at the Concert for Bangladesh. Ferdinand stated "you could have heard a pin drop" as the crowd was totally encaptured by the Harrison / Ham performance of "Here Comes the Sun."

Rockin' Dennis ...And I'm still not done...give me a moment to catch my breathe... Ferdinand also added his own artistic reading of the "Dennis the Menace - Pete Ham" connection. He sent me a thank you sketch featuring Dennis playing guitar and possibly singing his favorite Badfinger song! The picture on the right is the sketch. If you click on the sketch you will see a slightly larger version. The sketch is used with Ferdinand's permission. The sketch wasn't titled, thus I gave it one, "A Collaboration of the Artistic Vision's of Ham / Ferdinand in a Visually Compelling Forum." I thought about it for second and have now re-dubbed the sketch, "Rockin' Dennis."

I just wanted to take a moment in closing to thank Ron Ferdinand, who was much more gracious than he needed to be. That said, I am extremely grateful to him for the sketch, his upbeat responses and for allowing me the opportunity to share this little slice of Badfinger related nostalgia with everyone. Thus next time you see Mr. Wilson getting just a little agitated by Dennis's latest antics, allow yourself to ponder, "if only Mr. Wilson had some Badfinger in his hi-fi collection to allow himself to relax and appreciate his youthful neighbor." Enjoy!

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