Denny Doherty was born in
Halifax, Nova Scotia. Doherty started his musical career there in 1956 with a band called the Hepsters, featuring his three friends Richard Sheehan, Eddie Thibodeau and Mike O'Connell. The group played at a number of clubs in the Halifax area and according to Sheehan they drew crowds wherever they went due to Denny's incredible voice. Two years later, they disbanded and then in 1960, still in their hometown, Doherty at the age of 19, along with
Pat LaCroix and
Richard Byrne, began a
folk group called The Colonials.
Columbia Records signed the group several months later, upon which time they changed their name to
The Halifax III. The band recorded two LPs and had a minor hit, "The Man Who Wouldn't Sing Along With Mitch", but broke up in 1963. Coincidentally, they separated at a hotel called "The Colonial" in Los Angeles.
In 1963, Doherty established a friendship with
Cass Elliot when she was with a band called "
The Big 3". While on tour with "The Halifax III", Doherty met
John Phillips and his new wife, model
A few months later, The Halifax III dissolved, and Doherty and their accompanist,
Zal Yanovsky, were left broke in Hollywood. Elliot heard of their troubles and convinced her manager to hire them. Thus, Doherty and Yanovsky joined the Big 3 (increasing the number of band members to four). Soon after adding even more band members, they changed their name to the "
Mugwumps"who soon broke up also due to insolvency after which Yanovsky went on to form
The Lovin' Spoonful with
About this time, John Phillips' new band, "The New Journeymen", needed a replacement for
Marshall Brickman. Brickman had left the folk trio to pursue a career in television writing, and the group needed a quick replacement for their remaining tour dates. Doherty, then unemployed, filled the opening. After the New Journeymen called it quits as a band in early 1965, Elliot was invited into the formation of a new band, which became "The Magic Cyrcle". Six months later in September 1965, the group signed a recording contract with
Dunhill Records. Changing their name to The Mamas & the Papas, the band soon began to record their debut album,
If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears. The Mamas & the Papas song "
Creeque Alley" briefly outlines this history.