Darnell also known as Duggie
Dean, was born Douglas Owen White on
May the 29th 1935 in HAMPSTEAD - LONDON, and was raised in the
of PARKEND in the Forest Of
His father - also Douglas ( known as Doug White ) was an entertainer well known throughout the forest and surrounding areas. At a very early age Jason played the piano to accompany his father, also he would sing the occasional song as part of the act. He had brief spell as a petrol pump attendant, then working in the local saw mill before joining the Royal Air Force on the day of The Queens Coronation (all servicemen joining on that day received a commemorative shilling. )
Duggie Joined the ROYAL AIR FORCE
John and Duggie - R A F BAND
his years in the R.A.F he was posted to St Athens near
Glamorganshire, he performed in the camp shows, and his
style was becoming a firm favourite with all who heard him sing.
It was during this time that he met JOHN SMITH – (later of national newspaper fame) and NIGEL COUSINS, they formed a close harmony trio, Nigel decided to leave shortly afterwards, but Duggie and John (now known as JOHNNIE) persevered and sang very successfully under the name “THE BOYS IN BLUE” Duggie was demobbed after 3 years, but Johnnie had to stay a further year to complete his R.A.F. training.
Duggie & Johnnie "JOHNNIE & DUGGIE DEAN"
started work at THE ROATH FURNISHING Co in
BARRY ISLAND, and worked there until Johnnie was demobbed a year later.
During this year they appeared at many of the South Wales clubs, and performed regularly on a Radio shows broadcast from Cardiff.
In order to give the act a touch of glamour, they asked talented local beauty JUNE TAYLOR to join them as their accompanist at the piano – both Johnnie and Duggie fell madly in love with her – she married Johnnie, and they are still happily married today.
After all the experience gained performing in the local clubs and radio shows, it was decided that they should turn professional, and they chose the name “JOHNNIE AND DUGGIE DEAN” – theatre posters billed them as “ YOUNG AND FOOLISH” They performed close harmony – comedy songs and topical parodies written by the them, and a firm favourite with audiences were their realistic impressions of the great artists of the day.
They were in great demand for cabaret bookings, as well as touring the American Air Force e bases, and the UK variety circuit was asking them to perform all over the country, one of their first theatre bookings was at the famous venue - CITY VARIETIES LEEDS, this was a resounding success, and the bookings poured in every day . Johnnie was torn between a career in show business and his passion for journalism, he decide to follow his dream and left the act for Fleet Street.
Duggie then joined THE MIKE SAMMES SINGERS and was booked for Pantomime in Hanley Staffordshire, the Pantomime was GOODY TWO SHOES and stared REG DIXON and TOMMY FIELDS (Gracie Fields brother ).
It was during this time that Duggie and ROGER DEACON met, singing around a piano in a pub after the show. Their voices blended perfectly, Roger had an excellent voice, and was one of the best comedy impressionists in the UK , Duggie asked Roger to join him, as he still had bookings for the double act set up with Johnnie, and as luck would have it Johnnies Blue suit was a perfect fit for Roger, and so what was to become one of the most successful double acts in Britain was born – “DEACON & DEAN”
From the moment they teamed up success came their way , and they were booked to appear at theatres from one end of the country to the other. They were in great demand by the then famous MOSS EMPIRE THEATRES, performing with artists such as ADAM FAITH – GENE PITNEY – TOMMY STEELE and they were also regulars on the BBC Televisions Show - WHISTLE STOP.
They were booked to entertain the UK troops, and to tour the American bases abroad with the glamorous singer – YANA. After this trip around Europe, their agent – HARRY HARBOUR of MCA agreed to them signing up with EVELYN TAYLOR, at that time Eve Taylor managed SANDIE SHAW – ADAM FAITH & JACKIE TRENT.
Several West End cabaret dates and theatre bookings followed, including London’s famous – WINDMILL THEATRE – the theatres slogan was “WE NEVER CLOSE”.
DEACON & DEAN were performing six shows a day, then on to sing at three night clubs including –THE JACK OF CLUBS.
DEACON & DEAN still hold the record
of being the only double act to appear in two consecutive seasons at
WINDMILL THEATRE )
SHEILA VAN DAMM wanted them to stay on for longer, but they had been offered a sixteen week summer season booking to top the bill at THE FLORAL PAVILION THEATRE NEW BRIGHTON on the Wirral. The Liverpool and Cheshire audiences loved them, and before the season had finished they had bookings every week for the next twelve months, including cabaret and pantomime.
DEACON & DEAN were an immediate hit in pantomime, creating and bringing their own brand of humour to the traditional “Chinese Policemen” in ALADDIN. They were booked to perform at THE NEW THEATRE HULL for four successive years. ( another record in those days )
It was then off to ST HELLIER in JERSEY to work with FRANKIE HOWARD, and then SHANI WALLIS ( Nancy in the film Oliver ) After changing their name to "DEAN & CHAPTER" for a short while, Roger and Duggie decided it was time to go their own way, so at the end of the season the act finished, and they both pursued their own solo careers .
Duggie With "SHANI WALLIS"
"Deacon & Dean" SKEGNESS
Duggie now using the name DUGGIE DEAN was immediately booked for a season at the prestigious LONDON MAYFAIR HOTEL, his powerful singing voice and his smooth style were exactly right for cabaret, and he sang regularly at all the major clubs throughout the U.K . His good friend ROY CASTLE gave him a parody song which he had used to open the show at THE LONDON PALLADIUM to use as his opening number.
The next eighteen months were spent touring the UK with appearances in big productions with artists such as ROY CASTLE - THE KAY SISTERS - DANNY WILLIAMS and THE PATTEN BROTHERS. Duggie joined the cast of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM - first with DAVE KING, and then with ROY HUDD the show played all the major theatres in the UK, and was a resounding success.
Then it was back into cabaret again, and after finishing a show in Manchester, he was greeted by a warm handshake by one of the audience, and the man said how much he had enjoyed Duggies performance, and would like to buy him a drink. They chatted for a while, then the gentleman made his excuses and said he had to leave as he had a show to do himself. The owner of the club came up and said to Duggie - you don't see that very often, that guy who you have been chatting to is COUNT BASIE.
He was then asked to top the bill on the P&O EMPRESS CRUISE LINERS, his music was played by THE ERIC WINSTONE ORCHESTRA, - and it was on one of his cruises to Canada that he changed his stage name to JASON DARNELL.
On one memorable cruise, he met PRINCE RANIER and his wife and children, PRINCE ALBERT asked for his autograph, and Jason then sang a duet with GRACE KELLY – it was the song TRUE LOVE (from her film with BING CROSBY)
Cruises to AUSTRALIA were Jason’s favourite – he met his future manager and producer IAN McCALLUM on one of these trips, and he was invited to appear on the TV show NEW FACES, which he won first place representing SYDNEY. Later on another visit to AUSTRALIA he represented MELBOURNE, and once again won first place.
He was then engaged to perform throughout the - FEDERAL HOTEL CIRCUIT – the No 1 hotel chain in Australia, he gained a lot of fans and good friends on this tour, and Jason was then signed by FESTIVAL RECORDS and released his first record for them the song was the powerful ballad - LOVE IS ALL – his recording was requested and played regularly on all the popular radio shows week after week. The “B” side of the record was - SAIL ALONG SILV’RY MOON – which topped the charts, and was particularly popular with listening audiences in TASMANIA. So popular was Jason in TASMANIA, and he was so taken with the people and scenery, he left Melbourne and moved to his new home in HOBART.
After a few enjoyable years in HOBART, which included hosting his own weekly TV and Radio shows, he returned to SYDNEY where he was asked to appear as special guest on all the big Saturday night Television shows in MELBOURNE – ADELAIDE – BRISBANE – PERTH and SYDNEY.
Jason was then asked to star as “PRINCE CHARMING” in SNOW WHITE by THE RUDAS ORGANISATION, he was booked for two weeks, but was then asked to stay on and tour with them. This tour lasted for many years, and traveled the whole of AUSTRALIA – TASMANIA and NEW ZEALAND.
"PRINCE CHARMING" on tour in SNOW WHITE
Jason retired from his singing career in 2009 due to ill health, and he now lives on the Wirral peninsula overlooking Liverpool Bay, and The Irish Sea.
His long and successful career has taken him around the world many times, and he has made many good friends who still keep in touch with him.
Thank you for your interest in JASON DARNELL, and we hope you have enjoyed finding out more about him and his career.