Though McPherson’s famous trombone player may be gone, his memory lives on through his long-running bands and their music.
Friends and band members of Denny Brunk will honor the late musician with a concert on Nov. 3 at the McPherson Opera House.
King Midas and the Mufflers and Marshall and the Memphis Kings, Brunk’s last two bands, will perform some of his favorite Elvis Presley and classic rock tunes.
“When we were in the hospital with him as he was dying, I talked to the others there who were close to him and we talked about how we have to memorialize him. The community is proud of their favorite sons and daughters — people who go off and achieve quite a bit and reach levels of success in their lives. Maybe the rest of the community didn’t have the opportunity to hear a lot about him,” explained Marshall Matthews, who performed with Brunk for 5 years in Marshall and the Memphis Kings. “At the funeral, we talked more about it and we all decided that yes, we do want to do this. We have to celebrate the mark this man left in life.”
Brunk was a musician and entertainer with local rock bands like the Shadows of Blue, the Red Dogs and the longest running rock band in Kansas, King Midas and the Mufflers. He also played with numerous big jazz bands and entertainers like Stan Kenton, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Harry James, Billy Vaughn, Ray Coniff, Roger Lewis, Ray Charles and Tony Bennett. As an actor, Brunk appeared in numerous movies including, “Jerry McGuire” and “For The Boys,” and TV shows like “Frazier,” “Married with Children”, “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Murder She Wrote,” “Full House” and “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Brunk passed away Aug. 28 at McPherson Hospital surrounded by friends and family. He attended Lincoln Elementary School, McPherson Junior High School and graduated from McPherson High School in 1968. He then attended Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, Wichita State University, Wichita and Kansas University.
“He had a spontaneous, dry sense of humor. If he was visiting with you backstage at concerts, he wanted to talk with you directly and really find out more about you. In that atmosphere, there’s people milling about and getting ready, but he could tune that noise out and would sit down and talk with you,” Matthews recalled. “He was a musician’s musician. We all want to get to our highest level of skill, but in music, it’s pretty evident what skill level you’re at. Denny was beyond the top level.”
The concert will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 at the opera house, 219 S. Main St. in McPherson. Tickets are $20 and are available at the opera house box office, online at http://mcphersonoperahouse.org or by calling 620-241-1952.
“We’re planning on leaving a chair on stage with his trombone on it to signify that we feel he’s there in spirit. I know I’ll feel him there in spirit and I find that very comforting,” Matthews said.
A portion of the proceeds will go toward creating an exhibit at the McPherson Opera House of Brunk’s achievements, and to the Denny Brunk Memorial Fund.
“Musicians have two things that are recognizable: their face and their instrument. Denny was a part of the fine arts in this community. One of the finest examples of the arts in McPherson is the opera house and Denny performed there many times,” Matthews said.
Plans for the exhibit include the display of Brunk’s trombone with photos and albums.
“As someone who was from there and was so well-known, he should be remembered and we thought a display like this would be appropriate,” Matthews said.
Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.