DENNY HENNEN TOUCHED MANY LIVES
Denny Hennen Touched Many Lives
By Barry Courter – 8-6-17
Many Chattanoogans who came of drinking age in the 1970s and ’80s will forever remember Denny Hennen half-sitting, half-leaning on the city’s concrete garbage bin in front of Yesterday’s on Patten Parkway. He might have checked your ID to make sure you were old enough to get in, and he might not have, but he likely had a smile for you and if he knew you, a not-so-subtle insult.
Hennen, who with his brothers Tim and Johnny owned Yesterday’s, died Friday. (See complete obituary on page B2.)
For at least two generations, Yesterday’s was the place to get your first beer, hear a favorite band, take a date and dance into the wee hours. Yesterday’s was open for lunch and dinner, but it was as a nightclub that most Chattanoogans likely knew it. Denny was the guy in charge most nights.
“For many of us, going to Yesterday’s was a rite of passage,” said TV personality Chip Chapman.
“Lifelong friendships were forged there and many happy memories were made, both musically and otherwise. Denny didn’t just work at Yesterday’s, Denny was Yesterday’s. That place had a ‘Cheers’-like atmosphere with a bigger cast of characters … and Denny was the biggest character of all.
“Denny and the rest of the Hennen family fostered a familylike atmosphere. You might not have recognized that on your first visit, but two or three visits later, you got it. And once you got screamed at by Denny, or the infamous finger-wag and head shake, you simply knew you were a part of their extended family.”
Chapman served as emcee for a celebration of Hennen’s life four weeks ago at the Revelry Room. Friends and family filled the 500-seat venue and more people waited outside in hopes of getting in. The members of Overland, a popular local band that played Yesterday’s regularly, reunited for the occasion.
“Denny was the glue that held Yesterday’s together,” said singer/ bass player Keith Williams.
“He was always fun. He’d want you to toe the line and do your best, but he was fun.”
Williams, like Hennen is tall and thin. Williams remembers standing next to him one night when a customer looked up and said, “Hey, look, it’s the No. 11.”
“Denny just laughed and said, ‘Well, I guess he’s right.’”
“We were just like brothers. I’ve known him 40 years. We played golf together,” Williams said.
Hennen’s sister, Mary Helton, said the party meant a lot to her brother.
“He got to feel how many people loved him and really cared about him.”
Her husband, Keith Helton, said of his brother-in-law, “He really was so iconic. He is the face of Chattanooga nightlife for many people.”
Hennen also worked with Tim and with Johnny, who died last year, at Bone’s restaurant before taking a job at Budweiser of Chattanooga, a move that kept him connected to local bars and restaurants.
Actor Dennis Haskins grew up with Hennen.
“I knew Denny my whole life. From OLPH and Notre Dame as kids, to Yesterday’s, Bone’s, Budweiser and everywhere in between, he wasn’t just one of the Hennen’s, he was Denny Hennen! I’m blessed to have called him my friend!” Haskins said.
The family will receive friends from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday at First Tennessee Pavilion, 1826 Reggie White Blvd., with a service to follow.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.