Nfld. & Labrador

Bryan Hennessey, actor and pioneer of St. John's rock and roll, dies at 72

Hennessey was a founding member of the Wonderful Grand Band, and appeared in both theatre and television productions across Newfoundland and Labrador.

Hennessey was a founding member of the Wonderful Grand Band

St. John's actor and musician Bryan Hennessey died Friday at the age of 72. (Mark Critch/Facebook)

Bryan Hennessey, a musician and actor who brought both laughter and tears to audiences across Newfoundland and Labrador, has died.

Hennessey, who died Friday at 72, was a founding member of the Wonderful Grand Band, along with names like Ron Hynes and Sandy Morris. Known for playing piano and electric bass, his work goes as far back as the Grand Band's original work on a prior series called The Root Cellar.

Fiddler Kelly Russell remembers working with Hennessey during the beginnings of the band, along with watching him perform in bands like Philadelphia Cream Cheese Band.

"He was one of the early pioneers of rock and roll here in St. John's," Russell told CBC Radio's On The Go on Friday. "People like Noel Dinn and Sandy Morris and Derek Pelley and Neil Bishop … Bryan has been right there, all the way through.

"Very pleasant and very intelligent. Always had a lot of really good insights into things.… He never stressed over anything."

Hennessey was a founding member of the Wonderful Grand Band, along with Ron Hynes, Kelly Russell, Sandy Morris, Glenn Simmons and Rocky Wiseman. (Submitted by Sandy Morris)

Hennessey also made a name for himself as an actor in the St. John's area, appearing both on stage and in TV shows and films, including Republic of Doyle and The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood.

Actor Aiden Flynn worked with Hennessey over the years and remembers him as a skilled performer with a sharp mind.

"He didn't suffer fools, but he loved foolish things," Flynn said. "Especially when we were doing rehearsals and shows like that, he was a great lover of a wonderful prop.… He was creative, he was inventive. He's just a giant in theatre.

"He could hold a look on you for what seemed like forever, and he could bring the audience to tears and to laughter almost in one go.… Bryan was a very significant contributor to the arts here."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go