He was a founding member and lead singer of The Moody Blues before Justin Hayward replaced him and the band took a different direction. In 1971, Paul and Linda McCartney recruited him to join their new band, Wings. That collaboration lasted ten years.
In between, Laine has recorded solo albums and worked with many of the biggest names in rock & roll. He spent much of his performance Sunday night at the City Winery dropping those names. He told stories of his interactions with McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Boy Williamson, Paul Simon, and many others with whom he worked and befriended over the years. It was an evening of music and storytelling, and Laine drew on his over six decades in the business to provide both.
He told a story of the beautiful French girls who failed to show up for a Paris date with him and Mike Pender. While waiting for the girls, Laine wrote "Boulevard De La Madeleine" - a song that peaked at #2 in France.
He told of touring with Sonny Boy Williamson, who inspired him to write "Bye Bye Bird" - an early Moody Blues hit.
He talked of writing "Deliver Your Children" for Wings and of McCartney's suggestion to add a Spanish guitar to the arrangement.
He told of showing two partial songs to McCartney, who suggested combining them. When Laine admitted he had no words yet for the tune, Paul told him to call it "No Words." Denny later wrote words around this title.
He related the tale of co-writing and recording the classic "Band on the Run" album in Nigeria. Robbers stole the rehearsal master tapes from McCartney at knifepoint as he walked to his room. Laine closed by playing "Band on the Run," inspiring the audience to sing along.
Although most of Mr. Laine's career involved collaboration with a band, he performed solo on this night, accompanying himself on guitar. The 78-year-old no longer has the vocal range he boasted in his youth, but no one can question his guitar playing.
Nearly all of the evening's music was written or co-written by Laine. But he did insert his interpretation of Paul Simon's "Richard Coury" - a song that Wings would sometimes play in concert.
Laine endeared himself to the sold-out audience by his playing and his personality. After nearly two hours performing, he remained on stage to chat, sign autographs, and pose for photographs with fans.