Denver was born in Bethune, Colorado, and had one brother, Willis. After graduating from high school, Denver attended college before choosing to pursue a career in show business. He worked as a drummer and band member until the start of World War II, when he entered the Merchant Marine. After the end of World War II, he began his film career and starred in several motion pictures throughout the 1950s and 1960s. His best known television role was Uncle Jesse in the series The Dukes of Hazzard. He died sadly of lung cancer on Christmas Day 1997.