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    Penn, Dan (16 November 1941 – Present)

    Engineer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, publisher and singer-songwriter from Vernon, Alabama, who grew up in a musical family that had a porch band, and was experimenting with the guitar when he was just nine years old.  He didn’t really take it seriously until injuries prevented him from playing on the high-school football team. 


    Instead, he pursued music and joined The Mark V Combo, along with David Briggs, Jerry Kerrigan, and Norbert Putnam.  They morphed into The Pallbearers and went to and from their gigs in a hearse.  The group relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, but Dan stayed put for a while and he and Spooner Oldham hung around Tom Stafford’s SPAR studio until he gave them a job. 


    Tensions flared between the upstart Penn and SPAR staffer Rick Hall, and Dan gave Tom an ultimatum which resulted in the dismissal of Hall.  No skin off Rick’s nose:  He promptly started up his own publishing house, Florence Alabama Musical Enterprises (FAME).  Ironically, one of his first hires was Dan Penn.  In 1960, Dan penned “Is a Bluebird Blue?” and it became a hit for Conway Twitty.  (It was remade by James Brown, of all people.) 


    He stayed with FAME for about four years but eventually relocated to Memphis, Tennessee, where he collaborated with Chips Moman at his American Recording Studio.  Dan was given extra production responsibilities, and flourished in his role as engineer-producer-songwriter. 


    In 1966, he and Spooner Oldham scored a top-ten hit when James & Bobby Purify recorded “I’m Your Puppet”.  Otis Redding barely missed the top forty with “You Left the Water Running”.  The top forty proved much less elusive in 1967:  Aretha Franklin reached #37 with “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man”; Percy Sledge peaked at #25 with “Out of Left Field”; James Carr entered the top ten with “The Dark End of the Street”; and, The Box Tops shot to the top of the charts with “The Letter”.  In 1968, they would reach #2 with “Cry Like a Baby” and The Sweet Inspirations cracked the top five with… well, “Sweet Inspiration”. 


    By 1970, Dan had enough clout to start his own publishing company and his songs continued to chart.  In 1971, Charlie Rich had a minor hit with “A Woman Left Lonely” and in 1972, Barbra Streisand covered “Sweet Inspiration”.  Dan released Nobody’s Fool in 1973 and then he and his wife moved to Nashville in 1974. 


    It would be almost two decades before he would set foot in a studio as a singer-songwriter, releasing Do Right Man in 1994.  He and Spooner Oldham toured in support of the album, eventually performing to packed houses in London, England.  They released a live album in 1999, entitled Moments From This Theatre. 


    The turn of the millennium saw the issuance of Blue Nite Lounge.  In 2005, Dan put on his producer’s hat again on the Bobby Purify album, Better to Have It.  Dan’s most recent release under his own name is 2008’s Junkyard Junky.  He has also worked with Julian Dawson on Deep Rain and produced works by The Hacienda Brothers and Greg Trooper.  Occasionally, you can catch him in the act live, as he has been playing some dates with Buddy Emmons. 


    Dan has written over three hundred songs and was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1991.


    Joe Stampley recordings

    Cry Like a Baby (Spooner Oldham/Dan Penn)



    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Penn
    2. http://www.danpenn.com/dan.htm
    3. http://www.hbdirect.com/album_detail.php?pid=133048
    4. http://www.danpenn.com/bluenite.htm
    5. http://www.danpenn.com/pressrel.htm
    6. http://www.alamhof.org/danpenn.html
    7. http://www.boxtops.com/btpenn.htm
    8. http://www.furious.com/perfect/pennoldham.html
    9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Box_Tops











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