A DAN PENN CAT TALE
by JD Wyker
Conway Twitty's version of "Is A Bluebird Blue" was real important to Dan Penn...or should I say Wallace Pennington..It was the first real money he made as a songwriter!
I was lucky enough to have been at Spar Music above City Drug Store in Florence, Alabama the day that young Dan Penn got his first check from that recording...it was also the first time that I ever laid eyes on Penn...I was writing songs for Spar and Tom Stafford was giving me some positive criticism on some of my lyrics..and then he started telling me about this great new songwriter and singer that he was workin' with..he said he had just come up from Vernon, Alabama...and his real name was Wallace Pennington ..but he was using the pen name..Dan Penn...I believe Dan was 16 years old at the time...Stafford was going on about what a cool cat Penn was....it was about that time that I heard footsteps climbing the inside stair well...and the door flew open and BAM! In walked young Dan Penn..
He was dressed in a brown leather jacket..I call them bomber jackets ..but without a fur collar...he had a white T-Shirt on and blue denim jeans.probably Levis..and a pair of brown leather house shoes..Penn was famous for years later for wearing house shoes instead of regular footwear...Somebody once asked Dan what his definition of funky was and he said "Funky is anythang that you ain't supposed to do... but you can get a way with "...For me those house shoes were the beginning of FUNKY ! I hungout with Dan and Spooner a lot back in The Time and I'd drive up to visit them years later when they both moved to Memphis and the house shoes were still apart of his dress code and Penn's funky cool thang...
Back to that first sighting a at Spar...we were formally introduced later that same night...Dan was also wearing a hat..it was what we called a black stingy brim hat ..much like The Blues Brothers would make famous many years later...Penn wore sunglasses at night..and it inspired me to do the same thang He was a very talented cat ...to be able to juggle all that stuff in one mouthful...I was amazed...Penn's right hand was all bandaged up...gauze covered 2 or 3 fingers and wrapped up around his wrist...He was walkin' down the hall of Spar..which was a real small place and somebody...I think it was Norbert or Briggs or Carrigan yelled at Dan and asked him "What happened to your hand Dan ?" ...Penn replied " KNIFE FIGHT !..and never missed a beat as he spit his gum like a bullet from the barrel of a pistol into a waiting metal garbage can...PING ! The gum hit the can!
Tom Stafford picked an envelope up off of his desk and looked at Dan and said "Come here Dan..I 've got your first check for Conway's cut on "Is a Bluebird Blue"...again Dan never broke stride as he fired back.."Good I need to buy me a new car cause that old used car I'm drivin' just blew an engine ! " Tom asked him how that happened and Dan fired back.."Draggin' for pink slips !"
Dan Penn was one of the original inventors of cool ! He had an attitude that made him stand out from the rest of the pack ... and back then he seemed to be much older and wiser than his years!
A true Cat Tale as told by John D. Wyker
John D. Wyker is an Alabama music icon, having worked in Muscle Shoals and in Macon at Capricorn. His band Sailcat charted in 1972 with "Motorcycle Mama" and he was a close personal friend of Eddie Hinton. Wyker also wrote "Baby Ruth," recorded by Delbert McClinton, among others.