Saturdays | 7 – 10 pm
John Penney was born and raised in Ithaca, New York, and began hosting and programming weekly jazz and folk music programs on student owned commercial radio station WVBR-FM at the age of 15.
In 1967 WVBR became one of the first FM radio stations in the country to program “progressive rock.” John was instrumental in the creation of the format and became one of WVBR’s most popular on-air personalities, frequently featuring live studio performances on his show. He served as Music Director beginning in 1970, and continued to program jazz, folk, and rock programs through 1971.
In 1978, at the age of 25, John became the National Promotion Director of Amherst Records in Buffalo, New York, where he was instrumental in establishing the career of the platinum selling band Spyro Gyra. He also became the most popular jazz host on public radio WBFO, as measured by Arbitron and listener donations.
In 1984 John moved to Detroit as the Michigan Regional Representative for Action, and in 1989 was hired by Warner Elektra Atlantic as a sales rep. During his 15 year career with WEA John gained a national reputation as a creative and innovative marketer, among other things designing and executing the company’s first regional catalog promotion with Wal-Mart, which was used to leverage the first national event.
John joined the air staff of public radio WDET-FM in Detroit in 1986 as host of a music variety program. John pioneered the concept of presenting “all the varieties of music” in such a way as to demonstrate the continuity between diverse musical forms by making the connection between current and historic recordings. His program became one of the most popular on the air.
John is a popular and sought after MC for live events, and for years was a fixture on stage at the Detroit Jazz Festival in Hart Plaza. He helped to create an innovative format for radio broadcasts of the festival, and served as national co-anchor for five years. John began his association with the AMRF in 2004 when Ron Harwood asked him to MC the 6th Annual Motor City Boogie Woogie and Blues Festival. He became consultant/Director in September of 2005. John is also collaborating with Ron on a book about the life and times of classic blues singer Sippie Wallace and her siblings.
Don’t miss John’s 13-part series about Detroit’s contributions to the world of jazz. Hear “Jazz City” Tuesdays at 7p and Sundays at 9p only on WRCJ 90.9 FM.
Artist Title Album Label
-Nat “King” Cole Trio On the Sunny Side of the Street Complete Radio Transcriptions Blue Note
-Illinois Jacquett Canadian Sunset Desert Wins Verve
-Roy Haynes Milestones Roy-Alty Dreyfuss Jazz
-Eddie Harris w/ Wendell Harrison Tenor Madness The Battle of the Tenors Enja
-Barbara Morrison I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water Live At the Dakota Dakota Live
-Gary Burton New Quartet Common Ground Common Ground Mack Ave.
-Joshua Redman Chill Moodswings Warner Bros
-Mulgrew Miller Wingspan Wingspan Landmark
-Yellowjackets Facing North Raising Our Voice Mack Ave.
-Michigan Jazz Masters Wide and Blue Urban Griots MJM
-Jazzmeia Horn People Make the World Go Round Social Call Concord
-Chick Corea Spanish Heart Band Armando’s Rumba Antidote Concord
-Miles Davis & The Modern Jazz Giants Bags Groove Bags Groove Prestige
-Andy Bey There’s So Many Ways to Approach the Blues The World According To Any Bey HighNote
-Mike LeDonne Lined With A Groove Partners In Time Savant
-Detroit Tenors The One Before This Detroit Tenors Detroit Music Factory
-Joe Williams w/ Thad Jones Mel Lewis Orch When I Take My
-Sugar Out to Tea Presenting Joe Williams With… Solid State
-Harry Edison and his Orchestra Studio Call Sweets Verve
-Bill Charlap Trio The Satellite Uptown Downtown Impulse
-Louis Smith Ande Here Comes Louis Smith Blue Note
-Stan Getz Quartet Summertime Getz au GoGo Verve
-Randy Weston Little Niles Little Niles Blue Note
-David Sanborn Ramblin’ Upfront Elektra
-Thad Jones Mel Lewis Big Dipper All My Yesterdays Resonance
-Yao/Smith/Hughs Sextet I75 @ 5 The Gates Shifting Paradigm