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.
JAZZFEST DETROIT 11-26-2022
Time Start Artist Title Album Label Year
Mel Torme Sing For Your Supper Lulu’s Back In Town Bethlehem 1956
June Christy w/ Stan Kenton Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy Artistry In Rhythm Capitol 1946
Charlie Parker Carvin’ the Bird The Legendary Dial Masters v1 Stash 1947
Charles Earland Thanksgiving Stomp High Note 2000
Booker Ervin Sweet Pea The In Between Blue Note 1968
Ben Jannson Quintet Sweetie Pie Sweetie Pie PKO Records 2007
Kermit Ruffins Sugar Happy Talk Basin Street 2010
Wycliff Gordon Toast My Bread Originals Only v1 Nagel Heyer Records 2009
Christian McBride Big Band A Taste of Honey The Good Feeling Mack Avenue 2011
Wes Montgomery Fried Pies Boss Guitar Riverside 1963
Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis The Chef Cookbook v1 Prestige 1958
Troy Andrews Nora’s Cooking Trombone Shorty’s Swingin’ Gate Louisiana Red Hot 2002
Thelonious Monk Stuffy Turkey It’s Monk’s Time Columbia 1964
Lee Morgan Cornbread Cornbread Blue Note 1965
Cyrus Chestnut Cornbread Pudding Revelation Atlantic 1994
Charlie Parker Chasin’ the Bird The Savoy Recordings/Master Takes Savoy 1947
Lionel Hampton Turkey Hop pts 1 &2 Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra Decca 1950
Ray Bryant Trio Hot Turkey Hot Turkey Black and Blue 1975
Oscar Peterson Trio Gravy Waltz Live From Chicago Verve 1961
Roy Hargrove w/ Stanley Turrentine Soppin’ the Biscuit With The Tenors Of Our Time Verve 1994
Slim Gaillard Yip Roc Heresy Laughing In Rhythm: Best of Verve Years Verve 1951
Nat “King” Cole Frim Fram Sauce Makin’ Whoopee: Best Of Capitol 1945
Ralphe Armstrong Blue Mashed Potatoes Detroit Rising Ralphe Armstrong 2015
Johnny Bassett Sweet Potato Pie Bassett Hound Fedora 1997
RJ Spangler’s Blue Four Red Cherries The Bill Heid Sessions Eastlawn 2009
Paul Keller Cherry Jubilee The Michigan Jazz Suite PKO Records 2008
Pancho Sanchez Chile Con Soul Chile Con Soul Concord 1990
Sonny Stitt Soul Food Shangri-La Prestige 1964