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 6-18-2022
Time Start Artist Title Album Label Year
TS Monk Sierre Two Continents Under One Groove Storyville 2022
Jimmy Owens Tet’s Cool One The Monk Project IPO 2012
Jean Baylor and Jazzmeia Horn We Swing The Baylor Project Be A Light 2021
Joshua Redman Brad Meldhau Father Round Again Nonesuch 2020
The Jazz Crusaders Freedom Sound The Festival Album Pacific Jazz 1966
Ellis and Branford Marsalis Sweet Lorraine Loved Ones Columbia 1996
Charlie Gabriel I’m Confessin’ “””89” Sub Pop 2022
Jeremy Pelt Be The Light Soundtrack High Note 2022
Harold and Gayelynn McKinney Ode to Africa The New Beginning Detroit Music Factory 2018
Regina Carter Shoo Rye Souther Comfort Sony 2014
Clark Terry Serenade To A Bus Seat Serenade To A Bus Seat Prestige 1957
Cannonball Adderley One For Daddy-O Something Else Blue Note 1958
Ken Nordine My Baby The Best Of Word Jazz Rhino 1957
Rahsaan Roland Kirk A Laugh For Rory The Inflated Tear Atlantic 1968
Joey De Francesco Ashley Blue Organ-ized High Street 1999
Wynton Marsalis JALC Isaiah Thompson Hymn to Fredom A Handful of Keys Blue Engine 2017
Thad Jones Mel Lewis Orchestra “Ah, That’s Freedom” All My Yesterdays Resonance 1966
Bernard Purdie & Eddie Harris Freedom Jazz Dance Soul to Jazz ACT 1996
Miles & Steve Brown Evidence of Soul and Body Evidence of Soul and Body Detroit Music Factory 2019
Gerry Gibbs & Terry Gibbs Hey Chick Songs From My Father Whaling City 2021
Buddy & John Pizzarelli Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me Live At the Vineyard Theatre Challenge 1987
Horace Silver Caper Verdean Blues Cape Verdean Blues Blue Note 1966
Roy Eldridge Roy’s Son Best of Little Jazz Verve 1957