To ex Marine and ex drag racer John Malcolm Penn the transition to a career in music seemed normal and logical. Why not race Tom McEwen, and then play music with his brother Richard? Or, when ‘Skinny’ Dennis Sanchez, a best friend and fuel dragster racing partner in earlier times, brings by a young songwriter working at the Dobro factory to back him up and record a six song demo. A songwriter by the name of Guy Clark.
Born in GlendaleCalifornia and raised in Long Beach and Idyllwild, music came early for John, playing piano, accordion, ukulele, singing in choir, and finally getting a guitar around the age of ten. Though musical influences were vast, it was time at what is now the Idyllwild Arts campus in the late 1950’s and Sam Hinton’s folk program that locked John into a lifelong love of folk and Americana music. Actually, a few hours with Brownie McGhee did the trick.
It wasn’t until in the military that John began writing his own songs of personal observation, angst, love, and hardship in Vietnam, and later honing his songcraft with a stint of staff and ‘work for hire’ writing for Screen Gems/Colgems productions. John began playing live about this time, developing into something of a ‘professional opening act’ on the west coast coffee house circuit and side ventures such as co founding the Cal State Long Beach Banjo, Fiddle & Guitar Festival in 1973. Numerous gigs with Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, backing Freddy Fender, and founding along with fellow singer/songwriter Steve Spurgin the ‘before their time’ group Old Glory, has allowed John to enjoy a unique and rich musical past. But it’s John’s music today that counts.
John is signed to Blue Night Records and his album, ‘Hangtown Fry’ was released in 2012, and his new album ‘Driftin’ River’ is due for release June 1, 2014.
Hangtown Fry – “This is a wonderful CD you guys have created. The recording, the mastering, the writing, singing, and multiple-instrument playing are superb; and the understated, ironic, "modal" feel of the thing is unwaveringly, unrelentingly powerful. This will kill my jaded, heard-it-all music friends, as well as the radio audience. It's a small masterpiece; I expected it to be good, but this is some kind of quiet, ironic, little masterpiece. I'm in awe.” -- Dan Crary