BY RON WILLIAMS
Dan Penn, from Vernon, Al., and his longtime picking and writing partner Dewey Lindon ‘Spooner’ Oldham, of Center Star, Al. but who currently lives in Rogersville, will finally be inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony, which will also include the inductions of Candi Staton, Hank Locklin, Sun Ra and Charlie Monk, will be held in Birmingham at the BJCC Concert Hall on September 26 at 7 p.m.
Penn and Oldham were named one of the top songwriting duos by Paste Magazine back in 2009. Together, the two musical icons wrote many big hits, including the Bobby Purify classic ‘I’m Your Puppet’ as well as ‘Sweet Inspiration’. They performed shows together for years until Oldham started touring with rock icon Neil Young several years ago. Oldham is currently a member of Young’s wife’s band, Pegi Young. He shares the stage with guitarist Kelvin Holly of Muscle Shoals.
The duo will be inducted separately, even though they were a musical force together for many years, first in Memphis at American Studios, then in Muscle Shoals at Fame. Among Oldhams’ songwriting credits are ‘Lonely Women (Make Good Lovers)’ and many more. To Penn’s credit are ‘Do Right Man, Do Right Woman’ (made a hit by Aretha Franklin), ‘At The Dark End of the Street’ (a hit by Percy Sledge and many others), ‘Memphis Women & Fried Chicken’ and Conway Twitty’s first hit, ‘Is A Bluebird Blue’ (Penn wrote this song when he was only 16 years old).
Locally, Southernaire fans will remember the Big Ben Atkins hit, ‘Come On Over (There’s A Party Going On). Penn wrote it as well. Back in 2010, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors and others honored Penn locally for his nearly 50 years of songwriting/performing and producing. A resolution was issued by the board. Harry Sanders presented Penn the plaque at a 12 Man Supper Club meeting. (Penn, Frank Cannon and I have written four songs together since. Penn has plans of including some of our songs on a future CD, if all goes well. RW)
Rodney Hall, who now runs Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, is the chairman of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Tuesday, Hall (who is the son of Rick Hall, the founder of Fame Studios back in the late 60’s during the heyday) said that he’s proud to induct Penn and Oldham to the AMHOF. “It’s been a long time coming” said Hall. “I couldn’t be happier to be involved with inducting Dan an Spooner. It is wonderful to induct them separately as they both deserve to be recognized for their work together as well as the amazing things they have done separately”.
Penn has performed in Columbus many times over the past few years. Columbus has always been a favorite for him because, as a young teen growing up in Vernon, he often made the short trip to Lowndes County to the “big city of Columbus’ Penn still has many friends in this area.
In addition to the upcoming AMHOF induction, Oldham was inducted into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Oldham was inducted by David Letterman musical sidekick Paul Shaffer. Oldham has also been performing on the annual Delbert McClinton Sandy Beaches Cruise that sets sail in January. He is set to perform on that venue once again next January for SBC 20.
Penn still resides in Vernon. He also owns a home, with his wife Linda, in Nashville where he has a recording studio in his basement. Hall recently released a CD of material with Dan Penn’s early Fame recordings, many never heard or released before.