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Hank Penny Biography

Hank Penny Biography

Hank Penny (l) and Sue Thompson

Herbert Clayton Penny (born August 18, 1918 in Birmingham, Alabama; died April 17, 1992 in California of heart failure) was an accomplished banjo player and practitioner of western swing. He worked as a comedian best known for his backwoods character "That Plain Ol' Country Boy" on TV with Spade Cooley. He was married to country singer Sue Thompson from 1953-63.  Penny was the leader of the Radio Cowboys, which featured guitarist Julian Akins, steel guitarist Sammy Forsmark, tenor banjo player Louis Damont, bassist Carl Stewart, and vocalist, guitarist, and fiddler Sheldon Bennett in the 1930s. At WLW Radio in Cincinnati during World War II, Penny formed the Plantation Boys, which included fiddler Carl Stewart, guitarist/bassist Louis Innis, fiddler Zed Tennis, and lead guitarist Roy Lanham.  Penny had three hits on the Billboard Country Singles chart, all of which made it to #4: "Steel Guitar Stomp" (1946) an instrumental featuring both Noel Boggs on steel guitar and guitarist Merle Travis, "Get Yourself a Red Head" (1946), and his own composition "Bloodshot Eyes" (1950). A lifelong fan of jazz, Penny recorded "Hillbilly Be-Bop" for King Records in 1949 and included jazz oriented sidemen in his band including guitarists Jimmy Wyble and Benny Garcia. For a time in 1950 singer Jaye P. Morgan was part of his larger band known as the Penny Serenaders.  Along with Amand Gautier, Penny co-founded the Palomino Club in Hollywood in 1949. The club was open seven days a week, and on Monday nights, after the closing time, it was "open stage" to some of the most famous jazz musicians in the country.  In 1952, Penny began hosting his own local Los Angeles series, The Hank Penny Show, which was canceled after only seven weeks.  By 1954, Penny had moved to Las Vegas, where he began a seven-year run as a performer at the Golden Nugget casino, fronting a band which included the likes of steel guitar virtuoso Curly Chalker and later, Roy Clark, whose own comedy was influenced considerably by Penny's onstage comic timing.  Penny made an appearance with Peggy Conner on America 2-Night playing a country husband-and-wife singing duo called Buck and Harriet Pine. He is the father of actress Sydney Penny and his son, Greg Penny, has produced albums for Elton John and K.D. Lang.

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