Hank Penny was one of western swing's most impish, playful performers, and also one of the fellows who had the deepest connections to the jump blues scene that blossomed alongside the postwar country boom. Penny regularly covered popular R&B tunes, and found his own songs picked up by blues bands (most notably, Louis Jordan's version of "Bloodshot Eyes"). Here's a quick look at his work...
Hank Penny "Crazy Rhythm: The Standard Transcriptions" (Bloodshot/Soundies, 2000)
What the heck are you waiting for? Go get this disc now. For sheer fun value, this is one fine record! Made up of old radio transcription recordings, this includes thirty all-killer tracks, ranging from bouncy, upbeat novelty tunes to quite pleasant romantic schmaltz. A hefty chunk of the songs are Hank Penny originals, and the other are pretty well chosen, top-notch material. All highly recommended.
Hank Penny "Hollywood Western Swing: 1944-1947" (Krazy Kat, 2000)
This collection was fairly disappointing -- especially in comparison to the Soundies disc reviewed above. I'm not sure why. The material is pretty good; mostly scrappy indie-label material with a heavy blues flavor. Maybe it's just the pacing of the disc. Or maybe I'm just nuts. But if you're a Hank Penny fan -- or even just curious -- you should check this disc out. Don't listen to me.
Hank Penny "The Penny Opus #1" (Jasmine, 2000)
Hank Penny "Flamin' Mamie: 1938-1941" (Krazy Kat, 2004)
Penny's early years during the rough-and-tumble birth of western swing, when blues and jazz collided with hillbilly stringband music... Cool historical document; when I check it out later, I'll give y'all a full review.
Hank Penny "Hillbilly Be-Bop -- The King Anthology: 1944-1950" (Westside, 2002)
Hank Penny "King Of Hillbilly Bebop" (Proper, 2005)
A budget-priced 2-CD set; not sure what the sound quality is like, but it's probably worth checking out if you haven't found any of the others listed above.
Hank Penny "Hank Penny Sings" (Audiolab, 1959) (LP)
Hank Penny "It's War Again! (Jazz War, That Is)" (NRC, 1961)
A kooky, mostly-instrumental concept album, with Hank Penny "duelling" with his saxophonist in a series of hillbilly-jazz tunes, in a supposed musical rematch of the American Civil War... Side One of the original album featured Southern-themed tunes like "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Is It True What They Say About Dixie," while Side Two showcased the North, on songs such as "Lullaby Of Broadway" "Yankee Doodle." Penny's country vibe seems pretty buried under all the big band-y pop-instrumentals, though the semi-rock sound is kind of intriguing.
Hank Penny "The Hank Penny Show -- On Stage" (Pen-Sound, 1967) (LP)
This souvenir album came out when Penny was leading a country variety show in Vegas... His cast included a gal singer named Shari Bayne, saxophonist Frank Maio and, most interestingly Merle Travis' son, Thom Bresh, playing guitar. Apparently Bresh briefly led the band himself, after Penny retired.
Hick Music Index