Updated May 30, 2008
"OOBY DOOBY": A DICK PENNER SONG!
Dick and Dave, December 26, 1953
For sure, lots of us enjoyed the movie "Walk The Line", but how many had noticed all those 50's Sun recordings played in the
background as by Billy Lee Riley or Dick Penner? I wonder how many watchers noticed "Bop Bop Baby" sung by Dick Penner and Wade
Moore? That record was issued by Sam Phillips (Sun 269), in April 1957, under the name of Wade & Dick "The College Kids" but
their contribution to the Rockabilly Sound was more important than you might believe
as they were the original composers of ...
"Ooby Dooby". Let me tell you Dick Penner's story.
(Right: Never before published 1953 photo)
Allen Richard (Dick) Penner was born in Chicago (IL) in 1936 shortly before his family moved to Texas. As soon as 1953, he
started having local gigs with a musical partner named Dave Young. Together they performorned at the Big D Jamboree doin' some Johnny
and Jack songs. Dick enrolled into North Texas State University in Denton (TX) where he met, in 1955, Wade Lee Moore.
Wade was born in Amarillo in 1933. Soon they found their way to The Big D Jamboree were they sang 25th June 1955, two
classic R'n'B songs "Hey, Miss Fanny" and "Dance with Me Henry". That day they shared the stage with Charline Arthur, Sonny James
and Jimmy Patton to name a few. One week earlier, they were probably there too as Dick remember well Elvis coming late on stage
after a date in West Texas. They also played various dates in Hope (AR), Little Rock (AR) and Dallas (TX).
The North Texas State University was a real cradle of rock'n'roll singers. Among the pupils were Roy Orbison, The Strikes, Bob
"Git It" Kelly and even ... Pat Boone. In February 1955, Wade and Dick composed "Ooby Dooby", in fifteen minutes on the roof of
the frat house, but nothing happened even when Roy Orbison recorded the song. That demo was sent to Don Law, a Columbia Records
representative, in vain with "Hey, Miss Fanny" as B-side. However, Roy and The Teens Kings keep faith on the song and they will
often perform it on stage. Soon Weldon Rodgers, himself a great singer, wanted to set a up session in Norman Petty's studio in
December 1955. "Ooby Dooby" b/w "Tryin' to Get to You" was issued on JE-WEL 101. That label was named from the first letters
Jean Olivier (daughter of Weldon's label associate) and Weldon. The record was manufactured in Phoenix (AR) and, in spite of good
sales, Roy Orbison was still lookin' around for fame and fortune on a major label.
At last, Roy's demo/record came between the hands of Sid King and The Five Strings who recorded the song for Columbia, on 5th
March 1956. The session in Dallas and worked fine. One month earlier, as the same band had covered Carl Perkins "Blue
Suede Shoes". Sam Phillips should have watching for them next record. In spite of the JE-WEL contract, Sam Phillips took on Roy
and his band. A battle followed in court and the JE-WEL contract was cancelled as not signed by Roy's folks because he was still
underage. The JE-WEL records had to be released from the records shops too. That's now a real rare record often gets bootlegged. So be
aware if you are looking for one vintage copy.
On 27th March 1956, a Roy Orbison's session was at 706 Union Avenue. Sam Phillips was disappointed by the result and gave a
phone call to Weldon Rogers in order to buy the JE-WEL master. Weldon asked for a so high price than Sam Phillips issued what he
got on the Sun 242. In June 1956, "Ooby Dooby" climbed to #59 in Billboard's Hot 100 and quickly sold over 500 000 copies.
Some covers followed, the better being recorded by Rockabilly Queen Janis Martin for RCA records.
The "Ooby Dooby" success led Sam Phillips to sign Dick Penner and Wade Moore on his label. On 10th September 1956, a composer
contract for two songs was signed between Sam and Dick Penner. On the same date, an artist contract was signed between Sam and
Dick & Wade for one year with an option and eight sides to be recorded. That contract offered 3% royalty to the artists. On
16th December 1956, they recorded "Bop Bop Baby" issued on Sun 269 b/w "Don't Need you Lovin'". The record was on the
market in April 1957 becoming the release on Sun Records after Warren Smith's "Miss Froggie". That's "Bop Bop Baby" you heard in
"Walk The Line"! Other songs from the session were a solo version of "Don't Need Your Lovin' Baby" by Dick and "Wild Woman", a
song they often did on stage. On those four recordings the backing is provided by The College Kids (often spelled The Kollege
Kids) the insicive guitar is played by Bob Izer with the support of Don Hicky (bs) and Roger Berkley (drums).
A solo session for Dick Penner was on 19th February 1957 and "Cindy Lou" b/w "Your Honey Love" (Sun 282) would be his last
record on the legendary Memphis label. That record was issued 3th November 1957, the same day than Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Ball of
Fire" single (Sun 281).
In the mid 70's, two unissued songs "Fine Little Baby" b/w "Move Baby Move" were legally issued in France
from the famous Sun label (Sun 615). Since then Dick Penner's recorded work is featured in countless Rockabilly records and even a new
vinyl singles. The Norton label released "Move Baby Move" in 2005. For that session, the only member change was Don Gilliland on
guitar instead Bob Izer.
In 1958, Dick Penner, then with a record on his own, appeared on the Louisiana Hayride, at The Big D Jamboree and even on Dick
Clark's show. But, after a six month stay in the army, he made the choice to get back at the University and to become
literature professor at the University of Tennessee.
Dick Penner's longterm friend, Susan, is a retired Professor of History and an artist.
His older son, Richard, is a sales engineer for Trane Co., and will compete in the Ironmay
triathalon in Austria, in July, 2007. His younger son, Gregory, is co-owner of a
busing company, and is an accomplished song writer, vocalist, and guitarist. Dick is
grateful to have five grandchildren.
Now Dick is retired, travelling around the world and taking very artistic pictures, but his music is still played worldwide.
"Ooby Dooby" is a classic song and was even covered by "Creedence Clearwater Revival" in the late 60's. Recently, Jerry Naylor (a
former member of The Crickets) released a set a wonderful collection of CD's and a double DVD titled "The Rockabilly Legends: A Tribute to
My Friends". Here you will find first class stuff from Carl Perkins to Gene Vincent via Roy Orbison to name few of the performers
featured. And, guess why ... you will heard loud and clear "Ooby Dooby" by Roy but also performed by Jerry Naylor, as tribute.
Backed by first class musicians, Jerry offers a great and fresh rendition of that classic ... Wade & Dick song!
It was cool to heard them on "Walk The Line" 'cause behind the Sun's Kings there was a lot of foot soldiers who deserve more
recognition for their valuable work. Among them Billy Lee Riley, Mack Self or Kenny Parchman to name a few. Let's enjoy the
musical work of those "unknown legends" and Rock for one more century.
Brest Rock'n'Roll Appreciation Society.
Follow-Up Post by Camille Daddy
DICK PENNER VISIT PARIS
"Sun" record legend, Dick Penner was in Paris (France) with his friend Susan, from May 6
to May 19, 2008 for some holidays. Dick, retired professor of literature at the University
of Tennessee in 1999, and Susan, retired professor of history were here to enjoy museums
and historic places. They are quite world travellers having yet visited Nova Scotia,
Holland, Belgium, Greece and, once, France in June 2006. Being in touch with Dick since
November 2004 and having worked his Rockabilly Hall of Fame web page in August 2006, I was
just a "never seen friend". So we set a friendly meeting in the oldest café in Paris, Le
Procope, for a luncheon on May 12, 2008. What a thrill to be in front of Saint Michael's
fountain waiting for those friends from Tennessee with a couple of records sleeves and my
camera because when I was a teenager I was buyin' my first rock'n'roll records on shops
located near that place ... and I still do! I bought my Dick Penner's Sun 615 "Fine Little
Baby"/"Move Baby Move", from Charlie Barbat, not far from that place around 1978. Then it
cost me frs.15,00 what made $ 3.50 in US money. Then I was working for $ 1.50 an hour what
mean I had to work over two hours to get that little piece of 45 rpm's vinyl. I had heard
complaint about records being too expansive today ... I wonder how many people still work or
are ready to work two hours to get two songs. Different times but, for sure, still a deep
passion for 50's music who explain how some of my dreams could came true 30 years later.
The first "Sun" cat I ever meet in Paris was Warren Smith in November 1979 and then I
carried my "Miss Froggie" 78 rpm's. For that new meeting, I bring my Charly 501 ten inches
record "Rock It, Baby, Rock" were Dick is featured with two songs. Great sleeve with a pic
from that classic 1957 movie and Dick' name in front. I will have it back at home
autographed even if in March 2005 Dick wrote me "Enclosed is another signed record sleeve
for you. This is the last one that I wish to autograph". Ah, Ah! Buddy, you never now what
future could bring to you. Some things are just matter of time and love. Then Dick
probably thought there was monkey business goin' on cause how a French guy could have so
many records and still care for those 50's recordings?
After a short walk, we took our table at Le Procope were we could enjoy many vintage books
and old letters in display. That café, who opened in 1686, had among his customers
Benjamin Franklin, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau or Alfred de Musset. How can we find a
better place for retired professors of literature and history? Le Procope is a real
historic place just like "Sun" studio on 706 Union Avenue in Memphis but for different
kind of art.
Allen Richard (Dick) Penner, born in 1936, had a lot to tell us about his musical journey
that brings him and his partner Dave Young at The Big D Jamboree in 1953. They used to do
Johnny & Jack's songs with some comedy routines. A couple of years later, at the Denton's
North Texas State University, he will meet and team with Wade Moore as Wade and Dick.
Together they wrote in February 1955, the classic rock'n'roll song "Ooby Dooby" who find
his way to Roy Orbison's ears. Then Dick loved the Rhythm and Blues sound and he still
thinks Clyde McPhatter voice being unsurpassed. "Money Honey" is one of the first R'n'B
song he remember and he often played on stage "Dance With Me Henry" or "Hey, Miss Fanny",
an original from The Clovers. Talking about that group he even sang us acapella part of
"One Mint Julep", another of them classic song.
Dick helped Roy Orbison and the Wink Westerners to have a demo of "Ooby Dooby" and "Hey,
Miss Fanny" recorded at Jim Beck's studio in Dallas and sent to Don Law at "Columbia"
records. That demo failed for Roy but find his way on Sid King & The Five Strings hands
who recorded "Ooby Dooby" for Columbia records on March 5, 1956. Dick really digs that
version with a bass voice intro and great vocal acrobatics.
During 1955, Wade and Dick guested the WFAA-TV Show in Dallas and made several
appearances at The Big D Jamboree. They played there with Joe Poovey, Charline Arthur,
Sonny James and Elvis Presley on June 18, 1955. Dick remembers well Elvis being late on
stage after travelling from a date in Stamford (West Texas), the previous day.
Finally, Roy Orbison got "Ooby Dooby" cut in Norman Petty's studio and issued on "Je-Wel
101" backed with "Tryin' To Get To You", a song recorded by Elvis at "Sun" but not issued
then. That record was issued on March 19, 1956 and "Ooby Dooby" came to Sam Phillips
attention through Cecil Pop' Holifield who operated the Record Shop in Midland and Odessa
(Tx). Sam saw here a novelty song that could get some attention so he brings Roy, then
underage, out of his "Je-Wel" contract. On March 27, 1956, Roy and The Teen Kings were
booked at Sun to re-cut the song and "Go, Go, Go", as B-side, whose copyrights were
assigned to Hi-Lo Music. The song was soon breaking in Memphis and other market climbing
to #59 in Billboard's Hot 100. Roy hit the road as part of package show headlined by
Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Dick said about Carl Perkins: I agree about the importance
of Carl Perkins to the development of Rockabilly and Rock and Roll. His sound was truly
unique. I loved Blue Suede Shoes in the 50's.
The "Ooby Dooby" success led Sam to sign Dick Penner and Wade Moore on his records label
in September 1956. On Dec 16, 1956 they were on studio to record four sides but only "Bop
Bop Baby" and "Don't Need Your Lovin'" (Sun 269) were issued on April 1957. "Someday Baby"
and "Wild Woman" stayed in the vaults. "Bop Bop Baby" was reviewed in Billboard (May 27,
1957) as a strong selling job with a rhythmic message that should appeal to the kids.
Since that song became a classic Sun Rockabilly song and was used in Johnny Cash's movie
"Walk The Line" in 2006. Susan still remembers how she was thrilled when Knox Phillips,
Sam's son, called them on the phone, in 2005, for using "Bop Bop Baby" in the movie.
A solo session for Dick Penner was set on February 19, 1957 to record four new sides. Two
of them, "Cindy Lou" and "Your Honey Love", were issued on Sun 282 in November 1957.
Unfortunately, at the same time Jerry Lee Lewis "Great Ball of Fire" (Sun 281) was
marketed and probably overshadowed Dick's record. Nevertheless, Dick was doin' well play
the Big D Jmaboree and Dick Clark's show in June 1958. He also remembers playing a package
show, probably in February 1957, with Gene Vincent in Shreveport. He remembers Gene like
having very greasy hair and looking like a Zoot suiter with broad lapels on his coat witch
was cut long. They played again together in March 1958 at Fort Worth North Side Coliseum
that time with Gene Summers, Dee and Patty and Al Jones. Thanks for that info Gene and
good luck for your "Reminisce Café" CD!
wever after a six month months stay in the US Army, he made the choice to get back at
the University and become literature professor. Nevertheless, his song was still covered
in the 60's by Ronnie Hawkins, Mat Lucas or Creedence Clearwater Revival. In 1979,
legendary Rockabilly pioneer Charlie Feather recorded his own version and even named his
pet dog "Ooby Dooby". Recently, Jerry Naylor recorded his own cover of that song for his
CD's "The Rockabilly Legends: A Tribute to My Friends" and Bobby Lollar, a vintage 50's
rocker, used the song title in his fine tribute to the pink & black days titled "I'm
Reliving The 50's".
Dave and Deke covered the "Sun" unissued recording "Wild Woman" and Dick's Sun 615 "Fine
Little Baby"/"Move Baby Move" is now a much sought after collector item being issued only
at 1100 copies in 1977. In September 2006, for Susan's 50th High School reunion, they
visited Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame where is set a reproduction of "Sun"
studio. Here Dick got one record in display ... but was not allowed to take any picture.
Before leaving Le Procope to enjoy a fly boat cruise on the river Seine, Dick told me
about Colin Escott visit in Tennessee around 1986. They sat out in Susan's backyard
beneath a tree and talked for hours for the Sun boxed set "The Rocking Years". Colin was
quite accurate in recounting what Dick told to him and I can't tell you enough to have an
eye on his work. If you don't have it, buy in a hurry "Good Rockin' Tonight", written with
Martin Hawkins with Peter Guralnick's foreword.
Since years, those guys paved the way for my writings ... If you want to know more about
Rockabilly music goes to www.rockabillyhall.com or www.bartemon.net. Those web sites give
since long support to the 50's music and keep that old world still rockin' and rollin'.
Without them support I will probably never have meet Dick and Susan and ... you'll have miss
that story about that very kind friend who like Scottish Salmon, spinaches and
Mediterranean food! Remind me the rockin' "Deep Sea Ball" from the late Clyde Mc Phatter.
Deep in the ocean at the catfish hall, all those fishes had a deep sea ball ... they were
rockin' and rollin'. For sure, Mister Salmon and the Lobster sure could have done the
Dominique "Imperial" ANGLARES
Sound of the 50's.
Dick and Dave Sun Contract
Page Upated May 30, 2008
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