Joe Penny was born in Plant City in 1928, the youngest of eight children, and was taught to play the guitar at age 10 by his mother. By the time he was 16, he was already a member of a band called the Sons of the South.
A big break came in 1946 when Joe was introduced to the legendary Hank Williams and became a member of Hank’s band, the Drifting Cowboys. Hank named him “Little Joe Pennington,” but later his stage name was changed to “Penny” because Joe thought it sounded more professional.
In the 1950’s, Joe played with many of country music’s greats, including Lefty Frizzell and Little Jimmy Dickens. In 1954, he began working in radio, but continued to write music. It paid off that same year when one of his songs, “Don’t Fall In Love With a Married Man” was recorded by Jean Shepard for Capitol Records.
In 1958, Joe and his band went to Cincinnati, Ohio to Syd Nathan’s King Records and recorded two songs he had written for the company’s subsidiary label, Federal. Both songs, “Bip A Little Bop A Lot” and “Mercy Mercy Percy” have become rockabilly classics, making original copies of the record highly collectable.
Joe returned to Florida in the 1960’s, settling back in his hometown of Plant City, working as a deejay and in radio sales at WPLA. He also continued performing on stage and recording, landing on Billboard’s country chart in 1962 with another song he wrote, “Frosty Window Pane”. He made many friends through the years at area radio stations, putting in 5 years at WPLA, 6 years at WWAB in Lakeland, 3 years at WGTO at Cypress Gardens, and a stint at Auburndale’s WTWB.
Retiring in 1990 to his hometown, Joe occasionally performed gospel music at area churches, nursing homes, and other venues. He was also inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame (2001) and the Traditional Country Hall of Fame. Joseph Pennington, Sr., a.k.a. Joe Penny, passed away in 2020 at the age of 92.
1987 - 1990 WGTO-AM 540 - Haines City (On Air Personality)