Saturdays | 7 – 10 pm
John Penney was born and raised in Ithaca, New York, and began hosting and programming weekly jazz and folk music programs on student owned commercial radio station WVBR-FM at the age of 15.
In 1967 WVBR became one of the first FM radio stations in the country to program “progressive rock.” John was instrumental in the creation of the format and became one of WVBR’s most popular on-air personalities, frequently featuring live studio performances on his show. He served as Music Director beginning in 1970, and continued to program jazz, folk, and rock programs through 1971.
In 1978, at the age of 25, John became the National Promotion Director of Amherst Records in Buffalo, New York, where he was instrumental in establishing the career of the platinum selling band Spyro Gyra. He also became the most popular jazz host on public radio WBFO, as measured by Arbitron and listener donations.
In 1984 John moved to Detroit as the Michigan Regional Representative for Action, and in 1989 was hired by Warner Elektra Atlantic as a sales rep. During his 15 year career with WEA John gained a national reputation as a creative and innovative marketer, among other things designing and executing the company’s first regional catalog promotion with Wal-Mart, which was used to leverage the first national event.
John joined the air staff of public radio WDET-FM in Detroit in 1986 as host of a music variety program. John pioneered the concept of presenting “all the varieties of music” in such a way as to demonstrate the continuity between diverse musical forms by making the connection between current and historic recordings. His program became one of the most popular on the air.
John is a popular and sought after MC for live events, and for years was a fixture on stage at the Detroit Jazz Festival in Hart Plaza. He helped to create an innovative format for radio broadcasts of the festival, and served as national co-anchor for five years. John began his association with the AMRF in 2004 when Ron Harwood asked him to MC the 6th Annual Motor City Boogie Woogie and Blues Festival. He became consultant/Director in September of 2005. John is also collaborating with Ron on a book about the life and times of classic blues singer Sippie Wallace and her siblings.
Jazzfest Detroit 7-16-2022
Time Start Artist Title Album Label Year
Regina Carter with Jon Batiste You Are My Sunshine Swing States: Harmony In the Battleground Tiger Turn 2020
Charles Lloyd Quartet Forest Flower: Sunrise Forest Flower Atlantic 1967
Dave Bennett Woodchopper’s Ball Don’t Be That Way Mack Avenue 2013
Russ Miller and the Jazz Orchestra Can’t Hide Love You and the Night and the Music Russell Miller 2016
Cyrille Aimee with Adonis Rose On A Clear Day Petite Fleur Storyville 2021
Donald Byrd That’s All Chant Blue Note 1961
Freda Payne Moanin’ Doodlin’ Let There Be Love Alain Frake 2021
Pancho Sanchez Giant Steps Trane’s Delight Concord 2017
Dr. Lonnie Smith Straight No Chaser Evolution Blue Note 2016
Miles Davis All Blues Kind of Blue Columbia 1959
Louis Hayes Shape Shifting Return of the Jazz Communicators Smoke Sessions 2014
Michael Dease Parker’s Brood Best Next Thing Positone 2022
Eliane Elias Stay Cool Light My Fire Concord 2011
Flora Purim Moon Dreams Butterfly Dreams Fantasy 1973
The Adderley Brothers Caribbean Cutie The Summer of ’55 Savoy 1955
Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio 4:00 AM Songs From My Father Whaling City 2021
Freddie Hubbard & Woody Shaw Nostrand and Fulton The Eternal Triangle Blue Note 1987
Wynton Marsalis Quintet w/ Richard Galiano A Sailboat In the Moonlight From Billie Holiday to Edith Piaf Rampart Street 2008
Billie Holiday A Sailboat In the Moonlight The Essential Columbia 1937
Ella Fitzgerland w/ Bill Doggett and Raylettes Smooth Sailing The Complete Decca Singles Decca 1951
Jay McShann with Claude Williams Smooth Sailing The Man From Muskogee Sackville 1972
Steve Davis Encouragement Bluesthetic Smoke Sessions 2022
Lyman Woodard Organization Orchestra …and The Ship Sails On Lyman Woodard Organization Orchestra Uuqipleu Records 2011
Eddie Jefferson Benny’s From Heaven The Main Man Inner City 1977
Curtis Fuller Sextette Blues de Funk Imagination Savoy 1959
Kenny Garrett It’s Time To Come Home Sounds From The Ancestors Mack Avenue 2021