LEWISPORTE — In post war America the babies and the jukeboxes had just started booming and by the time the ‘50s hit the celebration of a war well-won was well etched into the psyche of the population. Out of that jubilation came the idea that America had now finally come into its own.
So along came the music that matched-rock and roll.
It was an optimistic if somewhat naïve time but celebratory and though much of it was a façade in pre civil rights America, the music of the 1950’s reflected a society that was ready for something new and exciting.
Out of that America, before the cold war was truly underway arose the genre of music that was the scourge of parents everywhere but the delight of young people in their stereotypical pony tails and bobby socks.
And still to this day the songs stand the test of time. For Terry Penney that is the music of his childhood, a direct reflection of when times were simpler for him and when music became as much a part of him as his own heartbeat. Too young to be a part of the ‘50s, it was the music his parents played when he was teething on music and it was the first songs that he played.
A bike from his childhood has been restored and sits atop a Coca Cola cooler circa 1950-something. A chrome table and chairs, black and white checkered floors and red and white gingham curtains adorn his music room and attests to the fact that his love of the music of that era is “not a flavour of the month.”
In that room songs like “The Town that Time Forgot” were inspired and in those surroundings he solidified his plans to record an album of his favourite songs from that decade.
“Halfway through the project Phil Everley died,” says Penney, “and I thought ‘another one gone’.”
This urged him to finish the year-long project that is a tribute to the musical heroes of his lifetime, a CD entitled “Once Upon a Blue Moon”.
He calls the music on the CD the “purest form of rock and roll, just a stone’s throw from the blues.” He refers to it as “ground zero” for all that has come since.
For Penney this is his personal tribute and he wanted it to come from him. He did much of the music himself and played lead guitar on several tracks — something he admits isn’t his strength but that worked for this project. He wanted this to be a gift from him to his musical heroes.
For an award winning singer-songwriter who has built a career on his original work it was, in many ways simpler to record an album of cover songs. The material on the album is a combination of iconic classics mixed with some more marginal numbers. The songs are arranged on the CD “like a roller coaster” with upbeat songs alternated with slow numbers.
The tunes included are proven classics and have been around for 50 years so they’re imprinted in peoples’ minds. The reaction to the songs is often visceral — the melody brings the memory and so the challenge of introducing and endearing people to the music doesn’t exist for Penney in this project like it would in his original work.
“Don’t screw up the song,” he says with a laugh, “that was the main challenge on this album.” Finding a way to make the songs his without veering too far from the original was the key.
“It’s about evoking a vibe,” he explains and goes on to say the vibe he is replicating is that of the era reflected in the music of the times.
It was a departure, a nice diversion. A side project that he had always wanted to do. The music of ‘50s rock and roll is described by Penney as his “happy place” and he wants to bring people into that space with him. The songs are old friends and he would like audiences to meet them again through him.
According to Penney, this is a good Saturday night scuff at the cabin collection. It is danceable and appeals to a broad audience. It’s unabashedly nostalgic but with his own stamp on it.
Evoking the vibe with him is his daughter Rebecca who sings along with her dad on “Maybe Baby”. He hopes that a younger audience will appreciate the music as well and for many of them, now 50 years later, the tunes can be reintroduced.
The CD will be released at Citadel House at 104 Main St. Lewisporte on Aug. 11 at 7:30 p.m. Then that same month he will tour the province including an appearance at The Gathering, Shaun Majumder’s festival in Burlington, and he will be performing at the “Random Passage” set. Later he appears at the harbour front in St. John’s as part of the World War I 100 year commemoration happening there. In the fall he tours Ontario again and has shows booked for four or five months.
The CD release party tickets are free but space is limited. Contact Citadel House to purchase yours.
With four MusicNL awards under his belt his career continually propels forward. Another recording project is already in the works.