Dan Penn

(b. 1941)

Memphis songwriter and producer Dan Penn is credited as one of the behind-the-scenes architects of 1960s Southern soul. Songs Penn has written or co-written include the classics "The Dark End Of The Street" (a hit for James Carr), "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" (Aretha Franklin), "I'm Your Puppet" (James and Bobby Purify), "Cry Like a Baby" (the Box Tops), "You Left the Water Running" (Otis Redding) and "Out of Left Field" (Percy Sledge), while Penn's work as a producer yielded a long series of blue-eyed Soul hits for the Box Tops during the same period.

Born in Vernon, Ala., Penn had his first hit at the age of 14, when his song “Is a Bluebird Blue?” was recorded by Country star Conway Twitty. He soon went to work at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, where he wrote songs (many with writing partner Spooner Oldham) and did production work and cut the occasional single of his own, while playing frat houses and bars across the South with a band called Dan Penn and the Pallbearers. In 1966, Penn moved to Memphis and began working with producer Chips Moman at his American Recording Studio; it was there that he produced a series of hits for the Box Tops, beginning with “The Letter in 1967, which went to No. 1.

After an ill-fated effort to open his own studio, Penn moved to Nashville in the early 1970s; since then he’s continued to write songs and issue occasional recordings, including the well-regarded albums Nobody’s Fool (1973) and Do Right Man (1994). In recent years he’s performed and toured sporadically as a duo with longtime writing and recording cohort Spooner Oldham.