Hit-Making Songwriter Dan Penn Heads to UA

From The Tuscaloosa News: The most famous songwriter you’ve never heard of grew up in tiny Vernon, modern population just more than 2,000, seat of Lamar County. Despite the unlikelihood of small-town Alabama as a springboard to fame, Dan Penn wrote a hit record while still a junior in high school, when Conway Twitty recorded “Is a Bluebird Blue?,” a phrase Penn lifted from the big man on campus.

Penn had been playing and singing in a band that was part square-dance, part rock ‘n’ roll with Billy Sherrill, who went on to produce Tammy Wynette and George Jones. Sherrill encouraged Penn to cut guitar-and-voice demos of a half dozen of his tunes, and one found its way to Twitty, who back then was as big as or bigger than Elvis. (In the musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” the superstar character Conway Birdie is part Twitty, part Elvis).

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