Allen Richard "Dick" Penner (born 1936 in Chicago, Illinois) is an American retired professor of English, who, while in college in 1955, co-composed, with Wade Lee Moore "Ooby Dooby," which became a rockabilly hit for Roy Orbison. Penner also had been a singer, guitar player, and recording artist.
In 1956, Penner switched from country music to rock & roll. That same year, he and Wade Moore (born November 15, 1934 in Amarillo, Texas) formed a duo and recorded for Sun Records. The duo was known as "Wade & Dick—The College Kids." Wade & Dick recorded three songs (with guitarist Don Gililland), "Wild Woman," "Don't Need Your Lovin'," and "Bop Bop Baby," which was included on the soundtrack of "Walk the Line," the film biography of Johnny Cash. Penner recorded four on his own (with guitarist "Gypsy" Bob Izer). All four songs exhibited a hard, youthful edge that was targeted towards the then new teen market. Penner's four singles — (i) "Move Baby Move," (ii) "Fine Little Baby," Sun 615a, and (iii) "Cindy Lou," and (iv) "Honey Love" Sun 282 consisted of both Rockabilly and ballads. The songs did not rise to the popularity of "Ooby Dooby;" which reached a formidable level on the national charts in Orbison's hands and, eventually, became regarded as a classic of the genre. Moore was in business following his college graduation. After receiving his M.A. from North Texas State, Penner earned a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. He was a professor of English at the University of Tennessee for thirty-two years until his retirement in 1990. Penner authored three academic books, his favorite being Fiction of the Absurd.
By Dick Penner & Wade Moore
- "Ooby-Dooby," Allen Richard Penner & Wade Lee Moore (BMI) (written February 1955)
- "Bop Bop Baby," Allen Richard Penner & Wade Lee Moore (BMI)
By Dick Penner
- "Cindy Lou," Allen Richard Penner (BMI) (1957)
- "Your Honey Love," Allen Richard Penner (BMI) (1957)
- "Someday Baby," Allen Richard Penner
- "Don't Need Your Lovin' Baby," Allen Richard Penner (BMI)
- "Move Baby Move," Allen Richard Penner (BMI)
- "Fine Little Baby," Allen Richard Penner (BMI)
- "When Will You Love Me?" (BMI)
- "Wild Woman" (BMI)
In 1954, Penner had enrolled at the University of North Texas where he met Wade Moore. They composed Ooby Dooby in February 1955. Penner and Wade had taken a six-pack of beer onto the flat roof of their Lambda Chi fraternity house and wrote Ooby Dooby in a matter of minutes.
Roy Orbison, then a student at North Texas and friend, became aware of the song and, sometime late in 1955, recorded a demo of it with his band, the Wink Westerners, at the Jim Beck Studio in Dallas, and sent it to Columbia Records. Columbia was not interested in Orbison, but pitched the song to Sid King and the Five Strings, a band from Denton, Texas, who recorded it on March 5, 1956, in Dallas.
On March 27, 1956, a Roy Orbison session was set at Sam Phillips' Sun Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis. But Phillips was unimpressed with the result and phoned Weldon Rogers to purchase the JE-WEL master. Rogers asked for a high price so Phillips released the Orbison session on Sun 242. By June 1956, "Ooby Dooby" had climbed to 59 on Billboard's Hot 100 and soon thereafter, sold over 500,000 copies.
The song has since been covered by several other artists, including Creedence Clearwater Revival, on their album Cosmo's Factory, and was featured in the movie Star Trek: First Contact as the favorite song on the jukebox of Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell); played by Cochrane while meeting with the Vulcans who landed on Earth after detecting his first warp flight, the song is the first element of Human culture shared with an alien race.
Penner, now retired, was a professor of English literature at the University of Tennessee.
Members of the Wink Westerners — Roy Orbison, Richard Roy "Head" West (born 1935) (piano) – not to be confused with Roy Head – and Billy Pat "Spider" Ellis (drummer) — graduated from Wink High School in June 1954. Orbison, Ellis, and Joe Ray Hammer (1936–1963) enrolled at the University of North Texas in the Fall of 1954. Fellow North Texas classmates included Pat Boone, Dick Penner, and Wade Moore. Orbison, Ellis, Hammer, Penner, and Moore were in the same fraternity – Lambda Chi. Years later, on January 2, 1963, Hammer, while serving as director of the Midland High School Band, committed suicide in his home by way of shotgun to his head.
Wade & Dick – The College Kids
- 1) Sun Records No. 269 (released May 27, 1957)
- 2) Sun Records (released 1956)
- "Bop Bop Baby" (alternate version) (BMI U-250)
- backed with ("bw") "Wild Woman"
- 1) Sun Records No. 615 (1957)
- 2) Sun Records No. 282
- "Your Honey Love" (BMI U-278)
Recordings of "Ooby-Dooby"
- Track list includes "Ooby Dooby"
- The Teen Kings (1956)
- Janis Martin (1956)
- Creedence Clearwater Revival (July 25, 1970)
- Charlie Feathers (1977)
- Los Super Ratones (1993)
- Elizabeth Mitchell (December 2002)
- on YouTube
Penner graduated from Sunset High School (1954) in the North Oak Cliff area of Dallas, Texas. Penner earned a Bachelor of Arts in English (1958) and a master's degree in English (1967) from the University of North Texas. In 1957, while working on his undergraduate degree, Penner was inducted into Blue Key, a national honor fraternity. After earning his master's degree, Penner taught English at North Texas. In the fall of 1961, Penner began teaching English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy degree in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1965, whereupon, he became an instructor of English at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
- On June 10, 1961, Penner married Janice Carolyn Gilley in Denton, Texas. Janice was born January 2, 1937 in Dallas, Texas and died October 26, 2004 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
- Dick and Jan have two sons, Richard Lee Penner of Charlotte, NC and Gregory Joseph Penner of Knoxville, TN.
- Allen Richar Penner, PhD, Fielding and Cervantes: The Contribution of "Don Quixote" to "Joseph Andrews" and "Tom Jones" (dissertation) University of Colorado at Boulder (1965)
- Allen Richard Penner, Alan Sillitoe, Twayne Publishers (1972)
- Allen Richard Penner, Fiction of the Absurd; Pratfalls in the Void – a critical anthology, New American Library (1980)
- Allen Richard Penner, Countries of the mind: the fiction of J.M. Coetzee, Greenwood Press (1989)
- Allen Richard Penner, Illuminations Knoxville, Tennessee (2001)
- Directory of American Scholars, Eighth edition, Vol 2, English, Speech, & Drama, R.R. Bowker, New York (1982)
- Bruce L. Eder (1955– ), Biography: Dick Penner, allmusic
- Billy Poore, Rockabilly: A Forty-Year Journey, pg. 120, Hal Leonard Corporation (June 1, 1998)
- Mike Perry, Roy Orbison; The Teen Kings, January 1995
- Midland High Director Kills Self, Abilene Reporter-News, January 3, 1963, pg. 6B, col. 5
- Blue Key Member, The Dallas Morning News, May 4, 1957
- Sunset Grad Gets Ph.D. at Boulder, The Dallas Morning News, September 15, 1965
- Mr. Penner, Bride Go to New Boulder Home, The Dallas Morning News, June 11, 1961