Penny Nichols

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Penny Nichols
Born (1947-12-26)December 26, 1947
United States
Died October 29, 2017(2017-10-29) (aged 69)
Occupation Folk musician, songwriter
Years active 1964–2017
Spouse(s) Harry Shearer (m. 1974; div. 1977)

Penny Nichols (December 26, 1947 – October 29, 2017) was an American folk musician and songwriter.


Nichols began her career in the Southern California folk circuit in Orange County, California, in 1964, singing in a bluegrass band with Alice, Bill & John McEuen. She formed a folk duo called Greasy Mountain Butterballs with Kathy Smith, touring Vietnam in 1966. In 1967 she moved to San Francisco, where she performed as an opening act at venues such as the Avalon Ballroom and Fillmore Auditorium and at outdoor music festivals. Her debut album, Penny's Arcade, was released by Buddha Records in 1967.

In 1968, she toured Europe and recorded at Apple Studios. She returned to Los Angeles to concentrate on songwriting and studied with vocal coach Florence Riggs. Nichols was married to actor Harry Shearer from 1974 to 1977.[1] She performed with her jazz band, Black Imp.

In the late 1970s, Nichols entered Antioch University to earn degrees in psychology and music. She received a doctorate in education from Harvard University.

Nichols continued performing as a backup singer, joining Jimmy Buffett as a member of his Coral Reefer Band in 1977 and singing on the album Son of a Son of a Sailor. She released the albums All Life Is One in 1990, and Songs of the Jakata Tales in 1993.

Nichols currently works as a composer and vocal instructor based in Cambria, California. From there she oversees Summersongs songwriting camps, held four times a year, twice in New York and twice in California.

She died in 2017.


  1. ^ Smith, R. J. (2002). "The Harry Shearer Show". Los Angeles. Emmis Communications. 47 (12). ISSN 1522-9149. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 

External links[edit]

"Penny Nichols – A biography". Penny Nichols website. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
Erlewine, Michael. "Penny Nichols". Rovi AllMusic Guide. Retrieved 18 February 2011. 
"Summersongs". Retrieved 8 February 2015.