Can you solve this Canadian musical mystery? [UPDATED!]

Late last week, an email arrived from Quinn:

?I am wondering if you have any info on a man named Jerry ‘Ish’ Penfound. He is my grandfather. He was a session musician in Toronto and Ontario throughout the 60’s-80’s. He is best known for being a member of Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. He continued with them until they became the Levon Helm Sextet and then left the band (no pun intended) causing the name to change.

“I have heard many stories from my family over the years about him without too much info to back it up. I know he had a strong relationship with the Long family of Long & McQuade. There have been a few stories written of him, (the most notable being gambling away the band’s money in Levon’s book This Wheel’s on Fire) yet not much seems to be available. Much of what I know is heard very much through the grapevine from family or the few chance meetings that have happened with people who knew him (mostly at various L&M’s).

Unfortunately, he passed away due to cancer before my time and I have been fascinated with this family figure and have tried to learn as much as I can. Over the years I have reached out to Robbie Robertson and been ignored each time. Garth had agreed to meet me some years back but his wife Maud had canceled the event. With my grandmother’s health declining and her memory fading with her age I am hoping to find out what I can before the proverbial clock strikes midnight.

“I’ve heard he played on the rooftop of the Elmocombo with a young Stevie Ray Vaughn. That he toured playing horns with The Rolling Stones. I’ve only ever been able to dig up two recordings of him playing; one for Ronnie Hawkins and the other for Howlin’ Wolf.

“In the end if you know of him, or know anyone who would any info at all would be much appreciated.”

Challenge accepted. Can anyone help out Quinn and his grandmother?

UPDATE: Dan and Loril write: “Regarding Jerry Penfound, although I don’t have firsthand information on him, I met a guy through the musician’s association, in Brantford, Ontario, named Glen Silverthorn, who was Rick Danko’s drummer before Rick went off with The Hawks. That could be an avenue to pursue.”

UPDATE: People continue to come to Quinn’s rescue. Dave of The Dave Murphy Ban has provided some important contact information, including Rick Danko’s brother. I’ve forwarded that information to Quinn.

There’s also information to be gleaned from Ronnie Hawkins’s official discography.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

6 thoughts on “Can you solve this Canadian musical mystery? [UPDATED!]

  • August 9, 2020 at 10:30 am
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    He has a number of credits on Discogs as Jerry Penfound. He was also a .member of Toronto’s Cameo Blues Band. That’s all I got

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  • August 10, 2020 at 12:34 am
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    In the late eighties and early nineties I used to play in Ronnie Hawkins Band. I’m pretty sure Jerry Penfound is a name I heard a lot, but I was a generation younger than everyone who knew him personally. That being said I’m guessing a really amazing source of information for you would be Terry Danko who was the bass player in the Hawks throughout my tenure. Terry is Rick Danko’s brother. He is alive and well and living in Simcoe Ontario. You can easily find him quickly by searching on Facebook. I think the odds are very good Terry would know a LOT of musicians who were personally familiar with Jerry Penfound. Terry was personally very well connected with anyone related to The Band, and I’m guessing and hoping you would have a much easier time directly talking to Terry Danko than you would with Robbie Robertson or Garth Hudson. Having spent some time with Garth I actually think Terry would be a much better source of information, in my opinion. I hope this helps!!

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  • August 10, 2020 at 1:14 pm
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    I would try looking up John Till (Full Tilt Boogie Band) out of Stratford, Ontario or Kenneth Pearson from Woodstock Ontario. Both played with Janis Joplin on Pearl and were close with the Band as well as Garth and Maude.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2020 at 9:01 pm
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    Had a quartet called Quorum which he formed in Toronto in 1968…Jerry on piano, organ, flute, clarinet, tenor sax, and vocals, Wayne Davis or Paul Fullerton on bass, George Willis on guitar and Frank Pollard or Wayne Orgille on drums (from various newspaper articles from the 70’s).

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    • November 17, 2020 at 4:10 pm
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      Yes Jerry played out of the Ports of Call in the Last Chance Saloon. George Willis was Cousin of my moms . Wayne Orgille I believe is still alive and living in Wasaga Beach. You could probably message him through Facebook as well as George’s wife Di Willis who lives in Toronto still. The Quorum played at my brothers wedding in Creemore in 1970

      Reply
  • September 9, 2020 at 1:17 pm
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    You may have already found this, but he is in the discogs database:
    https://www.discogs.com/artist/1769009-Jerry-Penfound

    The database has a collection of credits for him. One interesting find is that he was also a member of The Capers – as well as playing on their 1965 album “Introducing the Verisitle Capers” he is credited with arrangements and sings lead on a cover of “Route 66”. That would be a nice souvenir to have (i see a couple copies for sale).

    There is a little bio on the The Band page here, with some nice photos:
    http://theband.hiof.no/band_members/jerry_penfound.html
    and if you learn anything of interest, it’s worth passing it on to Jan, who maintains the page, he would probably be happy to update that bio: jan.hoiberg @ hiof.no

    Best of luck with your search!

    Reply

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