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Zag (The Ozark Mountain Boy) Pennell
Born:  April 24, 1923
Died:  April 29, 2007
WRVA Old Dominion Barn Dance
KDRO Sedalia, MO
KFNF Shenandoah, IA
WCHS Charleston, WV
WSVA Harrisonburg, VA

About The Artist

Daniel LeRoy "Zag" Pennell, known as the "Ozark Mountain Boy," hailed from Missouri, but his career peaked at the WRVA Old Dominion Barn Dance in Richmond, Virginia.

Zag's first opportunity came when he auditioned during a 'guest show' the Missouri Valley Boys on radio station KDRO, inviting out of town singers to come on in. It was 1939 and Zag went for a tryout. It was said the fan mail from 5,000 listeners got him that first job in Sedalia, MO. He remained at KDRO for about 30 months.

In 1942, he went to KFNF in Sheanandoah, IA where he resonated with the audiences. Uncle Sam interrupted that portion of his career in 1943. He spent three years with the Amphibious Engineers, including 22 months in the Pacific. After KFNF, Zag went to West Virginia and Virginia where he worked as a radio entertainer, deejay, and eventually in station management.

During World War II, he served three years in the army.

In 1946, Zag and another musician named Jolly Joe Parrish met Lee and Juanita Moore at KFNF Shenandoah, Iowa who soon returned to WCHS Charleston as did Zag and Joe.

Station management was attempted — unsuccessfully — to revive their popular pre-war program, the Old Farm Hour. After about seven months they went to WSVA in Harrisonburg, VA.

In the 1950s, Pennell joined the cast of the WRVA Old Dominion Barn Dance and in 1954 signed a contract with Columbia Records. He did eight songs for them of which the most notable was a novelty number titled "Vegetable Love." The romantic lyrics incorporated names of vegetables typified by such lines as "Don't you carrot all for me/My heart beets for you."

In September 1954, Sunshine Sue (Workman) decided to take hillbilly music and turn it into a musical on Broadway in New York City. The 'play' was called "Hayride" was to start on September 13, 1954. Many of the Old Dominion Barn Dance regulars such as Cousin Joe Maphis and his future wife Rose, Quincy Snodgrass, Mary Klick, Sonny Day and Gene Jenkins. Sunshine Sue also brought in some outside talent in an attempt to boost attendance such as the Coon Creek Girls (from the Renfro Valley Barn Dance), Lest Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys. One name not listed on the Play Bill was Abbie Neal and Her Ranch Girls. Abbie was sought by Sunshine Sue, but she wanted to honor some contractual obligations in the Pittsburgh area and only appeared with the cast during the second week. The 'play' ran for 24 performances and closed on October 2, 1954. The Play Bill program for the show tried to describe the music the New York audience would hear seemingly for the firs time as "new folk music in the making and the old folk music which has stood the test of time."

Zag himself got the attention of some newspaper columnists. Inez Robb wrote a column that circulated to newspapers around the country. Some of the headlines newspapers used give the reader a hint of the impression he made: "Ozark Mountain Boy Is Broadway's Latest Idol", "Broadway's Hog-Wild Over Hillbilly Who's "Pure Pleasure" on Stage", "Zag, Hillbilly With A Song" and "Alright, Let's Face It Zag's New Matinee Idol." Billboard rated the single a '72' in its June 19, 1954 issue. The reviewer wrote, "Happy little ditty with humorous lyrics is sung with considerable charm by Pennell. Country jockeys should spin."

With live country music radio programming in serious decline, many country singers including Zag moved into deejay work. His main job from 1959 was at WELD, Fisher, West Virginia where he eventually moved into a management position while continuing to spin records. He remained at WELD where he retired after 45 years. He lived in Petersburg, West Virginia until his death in 2007.

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Zag Pennell; Connie Gibson; The Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder; January 1947; Mountain Broadcast Pub. Co., Inc.; 41 Astor Place; New York, NY
  • Reviews of New C & W Records; June 19, 1954; Billboard; Cincinnati, OH

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

 
Columbia
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  21255 A Vegetable Love
  21255 B I Never Hear You Say 'I Love You'
  21302 A Some Kinna
  21302 B Day And Night Patrol
  21365 A I'm Doing All Right
  21365 B Tender Lovin' Care
  21408 A Everything Needs Something
  21408 B How Could It Be Wrong


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