"Down on the Banks of the Ohio" smack dab in the middle of the 1937 Great Flood, in a little town called Wurtland in Greenup Co. KY, the newest Penix was born on January 5, and had to be rescued by boat. One of my earliest memories is winding up the Victrola and listening to 78rpm records that my older sister always seemed to have in abundance. I remember back then, I didn't much appreciate the singing and only really listened to the music. At a very young age, and without even realizing it, I had learned which notes of the scale belonged to which chord, although at the time, I didn't know what a chord was.
A few years later when I had access to an instrument, I didn't have any trouble when I tried finding those sounds on the fretboard that matched the sounds of my voice that I had learned from listening. From that time forward, my fingers just seemed to automatically go to the spot on the instrument that produced the sound I was making in my mind. It took many years to even realize that instruments could be used to play a rhythm behind a voice or another instrument.
Because I never had another person playing to back up, and I didn't like singing, there was no effort on my part to learn to play back up. Then, when I discovered that picking patterns kept popping up and the intervals between the notes remained the same even when starting in different spots on the fretboard, it registered that I didn't have to play everything from the same starting point, or as I later found out, in the same key.
I realized it was a gift to be able to make these sweet sounds without knowing what I was doing and I did what any 10 yr. old would do-I promised to do something about it. But that didn't happen for another 13 years.
Around 1948, again that older sister empowering me with music, took me to a drive-in movie where Maybelle Carter, that lady who was picking all that pretty music on the 78 rpm records she had bought for me, was performing. She let me pick Wildwood Flower on her guitar and showed me how to get the high part with a lick that I later found out was a banjo lick used around Galax, VA. From that first meeting, I realized that something great had happened to me.
In 1955, my family moved to Baltimore, I went to work days and studied commercial art at night. My first purchase was an Autoharp which I found to be considerably easier to play than a guitar. Again, I started out playing melody on it, which was the way I heard all music. In 45 years, I never changed my picking style nor did I make the switch over to the diatonic harp when they became popular.
I got married in the middle of my stint in the Navy, after which I went into business cutting hair but also teaching people how to play stringed musical instruments. By this time, I had made good on my promise to understand what I had considered a gift and was able to help others and I did this for more than 30 years, until 1994.
By the late 70's I had collected more than a hundred musical instruments and was in 'the first wave' bringing the hammered dulcimer back into popularity. In '78, along with Cathy Barton from MO, and Jay Round from MI, we all played dulcimer on one of the first recordings to feature the hammered dulcimer as the lead instrument in a band and it was very successful. In '81 we did a tribute to the Carter Family album. We went to Winfield, KS that year to promote the new album, but shortly afterward, I had to give up traveling for medical purposes and dropped out of the picture for all except teaching.
I continued to teach until 1994 and for 2 years, I did nothing but try to recover from several open heart surgeries. Then I got this call for help from a young, eager, ball of energy named Gary......and that led to the latest album called Carryin' On...but then, that's all explained in the liner notes..........
Note: The liner notes appear in the CD link below.
From left to right are: Kevin Mulloney, Ron Penix and Gary Walton
Ron tells me that all three are left handed purely by chance.