Over the course of almost 1000 episodes, Fred Penner, guitar often in hand, entertained his young viewers with stories, music, and words (you might remember the famous “Word Bird”) and in the process influenced and endeared himself to an entire generation of young Canadians.
After graduating from the University of Winnipeg, he started performing and touring around Canada both as a solo musician and as a member of various groups and acts. But it was in 1979 when he recorded his first LP of songs The Cat Came Back, that his career as a children's performer really took off. The album became hugely popular, and went on to sell more than 150,000 copies in Canada alone.
The success got him noticed by popular childhood musician Raffi, who invited Penner to tour with him around North America. After a few years of performing, both with Raffi and on his own, Fred was approached by the CBC and asked if he would be interested in developing a children’s program based around his musical performances.
The rest is history. Fred Penner’s place was born, and it quickly became one of the most beloved children's shows on Canadian TV. His warmth and his obvious love for music endeared him to kids across the country. And although the show was abruptly cancelled by CBC 1997, Fred never stopped believing in the importance of what he was doing, and has continued performing, writing music, and connecting with young people right up to the present. He’s recipient of the Order of Canada and multiple Juno Awards. When he’s not busy performing, he’s also actively involved with numerous children's organizations and causes.
Personally speaking, I can certainly say that Fred Penner had an impact on my young life, and it was a thrill to meet him in person. In our conversation we speak about his life growing up in Winnipeg, the surprising story behind how he came up with the main ideas Fred Penner's Place was based around (including the log entrance), and his answer to whether or not he would ever consider running for political office.
What was your favourite memory of Fred Penner growing up?
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