Fred (Frederick Ralph Cornelius) Penner. Singer, guitarist, songwriter, actor, b Winnipeg 6 Nov 1946; BA economics and psychology (Winnipeg) 1970. He sang folk music in high school and university and, after two years as a child-care worker, undertook a professional musical career in 1972, performing variously as a folk singer, with rock bands, in a comedy-music act with Al Simmons, and in character roles 1977-9 at Rainbow Stage.
In the late 1970s Penner was resident musician for Sundance, a children's dance troupe, and also began to perform in Manitoba schools. His first LP of songs for children, The Cat Came Back (1979, Troubadour TR-009), would sell more than 150,000 copies in Canada and the US, and was followed by Polka Dot Pony (1981, Troubadour TR-0020), Special Delivery (1983, Troubadour TR-0027), A House for Me (1985, Troubadour TR-0020), Fred Penner's Place (1988, Oak Street OSL-10), Collections (1989, Oak Street OSL-15) and The Season: A Family Christmas Celebration (1990, Oak Street OSCD-25). Fred Penner's Place shared the Juno Award in 1989 for best children's album.
In 1984 the CBC inaugurated the popular children's TV show Fred Penner's Place. The daily series was introduced in the US on the Nickelodeon cable network in 1989, by which time Penner stood among the leading Canadians in the children's music field. He has performed in concert throughout Canada (eg, at the NAC, Massey Hall, Confederation Centre of the Arts, etc) and, beginning in the late 1980s, in the US.
Penner's signature song is his own "The Cat Came Back." He has also created storybooks based on four of his other songs, The Bump, Ebeneezer Sneezer, Rollerskating, and The Polka Dot Pony, published 1984-8. A songbook, containing works and music for the songs from his first four albums, was published by Oak Street Music in 1990. A video of Penner in concert with his Cat's Meow Band, The Cat Came Back (CBS 14OS-10001), was released in 1990.
The Oak Street label, established in 1987 by Penner with his manager, Gilles Paquin, has also issued or reissued recordings in the "family entertainment" and contemporary folk genres by Heather Bishop, Liona Boyd, Carmen Champagne, Norman Foote, Connie Kaldor, Bob King, Tom Paxton, and others. Oak Street was distributed in Canada first by A & M, and then, as of 1990, by CBS (Sony Music).
Fred Penner was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1991. He has continued to release new albums and reissue older titles, and his most recent album is 2008's Where In The World. He has also issued several books and videos. Penner has sold more than one million records and performed to more than a million fans.
While Penner has had a lower profile since new episodes of Fred Penner's Place stopped being made in 1997, he continues to perform and his interactive web site provides a variety of activities for youngsters. Penner programs the Kid's Stuff children's channel for the Galaxie continuous music network and is active with a number of charitable organizations.