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He began working in music as a drummer, but Dave Pennefather's greatest success has been as MD of Universal Music. Hot Press looks back over the life and times of a man with a larger than life reputation.
Niall Stokes, 15 Nov 2006
There is a cliché that people in major record companies know knothing about music and care less. Well, in the case of Dave Pennefather, the stereotype just doesn’t fit.
Pennefather has been steeeped in music for over 40 years. Now at the pinnacle of the game in Ireland, as MD of Universal Music here he has guided the operation through its most successful period ever, claiming the No.1 record company slot as their own over the past two years.
He began his music career as a drummer during the high tide of the ‘60s beat scene, featuring in a number of Dublin bands, including The Kult – where he starred alongside the great Paul Brady, whose Hard Station is Dave’s all-time favurite album – and The Greenbeats. As the beat scene disintegrated, he slipped over into the showband milieu, and was the sticksman on ‘Quick Joey Small’, a No.1 hit for The Real McCoy – who became one of the biggest bands in Ireland for a period. He also did a stint – best forgotten, perhaps! – with Shay Healy in a comedy pop outfit called Rubbish.
It’s not surprising that he dabbled in comedy. Pennefather is a renowned prankster and funny man – and the reputation is well deserved. The stories of his exploits are legion, many of them too salacious to print in a family magazine like Hot Press.
“Dave was working down in the Release building in Lombard St.,” one industry insider reveals. “Donie Cassidy had an office there as well and whatever was going on, he told Pennefather that he’d never catch him out with one of his wind-ups. So Dave went straight down to his room and called Donie’s office. ‘This is Larry Waltberg of Orion Records in Nashville,’ he said, ‘and we’re doing a comp-i-lation on the music of Texas. I believe that you represent an artist by the name of T.R.Dallas, is that right?’ And he went on in that vein.
“Fifteen minutes later, Donie was out of his office telling everyone in the building about the deal he was doing with Orion Records in Nashville and the album that T.R.Dallas was making. It was priceless. But Pennefather could carry that sort of stunt off like no one else!”