There’s a name for adult Fred Penner fans who grew up with the Canadian entertainer’s music: Fred Heads.
Expect to see plenty of them, along with younger children, crowding the main stage tent at Shipyards Park, as Penner headlines the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous KidsFest event with two sold-out shows on Sunday, Feb. 22.
The childhood staple for Canadian kids in the ‘80s and ‘90s has grayed a little bit since he tromped through fields and popped out of a log on Fred Penner’s Place for 12 seasons on the CBC. But he’s still playing his repertoire of songs, including the classic The Cat Came Back, 10 in the Bed and You Can Do It If You Try, and he hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for talking about children, music and finding your way in life.
And now a big chunk of his audience are people who grew up with him and now have kids of their own.
In a show this month in Moose Jaw, Sask. parents and kids lined up for more than an hour after a concert to get autographs.
“These young parents come up saying, ‘You were the first concert I went to back 20 years earlier,” Penner said, “and saying that it’s really exciting for me to bring my child to see you now. We really have something very personal in common now.”
After decades on stage, Penner has taken his show to universities and pubs around the country to reconnect with older fans.
“These young people, these young Fred Heads, are really excited about connecting with me and they want the material that I brought to the people back then,” he said on the phone from Calgary ahead of a show at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
Shows like that one are often billed as “grown-up sing-a-longs.”
“There’s a connection with me in those developing elementary times of life, and then you move into the teens and the attempt to find your identity and all of that. Finding some path in the world,” Penner said.
“Once you get into your late teens and early twenties it’s a time of retrospection and looking back and saying what were influences that I had in life.”
Between Penner’s well-known songs, he will sometimes talk to the older audience about topics he thinks will be meaningful in their lives, like the dangers of taking on too much personal debt.
“We get into a deeper level of discussion that they may not have expected.”
The message he gives the older fans isn’t much different from the kind of things you hope young children hear.
“It’s be strong, get out there, hold on to that sensitivity that you have inside you. Don’t become the callous businessperson. Do your duty, do your job with as much integrity as you can because that will be of value to you as you grow old.”
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