Penny North

Splitting time between her father in Detroit and mother in Cleveland, Audrey Beard found her voice at Cleveland’s New Jerusalem Baptist Church. In her teens, she recorded two albums with the choir before catching the secular bug from classmates at East Tech. After graduation, Beard spent the summer working with her cousin Morris Sizemore, gaining live experience and turning up at the Red Carpet Lounge. Her first break came via a traveling regional talent show presented by Ernestine Ross (no relation to Diana Ross), where Beard grabbed the attention of Billy Straight, a freelance talent scout looking for a new project. The record deal she got from Thomas Boddie would have thrilled for most teenagers, but it underwhelmed Beard, who'd simultaneously been offered a Motown audition. Hoping to keep her daughter close, Audrey Beard’s mother encouraged her to sign with Boddie, then an upstart Cleveland outfit with just four records on the market. Audrey promptly dropped her given name for the more elegant Penny North. When she arrived at 12202 Union, she was surprised that not a single musician was present—the backing tracks for both "Thought I Had A Good Thing" and "Satisfied" (both Billy Straight originals, naturally) were already on tape. Countless takes were attempted over the course of several weeks before the final mix for Luau 5590 was complete. With her record receiving a fair amount of local radio play, Penny made appearances at teen fairs, talent shows, and clubs in support of the single. On the heels of A. C. Jones’ Imperial Records contract buy-out, a similar offer was extended to Penny North—but pressure from her fellow parishioners to abandon secular music for gospel, convinced Penny to pass.

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