Profile June 29, 2024

Joe Cannon

The King of Sun Valley

In January 1974, Joe Cannon drove his Ford Econoline from California to Idaho. He brought his wife and his guitar and not much else. The manager of the Tarr and Feathers Saloon in San Francisco (Joe’s gig at the time) had a friend in Sun Valley who needed a new act in his bar. Joe was offered a two-week trial gig at one of Sun Valley’s now oldest haunts: The Ram Bar. Joe played for the apres ski crowd and slept on a cot at the Inn because no one had thought about lodging. Within days, word of mouth spread, and lines started forming at the bar door before the ski lifts closed.

Joe had it all. He was talented musically; he was charming and handsome and had a great sense of humor. His show was such a hit that The Ram asked him back for two more weeks in March and then for the whole Summer and, ultimately, the entire Winter. Bar sales multiplied exponentially (even with 25-cent beer nights!), and by 1979, the Twin Falls Times-News dubbed him “The King of Sun Valley.” Ultimately, Joe would play at the Ram Bar, Creekside in Warm Springs (where they turned the entire upstairs into The Joe Cannon Bar), and at the Elkhorn Saloon. By then, he had a faithful following and always packed the house. His “After Ski Show Party” was a hit for 20 years.

Jean Pelaquin (Joe’s birth name) was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in 1940. As an only child, he spent hours playing records and learned not only how to sing but also memorized hundreds of songs. He was obsessed with all the great R&B artists of the mid-50s—Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and his idol, Chuck Berry. Though his father owned a construction company, he thought music was a waste of time. Joe joined the army in 1959, serving 3 years on active duty and learned to play the guitar while stationed in Germany. After his service, Joe moved to Hollywood and got a construction job on the Universal Studios lot. He took care of the horses on The Virginian set, and in 1966, he wrote a song for his father—a birthday gift. The producer of The Virginian heard the demo, and by the following week, Joe had acting, recording, and songwriting contracts. He acted and sang in 12-show episodes and wrote eight original songs.

Tanya Tucker and Joe Cannon get their boogie on at Elkhorn Saloon, one of many rockin’ nights Joe led during his heyday.

Joe also appeared twice on the Grand Ol Opry—where he received an encore— and on the Mike Douglas show. In 1968, he signed with Buck Owens, who wanted Jean Peloquin to change his name before they left for Nashville to start shooting the TV series Hee Haw—Jean (Joe) declined because he was the last Peloquin. It wasn’t until he started writing for Lee Hazlewood’s publishing company that he became Joe Cannon.

Joe started playing as a solo act at the Tarr and Feathers in San Francisco in 1972. Wayne Tarr was a fan of Joe’s and the San Francisco 49ers, so Joe sang the National Anthem at 12 games for the 49ers plus two NFC Championship Games. Soon after this, Joe began his reign as the “King of Sun Valley.”

Joe now splits his time between Sun Valley and Laguna Beach, California. His love for the valley inspired him to write Idaho Sky and The Great State of Idaho, a centennial song used by the state. One crowd favorite is Sun Valley Sally, a sentimental song Joe wrote about a 92-year-old dorm mother who lived above the Ram bar and would often come down to join Joe on stage.

Joe Cannon loves to sing and play guitar. And he loves to make people laugh, so when he’s on stage, he’s about as happy as a man can be—and it shows. Joe energizes audiences with his own enthusiasm and warmth. For a musician without any formal training, his genre-crossing talents are phenomenal, but Joe is nothing if not humble. He’s 83 now and still handsome and healthy. He has seven grandsons, two granddaughters and two great-granddaughters. Most importantly, he has no regrets.

“I’ve got my friends and my music, and my kids still like me, so that’s good,” Joe says.


“Sun Valley Sally” by Joe Cannon

High above plain country down near Ketchum Idaho

There’s a valley where the sun shines between the rain and snow

it’s so hard to remember where you were before you came

I was drowning in some city where I heard it call my name…it said…

Come to Sun Valley, Sally will greet you there

And if you stop and talk awhile you’ll find that somewhere in her smile

You can learn most everything you need to know

So I packed it all and I left the great big city far behind

And followed the highways to the valley of sunshine

To think that all my whole life I’d been living just to say

God I love the mountains and God I love the way…they say

Come to Sun Valley, Sally will greet you there

And if you stop and talk awhile you’ll find that somewhere in her smile

You can learn most everything you need to know

Now Sally passed away after a hundred years you see

But she left us all a message that was meant for you and me

To live each day and love each day and laugh when you can

For you can be forever young and you will understand…when you…

Come to Sun Valley, Sally will greet you there

Take the time to stop awhile, look up at the sky and smile

And you’ll learn most everything you need to know

So come to Sun Valley

come to Sun Valley

Sun Valley

This article appears in the Summer 2024 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.