The country star and producer Charlie Pennachio's new show Crank It Up Garage! highlights creative builds

By Tricia Despres
July 13, 2021 08:20 PM
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The initial idea that eventually turned into the concept that turned into the new Circle TV show Big Kenny's Crank It Up Garage! started with a somewhat simple premise.

"We just had this idea that no one had ever taken a horse carriage and put a jet engine on the back of it," laughs show co-creator Kenny Alphin, 57, otherwise known as Big Kenny of country duo Big & Rich in a recent interview with PEOPLE. "And then we come to find out someone actually did, and it's drivable!"

"We thought about how cool it would be to have a show where we go out and highlight these creative builds and these creative people behind them," adds Charlie Pennachio, a longtime buddy of Big & Rich and the producer of the eye-popping, 10 episode show currently airing on Circle All Access. "We were looking online at this guy who had put an electric motor on a bathtub and then another guy who put one on a wheelchair. And we went from talking about all of this stuff to actually having our own show about it."

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Kenny Alphin and Charlie Pennachio
| Credit: Crank It Up Productions

In fact, during the upcoming season of Big Kenny's Crank it Up Garage!, these crazy machines end up just being the tip of the iceberg when it comes to creative builds, with the season set to feature everything from an Amish Thunder Buggy to a Trippy Trippy Hippy Van to a one of a kind police cruiser. But what perhaps makes this show even more endearing is the stories behind these intriguing inventions.

"These things can look ridiculous, but then you go and meet these cats behind the machine," says Big Kenny, who filmed the entire show alongside Pennachio in a span of just two weeks. "You know, they are just some of the most real and hardworking folks out there."

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Credit: Crank It Up Productions

It's the type of people Big Kenny has long surrounded himself with. As a boy growing up on his family's farm in Virginia, the towering country artist grew up having to know how to fix just about anything.

"I loved getting to see how things worked and having that feeling that if a water pump went out, it wasn't going to ruin my day," Big Kenny chuckles. "I would just go and get another one and replace it and fix it."

As Big Kenny got older, this love for mechanics paired with his growing admiration for all the crazy cool rides he would see as he toured around the country with Big & Rich inspired him to continue getting creative in his own custom garage.

"There's two of everything in there," laughs Pennachio, a platinum recording artist who has also worked as a producer and songwriter through the years. "Basically, it's like Kenny's Ark in there, just in case."

Indeed, there are welding tables and toolboxes and a pinball machine, and then there are countless little mementos from a career that has spanned over 20 years.

"On the walls is just about anything that comes up that I think is cool," Big Kenny explains. "It can be anything from great words of wisdom to a cool t-shirt to a flag or something. Much of the stuff is stuff that people sent to me that I went and stapled on the wall. It might not look like it, but it's a piece of art to me."

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Kenny Alphin
| Credit: Crank It Up Productions

Pennachio, too, has found that some of his fondest memories occurred within the confines of the garages of his life.

"I've always had this fascination with going fast and riding motorcycles, which turned into loving old cars and old Cadillacs," he remarks. "But what really started it for me was when me and my dad had a project when I younger. We built a Chevy Vega with a three-fifty engine. The thing about that, the engine is not supposed to go with that car because it's really light and more than one time we were stopped by the police to slow down."

It's the stories that now float within Big Kenny and Pennachio's collective consciousness, and the stories that they now want to tell the masses.

"We quickly realized that the stories behind the machines was just as important as the creativity behind the machines," says Pennachio. "There's so much heart and soul that goes into a build, like what these vehicles mean to them and why they are doing it. The reasons as all different, but they're all just mind-boggling when you think about it."

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Credit: Crank It Up Productions

According to the pair, one of the most endearing stories was the story of Ohio-based car enthusiasts Joe Tomaro and John Frato, who took a memory from their childhood and made it spectacular.

"They grew up going to an amusement park called Euclid Beach Park and ended up taking a rocket that was part of a ride there and made it into their very own custom vehicle," says Big Kenny of the subject of a future episode. "Their story of bringing that thing back to life is just so heartfelt."

"And the truth of the matter is, after we've been grounded for a while with the pandemic, for me and Kenny to be able to get back on the road and meet the people that are basically totally like us is just the coolest feeling," concludes Pennachio.