December 18

10 Not-So-Known Facts About Bobbie Gentry That You Should Know

Here are the facts: First, singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry may have had a short career by choice, but she left the country genre with music that impacted generations after generations of artists. Second, she was the full package – gorgeous face, Miss America-type figure (37-23-37), and a creative fashion sense. And third, she knew exactly how to capitalize on her talent and looks.

And here are some more that you probably didn’t know about her.  

1. Bobbie Gentry Composed Her First Song at Seven 

After her parents divorced, her grandparents raised her on their farm. She grew up dirt-poor, and her first instrument was a piano, which her grandma traded for one of the family’s milk cows. Then, at age seven, she composed her first song, “My Dog Sergeant Is a Good Dog.” 

2. She Took Her Stage Name From a Film

Bobbie Gentry’s birth name was Roberta Lee Streeter. Bobbie was her nickname, while Gentry came from the 1952 film “Ruby Gentry,” which told the story of a poor but beautiful girl who ended up with the town tycoon. 

3. She Attended UCLA, Majoring in Philosophy 

Anyone who heard Bobbie Gentry’s songs would know that she is an intellectual. “Ode to Billy Joe” is a classic example of this. In fact, decades after the song was released in 1967, people still talked about it. Specifically, “What did the song’s narrator and Billie Joe McAllister throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge?” 

That is why it was no surprise that she took up philosophy at university. However, she didn’t finish the course and transferred to the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. 

4. In Between Studying and Working on Her Music, She Did Modeling Jobs

Things weren’t easy for Gentry, and she occasionally performed at nightclubs and country clubs to support herself. She also did modeling jobs, one of which was with actress Lana Turner’s daughter, Cheryl Crane. United Press International circulated the wire photo on June 29, 1962. 

5. She had Lou Rawls in Mind for “Ode to Billie Joe” 

After a decade of hustling in gigs, she decided to quit on New Year’s Eve 1967 and focus on grabbing a songwriting deal. A month later, her publisher sent a demo recording of “Ode to Billie Joe” with only her vocals and guitar to Capitol Records to sell. 

She didn’t want to sing it – and she only did because it was cheaper than hiring a singer – and she actually had the bass-baritone singer Lou Rawls in mind for it. 

Capitol Records requested that she actually sing the song, and she agreed under the condition that performing wouldn’t get in the way of writing and composing. 

In July 1976, Capitol Records released the song with no special promotions. And it was undeniably a smash hit, conquering big-name tracks and swiftly climbing to the number one spot. 

6. Her Creative Sense Wasn’t Boxed in Songwriting  

Gentry was definitely the full package. Her husky, soulful vocals and clever lyrics always packed a punch. It was also widely believed that her album covers for Fancy and Patchwork were actually painted by her. And she was also a stylish woman who designed her own clothes. 

7. She was the First Female Songwriter to Host a TV Series on BBC.

At a time when America’s music industry only served men, Gentry paved the way for women. It wasn’t just being a woman who could sing, write, and produce her own records, but also being the first female songwriter to front a TV series! Her self-titled series was a 6-week special broadcast that aired in 1968. 

According to her biographer Tara Murtha, director Stanley Dorfman told her that Gentry pretty much co-directed the show because she had so many great ideas. 

8. She was a DJ 

Before being a TV host, she used to be a DJ on Armed Forces Radio!

9. Elvis Presley and Tom Jones were Her Las Vegas Show Fans

She had an impressive run of variety shows on the Las Vegas Strip with outrageous sets and costumes all designed by her. Among her fans in the audience were legendary singers Elvis Presley and Tom Jones. But after she gave birth to her son, Tyler, in 1981, she hung up her heels and walked out on performing for good. 

Taylor Swift even mentioned her sudden disappearance from the music scene in her 2012 song “The Lucky One.”

10. Her Last Public Appearance was Recorded on April 30, 1982

She was last seen attending the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 20, 1982. And since then, she hasn’t recorded or performed any song. She also has never been interviewed – not that she was very open to doing so, even when she was an active singer.

There you have it! That wraps up ten not-so-known facts about the elusive trailblazing queen, Bobbie Gentry.  


Bobbie Gentry

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