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July 24

How Well Do You Remember Jeannie C. Riley’s Signature Hit?

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How Well Do You Remember Jeannie C. Riley’s Signature Hit? 1

Any die-hard country music fan who lived to listen to Harper Valley PTA would know that that was the breakthrough song behind Jeannie C. Riley’s rise to fame. Jeannie C. Riley, an American country music, and gospel singer, first made waves in 1968. She was first discovered by Weldon Myrick, who saw promising potential in her after listening to her demo tape.

The Writer

Written by Tom. T. Hall, the song’s message tells the story of a widowed woman named Mrs. Johnson. After her daughter comes home and shows her a note from school disapproving of her behavior such as going out with men and wearing miniskirts, Mrs. Johnson meets and challenges the PTA. Even the upbringing of her daughter was in question in the note. The highlight of the song takes place when Mrs. Johnson successfully exposes the PTA member’s hypocrisies, one by one, uncovering the hidden truth to their behaviors that are far bleaker than what her daughter had been criticized for.

Its Impact

Riley’s very first single dramatically reformed the face and shape of country music. It immediately skyrocketed to the No. 1 slot on both the Billboard Pop and Billboard Country Charts. Harper Valley PTA sold over 5.5 million copies, was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. on its fourth week, and even landed Riley the Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Single of the Year award of the Country Music Association. Riley also became one of the rare country artists who became a nominee for the major Grammy Award categories for pop, namely, Best New Artist and Record of the Year.

Following her first hit was a string of top-ranking songs including The Girl Most Likely, The Rib, There Never Was a Time, Country Girl, The Back Side of Dallas, Good Enough to be Your Wife and Oh Singer. In the course of Riley’s career, she was among the most popular female country vocalists from the late 196o’s up to the early 1970’s. She had also bagged four nominations for Country Music Association and five for the prestigious Grammy Awards.

Jeannie C. Riley’s historic win in the music industry was a first for a female singer during her time. Her legacy was followed about thirteen years later by Dolly Parton after she released 9 to 5.

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