Today in Texas History – September 21

From the Annals of Country Music – In 1968, singer Jeannie C. Riley because the first female recording artist to top both the Billboard Country and Pop charts with her monster hit Harper Valley P.T.A.   With her career-defining hit song, the 23-year-old Riley accomplished a crossover feat that no other woman would match for another 13 years until Dolly Parton scored with 9 to 5.  Riley had come to Nashville from her native Anson to pursue a singing career, but while working a day job as a receptionist she was noticed by the country-music producer Shelby Singleton.  Singleton thought her voice would be perfect for the protagonist in Tom T. Hall’s song about a small-town widow’s fight for her right to wear her skirts short and her heels high.  Singleton was right and Riley’s first single lit up the Pop and Country charts in mid-summer 1968.

Riley was not a one-hit wonder – at least on the Country charts.  She recorded 5 more top 10 singles but never again hit the top 40 on the Pop charts. Riley herself grew increasingly uncomfortable with her signature hit as she became a born again Christian espousing right wing rhetoric and in fact representing the hated values of the Harper Valley P.T.A.  Riley “socked it to” her fans by refusing to perform her biggest hit.


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