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Harper Valley P.T.A. movie clip / singer Jeannie C. Riley

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Uploaded on Dec 8, 2007

Jeanne Riley had cut a demo record for one of her songwriter friends, Royce Clark called "The Old Town Drunk." It was a sarcastic ballad of the old drunk that everyone in town made fun of until one day when they found his hat floating in the river and his shoes next to the river bank. The whole town got concerned and started dragging the river looking for his body. All the while the old town drunk was on the hillside, overlooking the entire scene, laughing. He finally came down and told the folks he was glad he was so well thought of.

When the song was played for producer Shelby Singleton of Plantation records. He wanted to know, "who's that girl doing the singing?" Shelby had been presented a song from a struggling songwriter named Tom Hall called "Harper Valley P.T.A." but he was not sold on the song due to the arrangement and the voice of the singer on the demo. It was a definite copy of the song "Ode to Billy Joe" which was a hit a year prior. The voice of the singer was just too smooth, he thought. This song need punch and sarcasm. But once he heard Jeannie's rendition of "The Old Town Drunk," it clicked. And he said, get me that girl and a song I've got called "Harper Valley P.T.A." and I will cut you a million seller.

On friday, July 26, 1968 Jeannie had been working for Passkey Music on Music Row as a receptionist. She closed the door to the office at 5 o'clock and walked next door to Columbia Studio. It was a hot, humid evening. The producer, Shelby Singleton, kept saying the song was "just right" for her voice, just right to catch the angry mood of a nation fed up with hypocrisy. Jeannie glanced at the music and listened as Jerry Kennedy, the session leader, begin his cadence countdown. She began to tap her foot to the beat, she stepped up to the microphone. Suddenly she was into the song.

From the very fist word her mood and lyrics came together in a magical blend.
She stood close to the mike and let it pour out. There wasn't a sound as the last echo of the guitars faded. Then one of the musicians said "Great Gawd A'mighty."

It had taken 15 minutes to cut the first tape. Then someone suggested that they change the line "... the day that momma broke up the Harper Valley P.T.A." to "...the day my momma socked it to, the Harper Valley P.T.A." The lyrics, the music, literally made Jeannie the Harper Valley girl. Caught up in it, she snorted and sneered the anger of the world. That was it. What the world heard was what was done that Friday night in July 1968 by Jeannie C. Riley.

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