Jeannie C. Riley worked as a country singer and crossed over to the pop top forty only once. But that one record was one of the top pop songs of the 60's.
When she was born in 1945 in Stamford, Texas her name was Jeanne Stephenson. Jeannie was raised in Anson, Texas. She began to sing in some local talent shows in northern Texas and married her childhood sweetheart, Mickey Riley, while still a teenager in 1964. Mickey encouraged her in her singing career and in 1967 she moved to Nashville and took a job as a secretary on Music Row. Jeannie began to become familiar with the country music business and made a few demo tapes.
Shelby Singleton signed her to a recording contract with his Plantation Records. Her first single was a smash hit around the world. Written by Tom T. Hall, Harper Valley P.T.A. told the story of hypocrisy in a small town. It topped both the country and pop charts in the summer of 1968. That year Jeannie won the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
Jeannie C. Riley was given a sexy image, complete with mini-skirts and knee-high boots. Over the next three or four years, she followed with more top ten hits on the country charts, including The Girl Most Likely, Country Girl, Oh Singer, There Never Was A Time, and Good Enough To Be Your Wife. All of these reached the pop chart but none reached the top forty there.
Jeannie toured extensively and it wore on her. She was divorced in 1970 and two years later became a born-again Christian. She began to record gospel music and eventually got together again with Mickey. She had some minor hits on the MGM label beginning in 1971 and went to Mercury, eventually dropping off the charts. She placed one more single on the charts, The Best I've Ever Had, on Warner Brothers in 1976.
Jeannie recorded a number of albums on into the 80's. A compilation of her hits is available on the Charly label titled The Best Of Jeannie C. Riley. Her autobiography, published in 1977, is titled From Harper Valley To The Mountain Top.
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