It was fifty years ago- in the year 1968 there were sixteen different singles that went to #1- and on September 21, 1968 “Harper Valley PTA” by Jeannie C. Riley would become the thirteenth #1 of the year. “Harper Valley PTA” was written by songwriter Tom T. Hall- who was yet to release his first album as a country artist. The song was first recorded in July 1968 by Margie Singleton but it would be Jeannie C. Riley’s version that would catch fire and become a cross-over smash selling over six million copies. In taking ” Harper Valley PTA” to #1 on both the country and pop charts- Riley made history- she was the first woman to accomplish this feat.
The song had originally been the idea of Margie Singleton the woman who first recorded it. She asked Tom T. Hall to write her a song that was similar to Ode To Billy Joe which had been a big hit for Bobby Gentry the year before. The melody of Harper Valley PTA is pretty much the same as Gentry’s song but she was never given credit for it. Hall offered his song to country star Skeeter Davis first but she declined. In the summer of 1968 Jeannie C. Riley was a 22 year old secretary for country music songwriter Jerry Chestnut. She heard the song and recorded it herself. At the time she was a struggling recording artist who had no previous releases. What a start to a career. She would go on to a successful country career- scoring 13 Top 40 country hits- but never had another pop hit or anything that approached her debut.