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Southern Gothic: The musical genius of Bobbie Gentry needs to be rediscovered
01:06 pm


Bobbie Gentry

One of the first major country “crossover” artists, Bobbie Gentry became an overnight sensation with her massive 1967 hit single, the hauntingly enigmatic “Ode to Billie Joe.” Sultry and sexy yet obviously whip-smart, the smoky-voiced Gentry was also one of the first female country artists to write and produce her own music. Additionally she could play guitar (with an immediately recognizable hard finger-plucked style), piano, banjo, bass vibraphone and other instruments. She was as gorgeous as she was talented, a poised and classy Southern belle born in Chickasaw County, Mississippi and raised on her grandparents’ farm in a home with no electricity. But when Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge he pushed even the Beatles from the top of the pop charts. The song sold over 50 million copies, and Gentry was instantly among the most famous people in America, winning four Grammy awards for her debut.

Bobbie Gentry was a nearly ubiquitous presence on American (and British) television of the 60s and 70s. You might see her one night singing a duet with Johnny Cash, the next night she’d be on The Hollywood Palace clowning around with Bing Crosby. Or on Ed Sullivan. Glen Campbell’s show. A Bob Hope special. The Smothers Brothers. Tom Jones. Andy Williams. The Carol Burnett Show. Morecambe & Wise. The Grammy Awards. Her own BBC series The Bobbie Gentry Show or her own CBS program The Bobbie Gentry Happiness Hour.

If you look back at the albums she released at a rapid clip in the years between 1967 and 1971 there are two obvious categories to divide Bobbie Gentry’s music into: the incredible songs she wrote and produced herself, which were catchy, deep, funny, sexy, bluesy, often rockin’ and sometimes even somewhat sinister, versus the songs Capitol Records had her record—the same pop covers as everyone else and duets with Glenn Campbell—to keep pumping out the product. She only really actively recorded for about five years. Throughout the 1970s she was one of the biggest-drawing acts on the Las Vegas strip, but she largely stayed out of the recording studio after 1971’s lost masterpiece concept album Patchwork.

The cover of her final album, 1971’s ‘Patchwork’ was an uncredited self-portrait.
More Bobbie Gentry after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Show Biz Babies’ vintage toys of The Monkees, The Mamas and the Papas, Bobbie Gentry and more

Mike Nesmith
In 1967, apparently imitating Remco’s successful Beatles dolls of 1964, Hasbro introduced a cute-as-the-dickens line of “Show Biz Babies,” featuring several popular musical acts of the moment, including The Monkees, The Mamas and the Papas, Herman’s Hermits, and the Spencer Davis Group.

The packaging of these adorable dolls is a delight, as you can see here. Every doll came with a “groovy 33 1/3 record” that “tells all about” the personality whose doll was inside the package. Even better, every doll “bends into swinging poses,” which is an album title waiting to happen. In addition, wasting no square inch, the back featured an “autographed photo” like this one:
Bobbie Gentry
There were 12 dolls in all: all four Monkees, all four members of the Mamas and the Papas, and an additional ad-hoc quartet made up of Bobbie Gentry, Spencer Davis, Mitch Ryder, and Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits. On eBay, the dolls routinely fetch about $100, with the Nesmith model reaching as high as $250 on at least one occasion.
Mickey Dolenz
Davy Jones
Peter Tork
Mama Cass
John Phillips
More dolls plus two of those “groovy 33 1/3 records” after the jump…..

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Bobbie Gentry, the Mississippi hippie, performing with Donovan and The Hollies

Back in the sixties, TV Guide referred to Bobbie Gentry as “the Mississippi hippie.”  At the time, I don’t think hippies thought of Bobbie as one of their own, maybe it was the country thing. In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious that Bobbie had a very bohemian vibe going on, as manifest in these ultra-cool videos.

In the first clip, Bobbie and Donovan perform a version of Donovan’s “There Is A Mountain” that, in my opinion, improves upon the original, adding a Crescent City feel to the mambo beat. In the second, she sings “Louisiana Man” with Graham Nash, Allan Clarke and Tony Hicks of The Hollies. Both clips are from Bobbie’s BBC TV show which aired in 1968.

In video 3, Bobbie does a sultry go-go while singing P.J. Proby’s hit “Niki Hoeky” on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

The Hollies and ‘Niki Hoeky’ after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Where Is Bobbie Gentry?
04:46 pm


Bobbie Gentry



In the Sixties, Bobbie Gentry was a huge star. She was one of the original country-pop crossover acts, she won every award there was to win and she wrote and produced her own chart-topping music, a rarity for a woman at that time. She was gorgeous—with a lion’s mane of big brown hair—and an accomplished musician who played guitar, bass, banjo and vibes, respected by all she worked with.

Her biggest hit was the AM radio staple, “Ode to Billie Joe” a song which captured the nation’s psyche in 1967, the album knocking the Sgt Pepper off the #1 spot. For years people have speculated over the song’s meaning, or exactly what it was that Bille Joe McCallister and his girlfriend were throwin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge. An aborted fetus is the standard answer, but Gentry herself says that the songs theme was really alienation:

Those questions are of secondary importance in my mind. The story of Billie Joe has two more interesting underlying themes. First, the illustration of a group of peoples reaction’s to the life and death of Billie Joe, and its subsequent effect on their lives, is made. Second, the obvious gap between the girl and her mother is shown when both women experience a common loss (first Billie Joe, and later, Papa), and yet Mama and the girl are unable to recognize their mutual loss or share their grief.

Throughout the Seventies, her popularity continued with frequent guest appearances on TV shows hosted by the likes of Glen Campbell (her frequent duet partner), Bing Crosby, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope and in England she was on Morcambe and Wise. She had her own television series in both America and in the UK, signed a lucrative Las Vegas contract for an elaborate floor show—she was the original Celine Dion in that regard—but in 1978, after a Christmas appearance on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, she quietly slipped out of the spotlight never to return. There is very, very little—almost nothing—that you can find about her since then. I recall reading a gossip tabloid standing in a supermarket line about ten years ago that said she dropped out of show biz to raise a handicapped child, but I haven’t found anything to corroborate that anywhere else.

In any case, Bobbie Gentry herself turned out to be as mysterious as her best-known creation.


Jill Sobule - Where Is Bobbie Gentry?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment