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Sept. 25: It took father-daughter duo Royce and Jeannie Kendall many years and many miles to become an overnight success. But they caught fire in 1977 with this catchy number that really stood out on the radio.

“Heaven’s Just A Sin Away” was the first of ten Top 10 Billboard hits and three No. 1’s for The Kendalls, who benefitted from “memorable songs, powerful harmonies and a distinctive country sound,” musician and journalist Jon Weisberger wrote a few years back. Brian Mansfield, writing for USA Today, elaborates:

Going back to The Kendalls’ records now is almost like stepping into an alternate country universe. Family harmony had long been an integral part of country, but no other father-daughter duo has had anything approaching the level of The Kendalls’ success. What’s more, they often dealt frankly with infidelity on songs such as “Teach Me to Cheat” and “You’d Make an Angel Wanna Cheat.” …

What made those records even stranger is the bouncy, even joyous rhythmic foundation that came straight out of gospel music. Still, The Kendalls’ records have held up better than much of that period’s country, which actively sought crossover action with mixed success.

The Kendalls (read their bio here) stayed hot till the mid-’80s, the hits becoming smaller and more sporadic. They toured together until 1998, when Royce — who was born 75 years ago today — died of a stroke, at the beginning of a comeback project for Rounder Records. Several years later, Jeannie completed that album, with the help of several Nashville artists.

One was Alan Jackson, who in Mansfield’s story probably speaks for a lot of people who’d listened to their infectious music on country radio in the late 1970s:

“I told her in the studio I’d been singing with her for years; she just never knew it.”

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