Click to listen

Click to listen

Oct. 9: Mississippi-born Bobbie Gentry was awarded her first gold album on this date in 1967, on the strength of the Southern Gothic title track that was actually a bigger hit on the pop chart than on country.

The record, cut in L.A. for Capitol Records, has a haunting sound centered on Gentry’s voice and acoustic guitar. But the mystery of the story is what makes it a classic. And, according to Gentry’s biography on, the folks at Capitol had something to do with that:

    “… intended as the “B side” of her first single recording … ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ was originally a seven minute recording with only Gentry’s guitar backing the lyrics which told more of the story of what happened to Billie Joe at the Tallahatchie Bridge. After the original verson was finished, the label executives realized that this song was the better option for a single release. Thus, they went back into the studio with the string orchestra for backing and cut the song length almost in half. Cutting the length and lyrics provided the song with a mystical allure which left more to the listener’s imagination about what really happened to Billie Joe. It also made it more suitable for radio airplay.”

The single was released in July and went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, made the Top 10 on the Adult Contemporary and Black charts, and topped out at 17 on the Country chart. It earned eight Grammy nominations, winning four: three for Gentry and one for arranger Jimmy Haskell.

As for the LP, it knocked the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band off the top of the U.S. charts.

Read more about the song and the artist. And check out this photo of Bobbie Gentry on the Tallahatchie bridge.