Click to listen

Click to listen

Oct. 19: File this away for your next trivia meet-up: Who knocked the Hag from the top of the country charts and herself was toppled from the pop pinnacle by The Beatles? That would be Jeannie C. Riley, who took a great Tom T. Hall story song and socked it to the competition in the fall of 1968.

In exposing the hypocrisy of Harper Valley’s leading citizens, Riley became the first woman to go No. 1 pop and country simultaneously with the same record. (Supplanting Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” on Billboard‘s country chart and preceding The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” on the Hot 100.) It sold 6 million copies, earning her the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal and nominations for the all-genre Record of the Year and Best New Artist awards — rare for a country artist in those days.

The record also provided a huge boost to songwriter Hall. It wasn’t the first country chart-topper from his pen, but it was the biggest in that stage of his career. Although he would continue writing hits for others, his own recording career took off soon after “Harper” became a smash. Last year, he was enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Riley celebrates her 64th birthday today. Follow the links to learn more about her, Tom T. Hall and the song that did so much for both their careers. Then you’ll be able to sock away one last bit of trivia: the Nashville-area institution that gave Hall the idea for the name of his “little Peyton Place.”

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