Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Harper Valley PTA

First recorded (as “Mama Socked It to the Harper Valley PTA”) by Margie Singleton (1968).
Also recorded by Billie Jo Spears (1968).
Hit version by Jeannie C. Riley (US #1/C&W #1/CAN #1 1968).

From the wiki: “‘Harper Valley PTA’ was written by Tom T. Hall who reportedly first offered it to Skeeter Davis, who declined. The story goes that Hall, after driving past a school called Harpeth Valley Elementary School in Bellevue, Tennessee, noted the name and commenced writing ‘Harper Valley PTA’ about a fictional confrontation between a young widow, Stella Johnson, and the local PTA who objected to her manner of dress, social drinking, and friendliness with town’s men folk.

“On Songfacts.com, however, Hall recalls the song being based on a true event: ‘I was just hanging around downtown when I was about nine years old and heard the story and got to know this lady. I was fascinated by her grit. To see this very insignificant, socially disenfranchised lady – a single mother – who was willing to march down to the local aristocracy and read them the riot act so to speak, was fascinating.’

“Jeannie C. Riley was working as a secretary for another Nashville songwriter, Jerry Chesnut, when she heard the song demo. Plantation Records rush-released Riley’s recording as a single upon learning that both Billie Jo Spears and Margie Singleton had also recorded the song. Neither Spears’ or Singleton’s versions charted.

“‘Harper Valley PTA’ made Riley the first woman to top both Billboard’s Hot 100 and the US Country single’s charts with the same song, a feat that would not be repeated until Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ in 1981. (It also experienced the biggest leap in US music chart history, going from #81 to #7 in one week.) Riley’s recording of the song won her a Grammy for the Best Country Vocal Performance (Female). Her recording was also nominated for ‘Record of the Year’ and ‘Song of the Year'” in the Grammy pop field.”

Jeannie C. Riley,”Harper Valley PTA” (1968):

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