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Author Topic: Ode to Bobbie Gentry: The music and mystery of a Mississippi Delta Queen  (Read 4537 times)
jeremylr
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« on: July 28, 2012, 11:41:55 AM »

Hi all,

Yesterday was the 68th birthday of singer/songwriter Bobbie Gentry. I wrote a 2-part article explaining her significance as a recording artist and why she abandoned her career. Both the single and the album, "Ode to Billie Joe", knocked The Beatles off the top off the pop charts -- "All You Need Is Love" and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. She and Glen Campbell had a very popular duet album, too.

Anyway, the article includes interviews with arranger Jimmie Haskell [Rick Nelson's producer & arranger for 28 years], her guitarist and drummer, singer B.J. Thomas, and former Capitol A&R man Ken Mansfield.

Elvis/Steve McQueen author Marshall Terrill interviewed Mansfield. Mansfield has a lot of connections to the Beach Boys. He was there when the Beach Boys did the Hawaii shows in '67. And Gentry was present for those shows, too.

If anyone has any info on whether the Beach Boys have ever commented on Bobbie Gentry, please let me know. Also, don't hesitate to share your memories/anecdotes below or on Examiner.com.  There hasn't been a major article about her since a 2003 Mojo feature, so it's high time for a new one. I will be writing more about her later this year...




PART ONE     http://www.examiner.com/article/ode-to-bobbie-g-the-music-and-mystery-of-a-mississippi-delta-queen?cid=PROD-redesign-right-next


PART TWO    http://www.examiner.com/article/bobbie-gentry-rediscovering-the-girl-from-chickasaw-county
« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 01:37:20 PM by jeremylr » Logged
Moon Dawg
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« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2012, 12:16:00 PM »

 Are there any good Bobbie Gentry collections available?
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jeremylr
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« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2012, 01:06:55 PM »

Moon Dawg,

Raven Records in Australia has released every one of Bobbie's albums [a 2 albums per CD type thing]. They started their BG campaign around 2007. However, they will not release her collaboration with Glen Campbell. You would think that one would really sell if marketed properly. It went to No. 11 on the pop charts, No. 1 country. Stayed on the pop charts for 47 weeks, actually beating the chart stay of the Ode to Billie Joe LP [No. 1 Pop, on chart for 30 weeks]. Her second most popular album and a certified Gold one, too. You can find it on iTunes and Amazon as an MP3 download.


If you want an overview of her career, the 2004 Shout! release "Chickasaw County Child: The Artistry of Bobbie Gentry", is a good bet. A single disc with 23 cuts.

AllMusicGuide has some great info on her...

http://www.allmusic.com/album/chickasaw-county-child-the-artistry-of-bobbie-gentry-mw0000330430
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« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2012, 02:22:24 PM »

 Thanks for the info. The 2004 disc overview with "Ode to Billie Joe" era stuff what be nice. I recall reading about one of her other albums from that time in some "all-time essential albums" book, possibly by MOJO.
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« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2012, 05:57:28 PM »

It was a long time ago, but "Ode to Billy Joe" was an absolute phenomenon -- probably only after Pepper/Beatles in terms of its impact that summer.  Every magazine, pundit, water cooler convo was dissecting its meaning -- particularly what had been thrown off the bridge.  And it is also testament to the beautiful diversity of what was then popular music -- in the top 40 you had a distinct  eerie curveball song like this next to the Beatles, Motown, Sinatra, Stones. James Brown...and even the Beach Boys still making the top ten (or close) with Heroes and Villains!  Those were different times....
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« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2012, 01:16:04 AM »

My parents had that Gentry/Campbell album. Glen's wife apparently was a bit jealous of Gentry, insisted that they not be photographed together for the album. That's why it's two separate photos.
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« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2012, 03:03:00 PM »

"Ode to Billie Joe" inspired Tony Joe White very much to write different kind of songs
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« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2012, 01:37:13 PM »

That wouldn't surprise me at all about Glen Campbell's wife being jealous. Bobbie had an effect on many men she met, including her producer and arranger. Producer Kelly Gordon actually left his wife and kids for Bobbie, and arranger Jimmie Haskell dated Bobbie briefly when he and his wife were separated.

Very cool info on Tony Joe White. I have said for years that I would get a good Tony Joe compilation, but I haven't gotten around to it.
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« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2012, 02:40:24 PM »



Very cool info on Tony Joe White. I have said for years that I would get a good Tony Joe compilation, but I haven't gotten around to it.


If you want a single disc, get this:
http://www.tonyjoewhite.com/the-best-of/


I'm not too keen on his recent stuff. This best of goes 'til 1973. There were some goodies afterwards but they are not included here.
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a diseased bunch of mo'fos if there ever was one… their beauty is so awesome that listening to them at their best is like being in some vast dream cathedral decorated with a thousand gleaming American pop culture icons.

- Lester Bangs on The Beach Boys


PRO SHOT BEACH BOYS CONCERTS - LIST


To sum it up, they blew it, they blew it consistently, they continue to blow it, it is tragic and this pathological problem caused The Beach Boys' greatest music to be so underrated by the general public.

- Jack Rieley
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« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2012, 03:19:29 PM »

Her songwriting was a sophisticated blend of bayou soul and country funk. I just love that gal.
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rn57
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« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2012, 04:49:41 PM »

Highly expressive singer, skilled acoustic guitarist, brilliant songwriter. Extremely intelligent, quite well-educated, savvy businesswoman. But the fact that she was, maybe still is, one of the foxiest chicks to ever walk this earth has tended to overshadow all that.  I guess between the lustful stares and the constant questions about what went off the bridge, one day she decided enough was enough.  Which I admire. May her years be many more and blessed.

In the meantime here's a trifecta for ya:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3Kz3MXsqew
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« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2012, 12:09:36 AM »

The Tony Joe white collection is now in my Amazon shopping cart. Many thanks...And it's actually going for $8.00 new, a real bargain.


RN57, that video of Bing Crosby, Tiny Tim, and Bobbie performing In The Cool, Cool Evening is unbelievable. I can't think of a stranger combination. That could very well be part of why Bobbie quit her career -- the lustful stares and the constant questions about what Billie Joe threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge. She basically quit recording after her 1971 album, the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful Patchwork, came out in 1971. She wrote every song on this loose concept LP. Later she did a few one-off singles through 1977 that sadly had no chart impact. However, she kept her Vegas/Tahoe gigs through the early '80s.


Bayou soul and country funk...if you don't mind SBonilla, I want to file your words away. It's a perfect description of Bobbie's music.
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« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2012, 05:21:06 AM »

The Tony Joe white collection is now in my Amazon shopping cart. Many thanks...And it's actually going for $8.00 new, a real bargain.


RN57, that video of Bing Crosby, Tiny Tim, and Bobbie performing In The Cool, Cool Evening is unbelievable. I can't think of a stranger combination. That could very well be part of why Bobbie quit her career -- the lustful stares and the constant questions about what Billie Joe threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge. She basically quit recording after her 1971 album, the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful Patchwork, came out in 1971. She wrote every song on this loose concept LP. Later she did a few one-off singles through 1977 that sadly had no chart impact. However, she kept her Vegas/Tahoe gigs through the early '80s.


Bayou soul and country funk...if you don't mind SBonilla, I want to file your words away. It's a perfect description of Bobbie's music.

Love Bobbie Gentry, Glen Cambell, Tony Joe White. If you particauly like TJW, you should check out Dake Hawkin's incredible album LA, Memphis & Tyler Texas, if you don't know it already, for some speed-fuelled swamp rock!
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rn57
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« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2012, 12:33:04 PM »

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-Vad7FKJUA

Above, Bobbie Gentry wishes everyone, and especially those in uniform, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It dates from around the time she used to go to Nam with Bob Hope.

By way of an Xmas present for you BG fans at the board,

http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/general_library/matinee/filmedinms1.htm

reproduces the first page of her handwritten lyrics to Ode To Billie Joe, which she donated to the University of Mississippi's library years ago.  It starts with a verse (plus a crossed-out line) that is not on the recorded version.  At some blog or other discussing the song, there's a comment from someone who says they traveled to Ole Miss and examined all the pages, and found a) that the original version of the song has no less than fourteen stanzas, and b) not one of them answers the questions of what BJ threw off the bridge or why he threw himself from it.

Which is not really surprising. Someplace else online, there's an interview with Herman Raucher, of Summer of '42 fame, who wrote the screenplay for Max Baer Jr's cinematic adaptation of the song.  Before Raucher started work on the script, Jethro had him talk to Bobbie. Naturally, he asked her the aforementioned two questions. Her answer each time was: "I don't know."  Raucher asked where the song had come from and she replied: "It's just something I made up."

Hope Ms Gentry and her loved ones have many more Merry Xmases and Happy New Years.
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« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2012, 02:18:22 PM »

Very nice, thank you! Huge Bobbie fan.
Personally, I thought her and Billie were just throwing flowers off of the bridge, as she does at the end of the song. And considering the stifling nature of the life described in the song, the reason for Billie's suicide is plain. It is a Tennessee Williams-type scenario.
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« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2012, 04:48:00 PM »

My dad used to talk about that song and her from time to time.  The way he explained it, when the song came out everybody (like said above) talked about it and it was really ground breaking, everybody assumed of course that a baby had been thrown off the bridge.  So he always used to say that he thought it was just disgraceful that she 'sold out' and when they filmed the movie, they threw a doll off the bridge.  Apparently he and everybody he knew thought the movie ruined the song and 'wrote her off'.  LOL

I've got 1 of her records.  I found it at a yard sale, get this: the record itself is missing, but her picture on the cover was so beautiful I just bought the record sleeve and kept it!

« Last Edit: December 22, 2012, 04:49:26 PM by Ron » Logged
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« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2012, 07:26:04 PM »

Get the record itself, man.
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« Reply #17 on: December 26, 2012, 07:32:28 PM »

It wasn't in it.  Just the sleeve. 
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rn57
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« Reply #18 on: December 26, 2012, 08:08:54 PM »

Well, the Ode To Billie Joe LP was reissued on vinyl on the Pure Pleasure label in 2010 - so it is possible to get a copy that ain't all scratched up.

Given that Bobbie Gentry, in terms of immediate sales, became Capitol's hottest-selling new artist in 1967, I wonder how they reacted to it back then. Have never seen her mentioned in an interview with the group or the guys individually.  Indeed, Glen Campbell rarely referred to his top-selling duets with her in interviews. I read his autobiography Rhinestone Cowboy years ago, and Bobbie was mentioned only in the discography in the back of the book.

Anyway, courtesy of Youtube, here's both sides of her recorded debut - on a single by Jody Reynolds of "Endless Sleep" fame, released on the Titan label in 1963.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Br2HBfvm1E "Stranger In The Mirror" has her just singing harmony. But

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Br2HBfvm1E - the flipside, "Ode To Love," has her singing lead on four lines - enough to establish that she had that utterly individual and startling vocal quality when she was nineteen.  It's hard to say why it took another four years for her to be recorded again. Interestingly, the track strongly anticipates the sound and mood of those Lee Hazlewood/Nancy Sinatra records later in the decade. Since Hazlewood had produced one or two of Reynolds's earlier 45s he may have heard this record back then.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJ-ZrW69XSk

is also worth a look - Bobbie and Bobbie - Darin, that is, from a variety show in about '71, to judge from BG's coiffure. They duet in a medley of "Proud Mary," "Pork Salad Annie," "Never Ending Song Of Love," and a couple of other things. Darin has obvious trouble lipsynching but given that his face is about three inches from hers, I can understand the problem. Hard to move one's lips and gaze into those big brown eyes at the same time.
« Last Edit: December 26, 2012, 08:26:52 PM by rn57 » Logged
jeremylr
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« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2013, 05:33:17 PM »

The OleMiss link to the original lyrics for Ode to Billie Joe is beyond impressive. I had never seen those before, so many thanks for posting, RN57.

I have always wanted to read Glen Campbell's recollections of working with Bobbie but have never found any interviews where he goes into much detail. If someone does, please post the link(s) on here.

The two songs recorded with Jody Reynolds are also available on iTunes/Amazon. I agree with your assessment that it is very surprising that it took an additional four years for Bobbie to gain major notice. Hopefully I will uncover more of what was happening in Bobbie's life/career during those years.
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rn57
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« Reply #20 on: January 02, 2013, 08:31:59 PM »

The OleMiss link to the original lyrics for Ode to Billie Joe is beyond impressive. I had never seen those before, so many thanks for posting, RN57.

I have always wanted to read Glen Campbell's recollections of working with Bobbie but have never found any interviews where he goes into much detail. If someone does, please post the link(s) on here.

The two songs recorded with Jody Reynolds are also available on iTunes/Amazon. I agree with your assessment that it is very surprising that it took an additional four years for Bobbie to gain major notice. Hopefully I will uncover more of what was happening in Bobbie's life/career during those years.

Well, Jeremy, glad you liked those links.  Don't know if you've seen this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUTpDvI0hR8

It's from a syndicated talk show which ran in '87 and '88, hosted by Wil Shriner (little remembered now, except for being the guy who took over from Letterman earlier in the decade when the latter left his morning show at NBC for Late Night).  The guest is Jim Stafford. He is asked about Bobbie. For pretty much the first and only time since their divorce, he talks about her, and gives a tongue-in-cheek but still quite telling explanation of why they split up.  Not only that, he talks about their son Tyler, whose photograph is shown briefly - he was 8 years old at the time. 
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« Reply #21 on: February 15, 2013, 12:08:47 PM »

That was a wonderful link to the Jim Stafford interview. Hope he will eventually be comfortable talking about Bobbie on the record.

Earlier this week I finally got around to publishing my interview with Grammy-winning arranger Jimmie Haskell (worked with Rick Nelson, Elvis, hundreds of others)


Bobbie Gentry Had The Most Gorgeous Legs Ever: On The Record With Jimmie Haskell
http://www.examiner.com/article/bobbie-gentry-had-the-most-gorgeous-legs-ever-on-the-record-with-jimmie-haskell


Here is what Haskell talks about...

Quote
Haskell sets the record straight on his initial meeting with Gentry (she liked his beard), recording the string arrangement for "Ode to Billie Joe" as if it were a movie, Capitol being initially embarrassed by the recording, how the alluring songwriter handily dealt with the musician who claimed he "produced" "Ode to Billie Joe", and what it was like to receive a Grammy for the legendary song.

Believe it or not, the easy-going and forthright gentleman briefly dated the girl with the most beautiful legs ever. Once she became wealthy, Haskell analyzes whether fame and fortune affected Gentry's personality in an adverse manner. A glaring example: what occurred backstage at a Memphis Symphony concert when a facility manager did not meet her demands.

And has the singer/songwriter attempted to rejuvenate her long-dormant recording career? You might be surprised at Haskell's revelation that an out-of-the-blue phone call after decades of non-communication was poised to reunite the duo in the studio but inexplicably failed to materialize.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 12:50:41 PM by jeremylr » Logged
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« Reply #22 on: February 15, 2013, 12:32:13 PM »

Thanks for the link! Nice interview.
What did he do with Elvis? I can't connect the two of them....


The Tony Joe white collection is now in my Amazon shopping cart. Many thanks...And it's actually going for $8.00 new, a real bargain.



Did you already have a chance to listen to it? I have to get the "Chickasaw country girl" CD soon. Looks very nice and I'll have more money soon that I can spend.
BTW here's TJW with "Mississippi delta". I don't know where that comes from. It's not on his albums afaik. Maybe an outtake or something, but it's great.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxuABBaNoPY



EDIT:

While listening to some preview clips from "Chickasaw..." I was reminded that you might like some of Carl Perkins' country/after Sun Records stuff. Especially the songs posted below reminded me very much of some of Gentry's songs.

Recorded in '67 and '68

Lake County Cotton Country (live):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-LlXtHLrl0

Poor boy blues (Bob Luman had a hit with this, couldn't find Perkins' version on youtube):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNc_NoKiaU0

You can take the boy out of the country:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUiqAVQE4QY



Perkins was great at these kind of songs. There's much more to discover. All of the three above appear on the Bear Family CD "The Dollie Masters - Country boy's dream"
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 12:53:30 PM by Rocker » Logged

a diseased bunch of mo'fos if there ever was one… their beauty is so awesome that listening to them at their best is like being in some vast dream cathedral decorated with a thousand gleaming American pop culture icons.

- Lester Bangs on The Beach Boys


PRO SHOT BEACH BOYS CONCERTS - LIST


To sum it up, they blew it, they blew it consistently, they continue to blow it, it is tragic and this pathological problem caused The Beach Boys' greatest music to be so underrated by the general public.

- Jack Rieley
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« Reply #23 on: February 15, 2013, 12:48:04 PM »

Rocker,

I feel kinda ashamed, but I haven't had a chance to hear Tony Joe White's album yet. But last night I was listening to Elvis sing For Ol' Times Sake and I've Got A Thing About You Baby from the July 1973 Stax sessions in Memphis. Two of my favorites. So I'm nearly there...

Jimmie Haskell played accordion on Elvis' GI Blues soundtrack in April 1960. The accordion song that sticks out is "Wooden Heart."
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« Reply #24 on: February 15, 2013, 12:54:19 PM »

.

Jimmie Haskell played accordion on Elvis' GI Blues soundtrack in April 1960. The accordion song that sticks out is "Wooden Heart."


Thanks! Didn't know that!

Edited my other post, see above
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a diseased bunch of mo'fos if there ever was one… their beauty is so awesome that listening to them at their best is like being in some vast dream cathedral decorated with a thousand gleaming American pop culture icons.

- Lester Bangs on The Beach Boys


PRO SHOT BEACH BOYS CONCERTS - LIST


To sum it up, they blew it, they blew it consistently, they continue to blow it, it is tragic and this pathological problem caused The Beach Boys' greatest music to be so underrated by the general public.

- Jack Rieley
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