Jeannie C. Riley: The peaks, the valleys
HER NAME IS synonymous with Harper Valley P.T.A. Wherever Jeannie C. Riley goes, the song is requested. Darmstadt's Rainbow Club crowd was no exception.
As the slim Texas lady would finish a song, cries for Harper Valley P.T.A would fill the air from different areas of the ballroom.
The '68 hit that skyrocketed her to fame was written by Tom T. Hall. Within three weeks after the song was released, it was topping the nation's charts. In four months, more than five million copies were sold — a record hard to beat.
Harper Valley has dominated the singer's life in other ways, too. "I had my own valley, my own problems. I was looking for happiness in worldly things. But I survived, with God's help."
In her book, From Harper Valley to the Mountain Top, which is also the name of her latest LP, Riley tells of her problems and how she overcame them. "I hope people will see the spiritual value of my story. I try to explain how long God's arm is, that he never gives up on a person."
As she talked, her soft Texas drawl could be heard. She has a good voice and a variety of songs to complement it. The auburn-haired singer gave us two of her hits - Country Girl and There Never was a Time — from some of her 26 albums. She also sang Willie Nelson's On the Road Again.
The versatile singer loves the Grand Ole Opry and the old songs they play. Then she brought out an old scrub-board and did a tribute to the oldies.
"When I was a teenager, I loved to listen to the radio and go roller skating. When I grew up in Anson, roller skating was all there was to do. Do you remember these," she asked as she went into her rendition of Ain't That a Shame and C.C. Rider.
Slowing things down, Riley sat down to sing The Rose while couples slowly filled the dance floor. Before she sang the most requested song of the evening, she gave us Satisfied.
"This is where I am in my life," she said. "I am satisfied. My husband and I are back together and our daughter, Kim, is with us on this tour. This is the first time I have been back on the military circuit since '71. I was in Europe three times last year but on different gigs."
Although Riley has had three LPs in the gospel charts, she is looking forward to getting back into the country aspect of music. She has her own group, the five-piece, Red River Band, which is backing her on this trip.
When asked what she plans for her career, she answered, "Only God knows."