October 21, 2008
At the peak of her powers, Jeannie C. Riley was enjoying the success of her small-town story song “Harper Valley P.T.A.” in the fall of 1968. But her handlers insisted on a sexually-charged image, one with which Riley disagreed. When she was nominated for several CMA awards that year, the first year the show aired live on television, Riley raged with disgust when her manager Shelby Singleton ordered her to wear a mini-skirt to attract attention.
Although Riley had requested a floor-length dress, Singleton had other ideas, calling the designer and demanding the shortening of the dress. His words: “You’re not an artist, baby. You’re a commodity – a miniskirted, silver-booted commodity. Now be there early. We’ve got a show to rehearse.” Riley was mortified as she performed at the show, but she managed to win the award for Single of the Year.
Although Riley tasted success in country music, and later in gospel, she never again earned another CMA award.
Jeannie C. Riley, Grand Ole Opry performance of “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (1968):