100 Greatest Women, #98: Jeannie Kendall

100 Greatest Women


Jeannie Kendall (The Kendalls)

A father-daughter duo from St. Louis, Missouri, The Kendalls had an impressive twenty-year chart run, which featured many big hits and two indisputably country classics. Singing lead on those hits was Jeannie Kendall, daughter and musical partner of Royce Kendall.

Royce had been involved in the music business for twenty years before he teamed up with his daughter. His first act was also a family one. With his brother Floyce, he was one-half of the Austin Brothers, and they were regulars on the TV show Town Hall Party back in the 1950’s. But it wasn’t until Royce paired up with his daughter that the family finally made a splash on the national scene.

After a few ill-advised folk covers, including “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, failed to make an impact, the duo broke through in a big way with the Jerry Gillespie song, “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away.” It was something of a shocking record back in the 1970’s. Even though “Help Me Make it Through the Night” had been a #1 single a few years earlier, a woman singing about giving in to sexual temptation was still a rarity on country radio. Couple it with the fact that her harmony partner while singing the lines “I think I’m giving in” was dear old Dad, and you can understand why some feathers were ruffled.

Regardless, the song won them both a CMA and a Grammy award, and they continued to mine the same topical vein, scoring big hits with “It Don’t Feel Like Sinnin’ to Me”, “You’d Make an Angel Want to Cheat”, “Teach Me to Cheat” and the #1 hit “Sweet Desire.” But they also found success with more plaintive country tunes, like their beautiful 1980 cover of the Dolly Parton-penned “Put it Off Until Tomorrow”, and their other signature song, “Thank God For the Radio”, the latter of which was covered in the nineties by a big fan of theirs named Alan Jackson.

The hits slowed down in the eighties, so the Kendalls did what every good country act of that era did: they took up residency in Branson, Missouri. For them, it was more of a homecoming, given their roots in the area. But they didn’t stay too long, and just when they were laying down tracks for a bluegrass album in 1998 , Royce died suddenly. Over the next few years, Jeannie finished the album herself, turning it into her solo debut. When the album was finally released in 2003, it received high praise from critics. Her second album, All the Girls I Am, followed in 2006. Jeannie continues to tour and record, keeping The Kendalls story alive, and writing new chapters as she goes.

Jeannie Kendall (The Kendalls)

Essential Singles

  • “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away” – 1977
  • “It Don’t Feel Like Sinnin’ to Me” – 1978
  • “Sweet Desire” – 1978
  • “Put it Off Until Tomorrow” – 1980
  • “Thank God For the Radio” – 1984

Essential Album

  • Heaven’s Just a Sin Away (1977)
  • Jeannie Kendall (2003)

Industry Awards

  • CMA Single of the Year – “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away”, 1978
  • Grammy, Best Country Vocal Performance, Duo/Group – “Heaven’s Just a Sin Away”, 1979

==> #97. Barbara Fairchild

<== #99. Sugar (Dave & Sugar)

100 Greatest Women: The Complete List


  1. I’ll put together a list over the next couple of weeks – I will say this – although Connie Smith is my all-time favorite female country singer (and probably the best pure vocalist, period), she won’t make my top three in terms of influence and importance

  2. they were before my time, but i was listening to some of their stuff after i saw this and it made me wish i was around to hear them then.

  3. Me too, Bobbi. I like her duet with Alan Jackson on her solo self titled albumt that Kevin mentioned. That whole albumt is good, actually.

  4. The Kendalls were a huge country act in the late 70s and 1980’s with three #1 records and many top tens and top 40 hits. Jeannie sang lead with Royce proving harmony so she deserves a far higher place on your chart than #98, absurdly low. She also deserves credit for being one of the very few “pure country” female vocalists of that era to become a big star.

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