Did You Know This Classic Country Queen Grew Up Outside Abilene?
While it may surprise some out-of-towners, Abilene and the Big Country have a long history as the springboard for legends in the country music industry, whether they attended area colleges like ACU or otherwise called this part of Texas home.
One of those country legends that you wouldn't expect to have come from a place like Anson, Texas (24 miles outside Abilene) is Jeannie C. Riley.
While Riley didn't write "Harper Valley PTA", singing about rural small-town life must have been natural after growing up in Anson. She married a man named Mickey Riley and gave birth to her daughter Kim Michelle Riley in her teenage years in Anson, before moving to Nashville in 1966 at the behest of a steel guitar player who had heard her demo tapes.
Riley's country music career (and subsequent shift to gospel material) never reached the same success as Haper Valley PTA. She is still alive and well at the age of 76, though she lives in Brenham, and was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2019.
"Harper Valley PTA" skyrocketed the unprepared Riley to stardom in 1968, and earned her accolades, like Best Female Country Vocal Performance at the 1969 Grammy Awards and Single of the Year at the 1968 CMA Awards. The song also sold 6 million copies and landed Riley on the top of the Billboard Hot 100 and the U.S Hot Country Singles charts almost simultaneously.
The song also inspired a 1978 motion picture and an unsuccessful 1981 television series.
You can watch Riley perform the single greatest song of her musical career in the video below — complete with a classic 60' minidress and bouffant hair that reaches for the sky.