Bobbie documentary a New York Radio Awards finalist

The New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards have announced their 2018 Finalists, which includes last years radio documentary Ode to an Enigma: How Bobbie Gentry Ghosted Us All by Ben Manilla Productions. Winners will be announced on June 18th at the annual 2018 awards ceremony taking place at Manhattan Penthouse in New York City. 

Susanna Hoffs, a founding member of the Bangles, psychedelic folk artist Donovan, and writer Tara Murtha all contribute. Fans that missed the documentary when it aired last year, can listen to it online here.

Meeting Bobbie: A recollection from Violetta Kafourides

I wrote to Bobbie Gentry in the late 60s at the height of the fame of ‘Ode to Billie Joe’, and I was amazed when she replied in person! Sometime later when she came to London to record her her own TV series on BBC2, I decided to go and see her. When I arrived the audience was already settled and I was turned down at Reception because no further seats were available; but I didn’t give up! I spoke to someone from Production, they spoke to Bobbie and I was shown inside, a special chair was brought for me to sit in right at the front!! When Bobbie appeared she was like a light in darkness, she was a goddess: Beautiful, friendly, and with no airs & graces. She walked right up to me, and bent down to chat to me as if to an old friend, she thanked me for coming and said we would chat after the show, and take some photos. Everyone looked at me with envy!! And true to her word, we met afterwards, and she also introduced me to Jerry Reed her guest that night. We took some photos and she also signed the portrait of her which I had painted. I was very touched by her behaviour; I was just a fan, yet she treated me as a VIP and that says everything you need to know about her character.

I wish her long and healthy life; she deserves it. I wish I could communicate with her again, to say how much her music means to me, especially as I’ve since become known as a composer/songwriter, myself with the song Kompra. Although I’ve written other hits, people’s imagination stays on Kompra and perhaps that is why Bobbie lost interest in the end, because as a creator one wants to create, and not be interviewed just to find out about ‘that’ song. Bobbie Gentry wherever you are, we love you ❤

Special Live at the BBC LP release for Record Store Day 2018

It’s with great pleasure that we can announce the forthcoming release of the LP Bobbie Gentry Live At The BBC for Record Store Day on 21st April 2018.

Bobbie Gentry’s performances and on-screen charisma on variety programmes on both sides of the Atlantic had impressed the head of the BBC so much that early in 1968 she was invited to host her own show on BBC 2 making her the first female songwriter to front a TV series on the network. Together with producer and director Stanley Dorfman, they made six half-hour episodes every year for a total of 18 shows spanning 1968, 1969 and 1971.

For someone who later became such a well-known stage performer, it’s surprising that this collection is Bobbie’s first album of live material to be released; backed by Musical Director John Cameron’s adept band it features recordings taken from episodes in 1968 and 1969. Bobbie’s performances of songs like Ode To Billie Joe and Refractions match and sometimes go beyond the intensity of their studio counterparts; and the medley of Nikki Hokey paired with Robert Parkers Barefootin’ feels joyous and inspired, showing just how effective Bobbie could be on more up-tempo material, whilst the sensuous croon of Mornin’ Glory and melancholy chamber pop of Recollection show Bobbie at the peak of powers as a writer and performer.

Record Store Day, now in its 11th year, is hugely important for local, independent record stores. In 2017, shops in the UK sold an extra 32,500 vinyl albums in the week of the event, with sales of 12-inch singles jumping from 2,000 to 89,000.

RIP Rick Hall

Rick Hall, the record producer and executive who, as the founder of Fame studios, almost single-handedly established the small Alabama town of Muscle Shoals as a crucible of some of the greatest soul music to be produced in America in the 1960s and 1970s has died aged 85.

As a hands-on producer at his Fame studio, Hall supervised classic recordings by Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Candi Staton and of course Bobbie. A fellow Southerner, Hall was born in Forest Grove, Mississippi, and brought up in Franklin County, Alabama. In 1970 he produced the Fancy album, including the title track which remains one of Bobbie’s best story songs; a musical cross between country, blues and pop that could define modern Americana. Years later in 1978, he would also produce Bobbie’s last recordings for the Curb division of Warner Bros. Hall remembered his time working with Bobbie fondly:

“I loved Bobbie. My God, she was a beautiful woman. She had a great mind! She had all kinds of talent. The first time I heard Ode to Billie Joe, I was driving past the studio, and I almost ran my car into a telephone pole! I was so amazed! Her story was my story. That’s how I grew up. “Bale the hay. Pass the biscuits,” you know? There were so many Southern things that she did. I felt in my heart that if I ever met her, we’d hit it off. I offered to produce her. We had dinner together, and we did hit it off. We had a great time together. She was one of my very favorites.”

Bobbie recording at Fame Studios, Muscle Shoals, photo from the Fancy LP cover and Rick Hall at Fame.

RIP Jim Nabors

Jim Nabors the singer and actor best known for his role as Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show, died on 30/11/2017. Known for his ability to combine the charm of a sophisticated modern country gentleman with the ingenuousness of a traditional country cousin made him one of America’s most popular TV personalities of the 60’s and 70’s.
Bobbie first met Jim in 1967, and the pair appeared together on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour in March 1969, also attending the Paint your Wagon film premier together later that year in July. In December Bobbie appeared on The Jim Nabors Hour and appeared again the following year in May 1970. Jim Nabors was also a guest on The Bobbie Gentry Happiness Hour in June 1974.

Bobbie on “The Jim Nabors Hour” and attending the premier of “Paint Your Wagon” 1969

RIP Glen Campbell

Glen Campbell has died at the age of 81 after a long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease. A self-taught prodigy, he rose from a poor rural childhood to release over 70 albums and sell 45 million records. Campbell had a distinctive  country pop sound on hits like Gentle On My Mind, By the Time I Get to Phoenix and Wichita Lineman. In 1968 he recorded a duets album with Bobbie, and their easy camaraderie and obvious chemistry made the partnership a great success, resulting in a gold album, and several hit singles including Let It Be Me and All I Have To Do Is Dream. He carried on making music, releasing acclaimed new albums with younger musicians until his health gave out. In 2005 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

NPR: ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ The Hit That Prompted Dozens Of Jazz Versions

U.S. radio station NPR have broadcast an 8 minute audio story marking the 50 year anniversary of Bobbie’s Ode to Billie Joe single . The programme Fresh Air with Terry Gross takes an unusual angle and focuses on the many instrumental jazz covers of the song. Bobbie’s Southern Gothic saga might seem an unlikely choice, but jazz musicians really took to it. Fans can listen to the programme online here.

Spanish E.P. of Bobbie’s Ode To Billie Joe, and Oscar Peterson’s Motions & Emotions album which contained a jazz cover version.