Friday, June 3, 2016

50 Years Ago Today ...

... Billie Joe McAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

You remember, don'tcha???   

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day - 
I was out choppin' cotton and my brother was balin' hay.
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat -
And mama hollered out the back door, "y'all, remember to wipe your feet."

And then she said, "I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge -
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge." 

And papa said to mama, as he passed around the blackeyed peas,
"Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please.
There's five more acres in the lower forty I've got to plow"
And mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow.
Seems like nothin' ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billie Joe MacAllister's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And brother said he recollected when he, and Tom, and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn't I talkin' to him after church last Sunday night?"

I'll have another piece-a apple pie; you know, it don't seem right.
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge -
And now ya tell me Billie Joe's jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge."

And mama said to me, "child, what's happened to your appetite?
I've been cookin' all morning, and you haven't touched a single bite.
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today -
Said he'd be pleased to have dinner on Sunday", and oh, by the way -
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge -
And she and Billie Joe was throwing somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge

A year has come 'n' gone since we heard the news 'bout Billie Joe
And Brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going 'round, Papa caught it and he died last Spring
And now Mama doesn't seem to wanna do much of anything
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin' flowers up on Choctaw Ridge  

And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

Bobbie Gentry had one of the biggest hits of 1967 when she told this story in her "Ode To Billie Joe" ... but, as was pointed out to me a few years back in Forgotten Hits, the events of Billie Joe's McAllister's demise actually happened on June 3rd, 1966 based the lyrics of the final verse ... ("A year has come and gone since we heard the news 'bout Billie Joe) ... making this the 50th Anniversary of Billie Joe's leap into the abyss. 

Gentry hit The National Top 40 a few more times ... "Okolona River Bottom Band (#39, 1967) and "Fancy" (#31, 1969) ... plus a couple of great Everly Brothers remake duets with Glen Campbell ("Let It Be Me", #38, 1969, and "All I Have To Do Is Dream", #27, 1970) ... but nothing ever had the impact of this pop culture phenomenon.  After a brief stint on television and in Las Vegas, she's become a complete recluse, refusing to ever talk about her big hit record ever again.  Even most members of her own family has lost contact with her.  (It has been a long-time goal of Forgotten Hits to get her to break her silence here but we've gotten absolutely nowhere with this quest.)  Examiner columnist Jeremy Roberts talked to Jim Stafford, one of Bobbie's ex-husbands recently, and he spoke briefly about their time together ... but everyone has pretty much had to deal with and respect her request to live the rest of her life out of the limelight.

A movie based on the song threw a major wrench into everyone's open-minded interpretation of the lyrics ... somethings are better left to your own imagination ... so we won't even address that here.

Still, she left us with a one-of-a-kind memory ... so sometime today, please take a moment of silence to observe the memory of Billie Joe McAllister.