How Jeannie C. Riley's 'Harper Valley P.T.A.' Socked It To Authority

By Rebeka Knott
Left: Sleeve for the Japanese single of Jeannie C. Riley's 'Harper Valley P.T.A.' (1969). Right: Barbara Eden as Stella Johnson in the 1978 film 'Harper Valley P.T.A.' Sources: discogs.com; Reddit

In August 1968, country singer Jeannie C. Riley scored a number-one hit with "Harper Valley P.T.A.," a song on an unlikely subject: the parent-teacher association in a small town. The song tells a story of "Mrs. Johnson," a single mother being harassed by a prudish and hypocritical P.T.A., and her decision to give her tormentors a taste of their own medicine. The second half of the song is the mother's scathing critique of the P.T.A. members, a beatdown the daughter (who is the narrator) recalls as "the day my momma socked it to the Harper Valley P.T.A."

The song was a sensation, and earned Jeannie C. Riley her own variety show, Harper Valley U.S.A. -- and the song's story was later the basis of a movie and a network TV sitcom.