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TV Pop Diaries
Pop Music on British Television 1955 - 1999

Although the unforgettable Ode To Billie Jo had been a number one single and album in the USA it didn't even reach the top ten in the UK, however her photo on the album cover and reports of her American TV appearances must have drawn attention to producers at the BBC. An invite was made, contracts signed and after introductory appearances on Top of the Pops in May 1968 and Billy Cotton's Bandshow in June Gentry set about recording her first BBC TV series to be shown in colour on BBC2.

Announcing the series Radio Times said Bobbie Gentry "sings of the fragrance, love, sorrow and humour of the Delta country." Dance troupe Pan's People were resident as were singing group The Tears of Joy, John Cameron was the Musical Director, while the show would be produced and directed by Stanley Dorfman. He would later claim that despite his Producer/Director credit, Gentry herself would have as much creative input. It was Dorfman's idea to hire Pan's People, much to the chagrin of Gentry who would then choose inappropriate outfits for the girls just to make things difficult. One week they were dressed as trees. One of the troupe would later claim that Gentry would be stoned on set.

Talking to Disc in June 1968, just after arriving in the country to record the show she exclaimed how much of a big deal this was for an American. "They're very impressed. It's a very prestige thing to have a British TV series. I'm trilled about it."

Each half-hour show began with a version of Mississippi Delta and she would then perform songs from her first two albums, almost in a medley style with little or no gaps between them since there was no audience present for the recording. Each show finished with Chickasaw County Child.

Featured guests on the first series were Alan Price, Donovan, The Hollies, Long John Baldry and future singing partner Glen Campbell.

She was back in London to shoot her second series after appearing on Top of the Pops and Dee Time to help promote it. Arriving in the UK on 4th May 1969 Gentry began work on the series on 14th May. Again Mississippi Delta and Chickasaw County Child topped and tailed each show while Stanley Dorfman, John Cameron, The Tears of Joy and Pan's People also returned. The guests this time were Joe South, Billy Preston, Alan Price, Noel Harrison, James Taylor (performing songs from his Apple LP) and John Hartford.

A third series must have been planned for recording in September 1970 as Tony Joe White was booked in to guest on the 10th, but she made plenty of personal appearances on other people's shows instead, as well as starring in her own half-hour special in October, again produced by Stanley Dorfman.

The third and final series finally appeared on BBC2 in 1971 with the usual supporting team, but Sue & Sunny were the backing singers this time around. According to The Stage Gentry herself devised each show, presumably in terms of theme. Guests included Jerry Reed, Tony Joe White, Marmalade, Elton John, Mason Williams, Randy Newman, while Alan Price made a third appearance.

Her guest slot on the Harry Secombe show in July 1971 would be her last TV appearance in the UK. However in 1974, long after her hits had dried up her TV career would pick up again with The Bobbie Gentry Happiness Hour on CBS, her first and only TV series in the USA.

The soundtrack to the surviving shows would appear on her 2018 box set.



13th July 1968 - 23rd July 1969


1st February 1971 - 15th March 1971