Ode to Billie Joe (album)

Ode to Billie Joe is the debut studio album by American singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry. It was released on August 21, 1967, by Capitol Records.

Ode to Billie Joe
February–July 1967
Studio album by
ReleasedAugust 21, 1967
Recordedc. February–July 28, 1967
ProducerKelly Gordon
Bobbie Gentry chronology
Ode to Billie Joe
The Delta Sweete
Singles from Ode to Billie Joe
  1. "Ode to Billie Joe"
    Released: July 10, 1967[1]
  2. "I Saw an Angel Die"
    Released: September 11, 1967[2]
  3. "Mississippi Delta"
    Released: October 5, 1967[3]


Despite performing regularly with her mother in the mid-60s, Gentry’s sole ambition originally was to write songs to sell to other artists, telling the Washington Post that she only sang on the recording of "Ode to Billie Joe" that she took to Capitol because it was cheaper than hiring someone to sing it. Gentry also brought "Mississippi Delta" to Capitol on the same demo tape and it was this recording, rather than "Ode to Billie Joe", that initially got her signed. In retrospect, the track is more obviously commercial and reflects what was on the charts in 1967.

Gentry was officially signed to Capitol Records on June 23, 1967, and staff producer Kelly Gordon was given "Ode to Billie Joe" as his first full length production for the label. Both of Bobbie’s "demo" tracks became the album masters; the purchased recording of "Mississippi Delta" was the version issued, but "Ode to Billie Joe" had a string arrangement by Jimmie Haskell dubbed onto the original recording at Capitol. It was the day after the string session that Capitol’s A&R team decided definitively that "Ode to Billie Joe" would be the A-side.

Following the single's success, the rest of the album was quick assembled from a selection of demos Gentry had already recorded guitar and vocal tracks for, with overdubs being completed in a matter of days at Capitol. The result was a unique combination of blues, folk and jazz elements, that furthered Gentry’s recollections of her home, and felt more like a concept album than a hastily assembled collection of songs. Capitol pre-ordered 500,000 copies – the largest pressing of a debut album in the label's history at that point. The album was in stores less than a month after it was completed.[4]


The initial sessions for what would become Gentry's debut album took place prior to her being signed to Capital Records. These sessions were produced by Gentry and Bobby Paris and most likely took place at Paris' Whitney Recording Studio in Glendale, California.[5] "Mississippi Delta" and "Ode to Billie Joe" were recorded circa February and March 1967, respectively, with the string arrangement for "Ode to Billie Joe" being recorded sometime in June at Capitol. "Lazy Willie", "Bugs", and "Chickasaw County Child" were recorded on May 24, and would be overdubbed at Capitol on July 27.

Following the success of "Ode to Billie Joe", Gentry recorded acoustic demos of "I Saw an Angel Die", "Papa, Won't You Let Me Go to Town with You", "Sunday Best", "Hurry, Tuesday Child", and "Niki Hoeky" on July 26. These demos would be overdubbed on July 27 and 28, forming the rest of the album.

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [6]

In the issue dated September 2, 1967, Billboard's review said, "This album, based on the phenomenal single, "Ode to Billie Joe", has got to be one of the top albums of the year. Bobbie proves to be much more than a flash in the pan. Each of her emotional ballads are standouts — especially the haunting "Hurry Tuesday Child". And Miss Gentry's uptempo jazz waltz, "Papa, Won't You Take Me to Town with You", could step out as a single."[7]

Cashbox also published a review on September 2, saying, "Bobbie Gentry follows up her No. 1 chart single, "Ode to Billie Joe", with an album of the same title. Included on the set, in addition to the title tune are, "Papa, Won't You Let Me Go to Town with You", "Chickasaw Country Child", "I Saw an Angel Die", and "Hurry, Tuesday Child". The disc figures to be a runaway best seller".[8]

Record World named the album as one of their Albums of the Week, saying that "Sensation Bobbie Gentry is as good in album form as she is in single form or just plain form on her Ode to Billie Joe album. She's quite a remarkable entertainer."[9]

Reviewing for AllMusic, critic Richie Unterberger wrote of the album, "Her vocals are poised and husky throughout the record, on which she was definitely on the right track — one that she was quickly diverted from, into more MOR-oriented sounds."[10]


10th Annual Grammy Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result[11]
1968 Herself Best New Artist Won
"Ode to Billie Joe" Record of the Year Nominated
Song of the Year Nominated
Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocals Won
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Won
Best Contemporary Female Solo Vocal Performance Won
Best Contemporary Single Nominated
Ode to Billie Joe Album of the Year Nominated
Best Contemporary Album Nominated
Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical Nominated

Commercial performanceEdit

The album peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard Top LP's chart. It was the only album to displace the BeatlesSgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band from its 15-week reign at the top of the chart. It also peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot Country Albums chart and at No. 5 on the US Billboard Top Selling R&B Albums chart.

The albums first single, "Ode to Billie Joe", was released in July 1967, and peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, No. 7 on the US Billboard Top 40 Easy Listening chart, No. 8 on the US Billboard Top Selling R&B Singles chart, and No. 17 on the US Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. The single also saw international success, peaking at No. 1 in Canada on the RPM Top Singles chart, No. 6 on Australia's Kent Music Report Singles Chart, and No. 13 on the UK Singles Chart.

The album's second single, "I Saw an Angel Die", was released in September 1967, and failed to chart.

"Mississippi Delta" was issued as Gentry's debut single in Japan in October 1967, but did not chart.


In 2007, the album was made available for digital download.

In 2008, Australian label Raven Records released the album on CD, paired with 1969’s Touch 'Em with Love.

Track listingEdit

All tracks written by Bobbie Gentry, except as noted.

Side one
No.TitleRecording dateLength
1."Mississippi Delta"c. February 19673:05
2."I Saw an Angel Die"July 26, 19672:56
3."Chickasaw County Child"May 24, 19672:45
4."Sunday Best"July 26, 19672:50
5."Niki Hoeky" (Jim Ford, Lolly Vegas, Pat Vegas)July 26, 19672:30
Side two
No.TitleRecording dateLength
1."Papa, Won't You Let Me Go to Town with You?"July 26, 19672:30
2."Bugs"May 24, 19672:05
3."Hurry, Tuesday Child"July 26, 19673:52
4."Lazy Willie"May 24, 19672:36
5."Ode to Billie Joe"c. March 19674:15


Adapted from the album liner notes.

  • Bobbie Gentry - vocals
  • Kelly Gordon - producer
  • Jimmie Haskell - arranger, conductor
  • Joe Polito - engineer
  • Ed Simpson - cover photo

Chart positionsEdit


Year Chart Chart position
1967 US Hot Country Albums (Billboard)[12] 1
US Top LP's (Billboard)[13] 1
US Top Selling R&B LP's (Billboard)[14] 5


Year Single Chart Chart position
1967 "Ode to Billie Joe" Australia (Kent Music Report) 6
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 1
UK Singles Chart (OCC)[15] 13
US Hot 100 (Billboard)[16] 1
US Hot Country Singles (Billboard)[17] 17
US Top 40 Easy Listening (Billboard)[18] 7
US Top Selling R&B Singles (Billboard)[19] 8


  1. ^ "Bobbie Gentry - Ode To Billie Joe". Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Bobbie Gentry - I Saw An Angel Die". Retrieved 10 June 2018.
  3. ^ "Bobbie Gentry - Mississippi Delta". Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Ode To Billie Joe – Bobbie Gentry". bobbiegentry.org.uk. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  5. ^ Murtha, Tara (2015). Ode to Billie Joe. New York: Blumsbury. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-6235-6964-8.
  6. ^ Allmusic review
  7. ^ "Billboard Magazine - September 2, 1967" (PDF). American Radio History. Billboard Magazine. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Cashbox Magazine - September 2, 1967" (PDF). American Radio History. Cashbox Magazine. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  9. ^ "Record World - September 2, 1967" (PDF). American Radio History. Record World. Retrieved 27 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Ode to Billie Joe - Bobbie Gentry | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  11. ^ "10th Annual GRAMMY Awards". GRAMMY.com. 28 November 2017. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Bobbie Gentry Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  13. ^ "Bobbie Gentry Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  14. ^ "Bobbie Gentry Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  15. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 225. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  16. ^ "Bobbie Gentry Chart History". Billboard. Billboard Magazine. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  17. ^ "Bobbie Gentry Chart History". Billboard. Billboard Magazine. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  18. ^ "Bobbie Gentry Chart History". Billboard. Billboard Magazine. Retrieved 7 June 2018.
  19. ^ "Bobbie Gentry Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved 12 June 2018.