Music | Celebrity

Almost 40 Years After Disappearing Without A Trace, Bobbie Gentry Releases New Music

In 1981, after a goosebumps-inducing performance on Bob Hope’s All-star Salute to Mother’s Day, a young singer-songwriter named Bobbie Gentry disappeared without a trace.

No, she wasn't reported missing nor did anyone believe she was in any harm, but she stopped making music and cancelled all public appearances without any hint about going on hiatus or retiring.

Gentry, whose real name is Roberta Lee Streeter, catapulted to fame after releasing her song "Ode to Billie Joe," a captivating tune about a family sitting around a dinner table discussing the suicide of Billie Joe McAllister and the mystery surrounding it.

The somber ballad was an instant hit, topping music charts across the country and selling millions of copies.

Soon, Gentry was touring with the likes of Elvis Presley and Tom Jones, and singing duets with Glen Campbell. She earned multiple Grammy Awards, landed a Las Vegas residency as well as a TV show titled The Bobbie Gentry Happiness Hour.

This level of success is why people couldn't make sense of what made her give it all up for good.

In 2016, Neely Tucker, a Washington post journalist, claimed that he "talked, for about 13 seconds, to Bobbie Gentry." If the voice he exchanged words with over the phone was indeed Gentry's then Tucker would be the first reporter in over 30 years to have spoken with the recluse.

After a long search, Tucker finally got confirmation from some real estate agents that the former country-pop star was living in a $1.5 million, "8,000-square-foot house with a great pool" not too far from the Tallahatchie Bridge and the venue of her 1978 wedding to country singer Jim Stafford.

As for why she disappeared, Tucker and author Tara Murtha, who wrote Bobbie Gentry's Ode to Billie Joe, a 2015 biography of Gentry's career, believe the singer quit because she "didn't like the music business."

Now, 37 years after the musical icon vanished from the public eye, she is making an unexpected comeback! Well, not physically, but it's exciting nonetheless.

To mark her 85th birthday, Universal announced that they will releasing a big collection of her old and new songs.  The full-featured boxed set, titled The Girl From Chickasaw County, will include remastered versions of all seven of her previously-released albums.

For longtime fans, the 75 never-before-heard recordings, including Gentry's "lost" jazz album, that will be included in the set, will be the most exciting part of the release. According to the statement, fans will also have the opportunity to enjoy "outtakes, demos, rarities and an 8th disc of live performances taken from her celebrated series for the BBC."

"The release has specially commissioned cover art by David Downton and includes an 84-page book with a comprehensive essay by compiler Andrew Batt, rare and unseen photos, 8 postcards and a facsimile of her original handwritten lyrics for ‘Ode to Billie Joe,'" the statement added.

Although reports of Gentry's involvement in the decision to release the box-set isn't confirmed, there's a very good chance that she gave the record company her stamp of approval since it will feature previously-unheard material.

If you're hoping to get your hands on the box set, you won't have to wait too much longer as it will be available for purchase from September 21, 2018 onward.

Are you excited about the Bobbie Gentry box set?

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.