On this day two years ago, Sun Records President, Shelby Singleton, died of cancer at the age of 77. He is best known for his purchase of Sun Records in 1969 and subsequent marketing of the label and its legacy.
However, many don’t realize that before his purchase of Sun Records, Shelby made a name for himself at Mercury Records. There he worked closely with country artists, as well as some rhythm and blues acts including Brook Benton, Clyde McPhatter, Dina Washington, and even James Brown. One of Shelby’s biggest achievements came when he produced “Harper Valley P.T.A.” The song, written by Tom T. Hall, became a No. 1 pop and country hit on Shelby’s Plantation label in 1968, turning Jeannie C. Riley into an overnight sensation.
“Shelby was the all-around record man,” said Jerry Kennedy, friend and protégé of Shelby. “He was a producer, a marketing guy, a merchandising guy, a publisher and a promoter. He did it all, and he was doing it right up until the end.”