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Tommy Tutone - 867-5309 Jenny (single cover).jpg
US single label
Single by Tommy Tutone
from the album Tommy Tutone 2
B-side "Not Say Goodbye"
ReleasedNovember 16, 1981 (1981-11-16)
Genre Power pop [1] [2] [3]
Tommy Tutone singles chronology
"Angel Say No"
"Get Around Girl"
Music video
"867-5309/Jenny" on YouTube

"867-5309/Jenny" is a 1981 song written by Alex Call and Jim Keller and performed by Tommy Tutone that was released on the album Tommy Tutone 2 , on the Columbia Records label. It peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in May 1982, [4] and No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in April 1982. [5] [6]


The song caused a fad of people dialing 867-5309 and asking for "Jenny". [7] [8]


Lead guitarist Jim Keller, interviewed by People in 1982, said: "Jenny is a regular girl, not a hooker. Friends of mine wrote her name and number on a men's room wall at a bar. I called her on a dare, and we dated for a while. I haven't talked with her since the song became a hit, but I hear she thinks I'm a real jerk for writing it." [9]

On March 28, 2008, Tommy Tutone lead singer Tommy Heath stated on the WGN Morning News that the number was real and it was the number of a girl he knew. As a joke, he wrote it on a bathroom wall in a motel where they were staying. "We laughed about it for years," he said. [10]

However, in a June 2004 interview with Songfacts, co-writer Alex Call explained his version of the song's real origins:

Despite all the mythology to the contrary, I actually just came up with the 'Jenny,' and the telephone number and the music and all that just sitting in my backyard. There was no Jenny. I don't know where the number came from, I was just trying to write a 4-chord Rock song and it just kind of came out. This was back in 1981 when I wrote it, and I had at the time a little squirrel-powered 4-track in this industrial yard in California, and I went up there and made a tape of it. I had the guitar lick, I had the name and number, but I didn't know what the song was about. This buddy of mine, Jim Keller, who's the co-writer, was the lead guitar player in Tommy Tutone. He stopped by that afternoon and he said, 'Al, it's a girl's number on a bathroom wall,' and we had a good laugh. I said, 'That's exactly right, that's exactly what it is.'

Tommy Tutone's been using the story for years that there was a Jenny and she ran a recording studio and so forth. It makes a better story but it's not true. That sounds a lot better than I made it up under a plum tree in my backyard.

I had the thing recorded. I had the name and number, and they were in the same spots, 'Jenny... 867-5309.' I had all that going, but I had a blind spot in the creative process, I didn't realize it would be a girl's number on a bathroom wall. When Jim showed up, we wrote the verses in 15 or 20 minutes, they were just obvious. It was just a fun thing, we never thought it would get cut. In fact, even after Tommy Tutone made the record and '867-5309' got on the air, it really didn't have a lot of promotion to begin with, but it was one of those songs that got a lot of requests and stayed on the charts. It was on the charts for 40 weeks.

I've met a few Jennys who've said, "Oh, you're the guy who ruined my high school years." But for the most part, Jennys are happy to have the song. [11]

"There was no Jenny," Call also told a Tampa, Florida, columnist in June 2009. "The number? It came to me out of the ether." [12]

In the music video, the "Jenny" character is played by Karen Elaine Morton. [13] [ better source needed ]

Popularity and litigation

The song, released in late 1981, initially gained popularity on the American West Coast in January 1982; many who had the number soon abandoned it because of unwanted calls.

When we'd first get calls at 2 or 3 in the morning, my husband would answer the phone. He can't hear too well. They'd ask for Jenny, and he'd say "Jimmy doesn't live here any more." ... Tommy Tutone was the one who had the record. I'd like to get hold of his neck and choke him.

Lorene Burns, an Alabama householder formerly at +1-205-867-5309; she changed her number in 1982. [14]

Asking telephone companies to trace the calls was of no use, as Charles and Maurine Shambarger (then in West Akron, Ohio at +1-216-867-5309) learned when Ohio Bell explained: "We don’t know what to make of this. The calls are coming from all over the place." A little over a month later, they disconnected the number and the phone became silent. [15]

In some cases, the number was picked up by commercial businesses or acquired for use in radio promotions.

Springsteen controversy

Singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen's 2007 single "Radio Nowhere" features a set of guitar riffs at the beginning that many fans considered particularly similar to "867-5309/Jenny", although the lyrics and the tone of the two songs are quite different. Regarding legal action, Heath said "I think it's close enough that if I wanted to, I could work with it... I don't really get into that sort of thing, but the kids do need braces, so maybe I will." [35] [36] He later clarified that he had no interest in suing and felt "really honored at a similarity, if any." [37]


See also

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