Jeanne Pruett, 1970s
Norma Jean Bowman
January 30, 1937
Pell City, Alabama, U.S.
Jeanne Pruett (born Norma Jean Bowman; January 30, 1937) is an American country music singer and songwriter. She also has credits as a published author. Pruett had several major hits as a music artist, but became best-known for 1973's "Satin Sheets". The song topped the country music charts and helped her secure a membership in the Grand Ole Opry cast.
Pruett was raised near Pell City, Alabama and grew up with a large family. She performed with her family from an early age and learned several musical instruments. She married guitarist Jack Pruett before turning 20 years old. Soon after, the couple moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he was hired to play guitar for country artist Marty Robbins. In the early 1960s, Pruett devoted more time to writing her own songs. Her material was heard by Robbins who recorded her early work. Her writing helped her gain her first recording contract with RCA Victor in 1963. After limited success she moved to Decca/MCA Records where 1971's "Hold on to My Unchanging Love" became her first charting single on the Billboard country list. Pruett's debut studio album was then released the following year.
In 1973, Pruett recorded "Satin Sheets" and the song became her biggest hit. An album of the same name topped the country albums chart and she was nominated for several major awards from the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association. In July 1973, Pruett was made a member of the Grand Ole Opry and became a frequent performer on the broadcast for several decades. She had further hits following "Satin Sheets" with the songs "I'm Your Woman" and "You Don't Need to Move a Mountain". During the remainder of the 1970s, Pruett continued releasing material with little success. In 1979, Pruett returned with her fifth studio album. The record spawned three songs that became top ten hits on the country charts, including 1980's "Temporarily Yours".
Pruett continued recording and releasing music throughout the 1980s. Her sixth (and final) studio release was a self-titled effort in 1985. The following year, she was part of the Grand Ole Opry's first all-female segment. The same year, she began a second career as an author of cookbooks. In 1986, Pruett published the first in a series of works entitled Feedin' Friends. She also hosted her own cooking show on The Nashville Network during this time. Pruett continued performing into the early 2000's before officially retiring in 2006.
Pruett was born Norma Jean Bowman outside of Pell City, Alabama. She was raised on a farm and was one of 12 children. Pruett recalled the experiences of being raised on a farm in her 2017 autobiography. "The beauty of the farm, dotted with tall pine trees, sweet shrubs, and blooming dogwood trees, reminded me why they worked so hard, because there wasn't a more perfect sight in the world than that old farm," she explained. In 1947, the Bowman family farm caught fire which devastated the family. "The only sounds now were an occasional pop of the dying sparks and the sound of Mama softly crying, her tired arms holding on to Dad and the children," she recounted. With the support of neighbors, the Bowman's rebuilt their home on the same property within a year's time.
In her childhood, Pruett often informally performed music with her family. They often sang together on the front porch of their farmhouse where she also learned to harmonize. At home, Pruett also learned how to play musical instruments. She learned how to first play guitar from the song "Down the Trail of Achin' Hearts". She also frequently listened to the radio. "It seemed to me that the voices of the DJs were as recognizable to me as the voices of my favorite singers of the day," Pruett said. Outside of the home environment, Pruett joined her school's choral group and formed a trio in high school called "The Super Suds".
Pruett dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and got a job at a telephone company in Anniston, Alabama. While not working, she and her sister would attend dances at a local VFW hall. At these dances, she also became interested in performance opportunities. She started singing with the VFW's country band and appeared on a local television station. "Now the entertainment hook was really in my mouth," Pruett remembered. It was at these outings that she met guitarist Jack Pruett and they began dating. Jack enlisted in the military shortly after their relationship began. While awaiting his return, Jeanne moved into his sister's home. After Jack returned from the service, the couple married in 1955. Also in 1955, Jack became the touring guitarist for country artist Ray Price.
In 1956, the pair moved to Nashville, Tennessee so that Jack continue performing in Price's band. The couple lived in a trailer park and were neighbors to country performers Lester Flatt, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Jean Shepard. While still living at the trailer, Pruett gave birth to their first child. Shortly after the birth, Jack Pruett accepted a job playing guitar in Marty Robbins' road band. After accepting the position, the family moved into a two-story house in Nashville.
1963–1972: Early career
Pruett developed a songwriting hobby while raising her new family. She became increasingly devoted to it once her children entered school. In 1963, her husband brought her songs to Marty Robbins, who signed her to his publishing company. Several of her songs were demoed by a male singer, with the exception of the tune "Count Me Out". Pruett recorded the song's demo instead. Robbins heard it and was impressed. He later cut the track and had a major hit with it in 1966. He was also impressed by Pruett's singing. "I believe we've discovered a new girl singer!" he said after hearing her on record. Robbins brought Pruett's songs to the attention of producer Chet Atkins at RCA Victor Records. Atkins signed her to a recording contract with RCA in 1963. That year, her first single entitled "Just a Little After Heartaches" was issued. She first heard it on the radio the same day Patsy Cline (and several other performers) was killed in a March 1963 plane crash. "I'm sure my song release was so overshadowed by the shocking news of their death that the only two people who heard and remembered my song was Grant Turner and me," she recalled. Three singles by Pruett were issued on RCA between 1963 and 1964 but were unsuccessful.
Pruett returned to domestic life after her RCA singles were unsuccessful. "I just went to back to being a housewife and mother and writing more songs for Marty and his publishing company," she recounted. In 1969, she signed a new recording contract with Decca Records after Robbins brought two of her songs to producer Owen Bradley. "This girl's got a housewife sound, and I can sell her," Bradley told Robbins. In 1971, she gained moderate success with the single "Hold on to My Unchanging Love". It became Pruett's first chart entry, reaching number 66 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. The following year, Pruett's self-penned "Love Me" was released and became her first top 40 entry on the country singles chart. Robbins recorded the track shortly after the original and make it a top ten hit on the same chart. In October 1972, Pruett's debut studio album was released on the Decca label. It was reviewed by Billboard magazine the same month, who praised the recording. "A sterling, stirring effort for the debut of Jeanne Pruett," they wrote.
1973–1975: "Satin Sheets" and breakthrough at MCA Records
By 1973, Pruett's music career had gained more momentum. She worked several dates overseas booked by agent Hubert Long and made several appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. The same year she released the John Volinkaty's composition called "Satin Sheets". The song had first been cut as a duet by Bill Anderson and Jan Howard on their studio album Bill and Jan (Or Jan and Bill). However, their version was not released as a single. Pruett's producer, Walter Haynes, believed the song could be a hit if the lyrics were modified. According to Pruett, she rewrote the introduction to help make the song record-friendly. After rewriting the beginning, she presented it to Haynes. "Walter played it for Grady [Martin], and he flipped out. He picked up the guitar and played it back to Walter, note for note, and said, 'Here Walt, the damn intro is a hit,'" she recalled in her autobiography. Decca (now MCA Records) believed that "Satin Sheets" was too traditional in its production and chose not to promote it as a single. Instead, Pruett promoted it herself. She distributed the record by cutting squares of pink satin and mailing it to disc jockeys. The marketing method worked when "Satin Sheets" reached number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart in May 1973. The song also rose to number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song's success prompted an album of the same name to be released in June 1973. The album topped the Billboard Top Country Albums chart in July, becoming her highest-charting LP.
"Satin Sheets" gained positive responses and acclaim following its success. While reviewing her 1973 album, Billboard magazine stated that "Miss Pruett let's loose some of that talent that restrained in relative obscurity over the years." In later years, writer Kurt Wolff commented that the song "was far more country -sounding than most songs coming out of Nashville at the time." In addition "Satin Sheets" received positive response from the country community at large. In late 1973, Pruett was nominated for three accolades at the Country Music Association Awards including "Single of the Year" and "Female Vocalist of the Year". She was also nominated in similar categories by the Academy of Country Music. Pruett also accepted an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry in June 1973. "Dolly Parton announced me and said, 'Tonight I'm introducing the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry, Miss Satin Sheets, Jeanne Pruett'."
After "Satin Sheets" became a number one hit, Pruett's schedule became increasingly demanding. "With Jeanne now a star, with hit records and so many signed contracts for road dates, I had to buy a briefcase to carry them all," she wrote. According to Pruett, she was making $135 per day, which was the "same as Dolly [Parton]". Pruett also went back into the recording studio. She had further success after "Satin Sheets". MCA records released a follow-up single in August 1973 called "I'm Your Woman". It became her second major hit, climbing to number eight on the Billboard country chart. The following year, Pruett's eponymous third studio album was released and peaked at number 19 on the country albums chart. The project included "You Don't Need to Move a Mountain", her third major hit on the country songs survey.
In 1975, MCA released Pruett's fourth studio recording, Honey on His Hands. Although the album peaked in a lower charting Billboard position, it included four singles that became top 40 country hits. This included the singles "A Poor Man's Woman" and "Welcome to the Sunshine (Sweet Baby Jane)". Despite a lower chart performance, the album's material received positive reception. Wolff praised the songs, calling them "deep country cuts". Billboard also praised the album, highlighting the title track as a standout.
1976–1983: Career decline and comeback
Pruett continued recording for MCA Records. The label released a series of singles by Pruett during the mid 1970s that failed to become major hits. Songs such as "My Baby's Gone", "I've Taken" and "She's Still All Over You" reached positions outside the top 40 of the Billboard country singles chart. In 1977, the single "I'm Living a Lie" reached number 30 on the country chart, becoming her highest-climbing single of the past several years. The same year, Pruett left MCA and signed with Mercury Records as part of the label's Nashville artist expansion. According to a Billboard article, Mercury developed a marketing plan to help promote its newer artists. The label also intended to release four LP's by their artists as part of the plan. However, the intended plans did not occur for Pruett. The label's only single release by Pruett was "I'm a Woman" (1978), which only climbed to number 94 on the country chart.
In 1979, Pruett signed a contract with the independent label, IBC Records. Her first IBC release was "Please Sing Satin Sheets for Me" (a song based on her 1973 signature tune). Kevin John Coyne of Country Universe commented that the tune "didn’t sound like the record of an artist serious about a comeback." The releases that followed that were more successful. Between 1979 and 1980, Pruett had a major comeback after three of her singles reached the top ten of the Billboard country songs chart. The first was the self-penned "Back to Back", which reached number six. The following single release, "Temporarily Yours", became her highest peaking IBC hit when it reached number five. "It's Too Late" would reach number nine on the country chart before the end of 1980. Billboard took notice of Pruett's return in an October issue of their magazine, calling it an "artist resurgence". "It all added up to remarkable comeback by this personable start of IBC Records and the 'Grand Ole Opry'," writers commented. With new success, IBC issued her fifth studio effort, Encore!. The album was her first since 1975 to reach the country albums chart where it peaked at number 18.
Pruett continued recording for IBC and briefly for the Audiograph label in the early 1980s. She also teamed up with Marty Robbins for what intended to be a duet album project. However, Robbins died in 1982 before the pair could record enough material to fill an album. Instead, the pair's duet version of "Love Me" was released as a single. The song only reached number 58 on the country chart in 1983. According to Pruett, Rick Blackburn of Columbia Records (Robbins' label) sued IBC in response to the duet single because Robbins "never intended" to release it. Pruett believed that Blackburn may have had other intentions behind suing the label. "I've always though he and Columbia Records were just pissed off, that Columbia would receive no money from sales. It seemed like a lame excuse to me," she commented in her autobiography.
1984–present: Musical slow down, cooking career and retirement
Pruett started slowing down her music career as the 1980s progressed. She remained a regular Opry member and dedicated time to regular appearances on the program. In 1985, she released her final studio album to date in a join venture between Dot and MCA Records. The album was part of a project that included new album releases by other veteran country artists including Jan Howard and Billie Jo Spears. The record was produced Billy Strange. In 1987, she released a single titled "Rented Room", which was her final chart appearance on the Billboard country songs chart, peaking at number 81. During the same time frame, Pruett became part of the Grand Ole Opry's first "all-female" segment. The idea was formulated by Pruett who brought it to the attention of the organization after a 1985 television special honoring the 60th anniversary of the Opry. In 1986, the segment aired on the Grand Ole Opry broadcast and was hosted by Jean Shepard. It also included female Opry members Jan Howard, Jeannie Seely and Connie Smith.
In 1986, Pruett made a career shift into professional cooking. That year she released her first cookbook, which she entitled Feedin' Friends. To promote the book, Pruett made regular appearances on The Nashville Network's Nashville Now program with host Ralph Emery. In 1988, she published a second book as part of the Feedin' Friends cooking series. According to Pruett, the cookbooks sold hundreds of thousands of copies since their original release. Four books were eventually released as part of the series. The success of the cookbook series led to the opening of a restaurant named "JP's Feedin' Friends". The restaurant was located inside of the Opryland USA theme park in Nashville, Tennessee until its closing in 1997.
As she led a more active domestic life, Pruett maintained a semi-active role in her career in the 1990s and 2000s. She was inducted into North American Country Music Association Hall of Fame during this time period. In the mid 2000's she also hosted the program's annual seminars in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. In 2006, Pruett announced her retirement from performing and no longer makes regular appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. However, she still remains a member. She returned to domestic life and lived on a ranch outside of Nashville. After ten years of retirement, Pruett released an autobiography in 2018 entitled Miss Satin Sheets: I Remember. The book was released by Page Publishing.
Pruett has been married two times. She married her first husband, Jack Pruett, on October 10, 1955. Shortly following their wedding, Jack left to embark on a several-week tour with Marty Robbins. For the remainder of their marriage, he would often be traveling on the road. The couple welcomed their first child shortly after moving to Nashville named Jack Pruett, Jr. After their son was born and Jack was making a more steady income, the family moved to a two story house in Nashville. At their new home, the couple were neighbors to The Wilburn Brothers. In 1958, the couple welcomed their second child, Jael and moved to a larger estate in the Nashville area. In later years, Pruett's children became musicians themselves and often performed with her onstage.
In 1982, Pruett divorced her husband, citing his alcohol problems and busy schedules. In her 2017 autobiography, she explained her feelings behind the divorce. "Our divorce in the early 1980s was the most painful time in our lives. At that time, I would traded all my success and all his success for the divorce never to have happened," she recalled. According to Pruett, the couple remained "civil" towards one another. Jack Pruett later remarried and died in 2011.
Pruett moved to a nearby apartment following her divorce. Her road manager and occasional bus driver, Eddie Fulton, also lived in the same complex. The pair spent more time together and developed a romantic relationship. In 1985, the couple married and built a log-styled home. "We had lots in common, so we just fell in love," she recounted. In July 2019, Fulton died.
Musical styles and legacy
Pruett's musical style is rooted in country music. More specifically, it is rooted in the traditional country and country pop sub-genres. Pruett's traditional country style was inspired by the early Opry stars of her childhood. "As a young person growing up in a large family, I had the radio as a best friend, because it could give me so much pleasure," she recalled. In her autobiography, Pruett cited Eddy Arnold, Bill Monroe, Patsy Montana and Ernest Tubb as influences on her style. Writers and critics noticed Pruett's traditional sound but also identified pop influences as well. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic characterized her production influence when reviewing her 1998 "greatest hits" effort. "She did have a sound appealing to housewives -- something based in Loretta Lynn's pure country (appropriate, considering the Bradley connection), but also with a distinct pop undercurrent, creating a sound that was at once country and crossover.
— Jeanne Pruett on her musical style
Other writers recognized that many of her songs centered around themes associated with love, wealth and women's independence in relationships. Mary Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann considered her style to be associated with "womanhood", drawing comparisons to Melba Montgomery and Jean Shepard. "Jeanne Pruett always communicated womanly strength, backwoods country honesty, and intense emotional conviction," they wrote in 2003. Author Kurt Wolff found similar qualities associated with Pruett's songs. "She also evoked the wisdom of someone who knew what she wanted – her declarations of love, fidelity, and longing came from a place of strength," he noted.
Pruett is also recognized for her legacy in the country music genre. Her work as an early female songwriter has been recognized in recent years by writers and journalists. In 2018, Kevin John Coyne stated, "Pruett’s legacy is longer than just that hit and those that followed. She’s one of the first female country artists in history to start as a songwriter first, gaining credibility with her pen more than a decade before her voice was center stage." She is also recognized as a significant Grand Ole Opry member. "Jeanne is one of the warmest, funniest, earthiest female personalities in the Opry cast. Her dressing room backstage at the Opry is always a female gathering spot," Bufwack and Oermann commented.
- Love Me (1972)
- Satin Sheets (1973)
- Jeanne Pruett (1974)
- Honey on His Hands (1975)
- Encore! (1979)
- Jeanne Pruett (1985)
Awards and nominations
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result||Ref.|
|1971||Academy of Country Music Awards||Top New Female Vocalist||Nominated|||
|1973||Grand Ole Opry||Inducted as 147th member||Won|||
|Country Music Association Awards||Album of the Year – Satin Sheets||Nominated|||
|Female Vocalist of the Year||Nominated|||
|Single of the Year – "Satin Sheets"||Nominated|||
|1974||Billboard Magazine||Best Album – Satin Sheets||Won|||
|Best Female Artist||Won|||
|Academy of Country Music Awards||Single Record of the Year – "Satin Sheets"||Nominated|||
- Feedin' Friends (1986)
- Feedin' Friends Cookbook II (1991)
- Feedin' Friends Cookbook III (1991)
- Oermann, Robert K. & Bufwack, Mary A. 2003, p. 277.
- Pruett, Jeanne 2017, p. chapter 1.
- Pruett, Jeanne 2017, p. chapter 2.
- Pruett, Jeanne 2017, p. chapter 3.
- Huey, Steve. "Jeanne Pruett: Biography & History". Allmusic. Retrieved 12 May 2020.
- Pruett, Jeanne 2017, p. chapters 3-4.
- Pruett, Jeanne 2017, p. chapter 4.
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- Pruett, Jeanne 2017, p. chapter 5.
- Anderson, Bill; Howard, Jan (1970). "Bill and Jan (Or Jan and Bill) album liner notes (vinyl insert)". Decca Records.
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- ""I'm a Woman" chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
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- ""It's Too Late" chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- "Artist Resurgence: Jeanne Pruett". Billboard. 92 (42). October 18, 1977.
- "Encore! chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- Pruett, Jeanne 2017, p. chapter 8.
- Pruett, Jeanne (1985). "Jeanne Pruett (Liner Notes and Album Information)". Dot Records/MCA Records.
- ""Rented Room" chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- Oermann, Robert K. & Bufwack, Mary A. 2003, p. 277-78.
- Pruett, Jeanne 2017, p. chapter 22.
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- "Jeanne Pruett's New Book "Jeanne Pruett: Miss Satin Sheets I Remember" Details Her Career As The Sixty-Third Member Of The Grand Ole Opry". PR Web. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
- Pruett, Jeanne 2017, p. chapter 7.
- "Jack Dodson Pruett Obituary". Legacy.com. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
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- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Satin Sheets: Greatest Hits: Jeanne Pruett: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
- Oermann, Robert K. & Bufwack, Mary A. 2003, p. 276-78.
- Pruett, Jeanne 2017, p. chapter 17.
- "Billboard Country Awards". Billboard. 86 (7): 36. February 16, 1974.
- Oermann, Robert K.; Bufwack, Mary A. (2003). Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music: 1800–2000. Nashville, TN: The Country Music Press & Vanderbilt University Press. ISBN 0-8265-1432-4.
- Pruett, Jeanne (2017). Miss Satin Sheets, I Remember. New York, NY: Page Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-1-64138-139-0.
- Wolff, Kurt (2000). Country Music: The Rough Guide. London: Penguin Books. ISBN 1-85828-534-8.