Lead Singer of Tommy Tutone's '80s Classic '867-5309/Jenny' Gives Logic's '1-800-273-8255' His Blessing
Logic's collaboration with Alessia Cara and Khalid, "1-800-273-8255" -- which doubles as the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline -- hit a new Hot 100 milestone this week, breaking the record for highest-charting song with a phone number in its title.
"I think it’s a good public service message," Heath tells Billboard about Logic's track, which he first heard on the radio. "It’s evocative. I like to hear any kind of positive message coming out of music...I’m all for it."
It's quite the blessing, coming from the singer behind one of the most popular phone number hits in pop history. "Jenny" remained on the Hot 100 charts for 27 weeks, peaking at No. 4 in 1982 ("1-800-273-8255" hit No. 3 on the chart dated Sept. 30). "I went from being a nobody in San Francisco to being a hero in places like Texas and New York, Washington and Florida," Heath recalls of the period after the song's explosion.
In fact, the song was so popular that the members of Tommy Tutone -- which is not the name of an actual band member, but rather a shortened version of the band's original name, Tommy and the Tu-tones -- received dozens of complaints from Americans across the country who the number belonged to in real life, and who received countless prank calls asking for "Jenny" after the song's debut. Among the unlucky were the daughter of the police chief in Buffalo, New York and a junior high school in West Virginia. "We actually stopped off there and played a few songs there for them," Heath recalls about the latter location.
As for Heath, the 70-year-old claims he's never called the number -- which, by the way, did once belong to an actual "Jenny." Heath says the song was based on a "nice young lady" he met at a club in California, and that the phone number used in the song belonged to her parents. "I talk to her every few years, and we laugh about it," Heath says. "Her parents changed the number pretty fast."
On the other hand, Logic's "1-800-273-8255," is directly intended to encourage at-risk listeners to call its title number, the national suicide hotline. And it's working: The hotline experienced a 27 percent bump the day the song was released in April.
Logic's track joins a long history of successful phone number titles, including "911" by Wyclef featuring Mary J. Blige (2000) and The Marvelettes' 1962 hit "Beechwood 4-5789." Then there's Heath's personal favorites: Wilson Pickett's "634-5789 (Soulsville, U.S.A.)" from 1966 and Glenn Miller's 1940 "Pennsylvania 6-5000," though Heath adds half-jokingly, "I've sold more than any of those, right?"
Heath, who is now based in Oregon, says he still plays 30 to 40 gigs per year, in addition to working as a software developer. And yes, he and his band still gets plenty of requests for "Jenny": "We love playing 'Jenny,' once a day," he adds, acknowledging that people still prank-call the song's iconic number today. The question is -- can "1-800-273-8255" similarly endure?
"Well, mine’s got legs -- we’ll see if [Logic's] one has legs," Heath says.