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Rewinding the Charts: In 1982, Tommy Tutone Dialed Up a No. 1 Hit With ‘867-5309/Jenny’

The California band climbed the charts & inadvertently angered a lot of people with that phone number.

Long before Logic rang up a 2017 hit with “1-800-273-8255,” Tommy Tutone had fans across the country singing along to — and calling — another number.

In the summer of 1980, the California-based pop-rock group, fronted by lead vocalist Tommy Heath, landed its first top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hit, “Angel Say No,” which peaked at No. 38 that June.

A year later, the band would release its sophomore album, Tommy Tutone 2, and another single would far surpass the act’s initial chart success: “867-5309/Jenny,” written by Tommy Tutone guitarist Jim Keller and former Clover frontman Alex Call (who was not a member of the band).

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Call has said that the song’s title and riff came to him quickly, but from there, he didn’t know what the song was about. Keller suggested that it was a girl’s number on a bathroom wall.

The track — with such lyrics as “Jenny I got your number/ I need to make you mine” — did not catch fire until 1982, when it rose to No. 4 on the Hot 100 dated March 13 and spent the first of three weeks at No. 1 on the Mainstream Rock Songs airplay chart dated April 3.

Not everyone was happy about the single’s heavy rotation on radio, though. At a time when area codes were generally not necessary to complete a local phone call, curious listeners couldn’t help dialing the number in question and asking for Jenny. Odds were she didn’t answer, but plenty of disgruntled folks did, including a New Jersey gym, a plumbing franchise and even, according to Heath, the daughter of the chief of police in Buffalo, N.Y.

Tommy Tutone scored just one more chart appearance, when its 1983 album, National Emotion, rose to No. 179 on the Billboard 200. Heath later became a computer analyst and software engineer but, at the age of 70, still tours with the band today.