Marilyn Jeanne “Jeannie” Seely (born July 6, 1940) is an American country music singer and Grand Ole Opry star. She is best known for her 1966 Grammy award-winning country hit “Dont”t Touch Me”, which peaked at No. 1 on the Record World and Cash Box country singles charts, and at No. 2 on Billboard.
Seely has produced numerous country hits, from the 1960s into the mid-1970s, including duets with Jack Greene like 1969’s “I Wish I Didn’t Have to Miss You”. Seely has befriended many singers, musicians and songwriters in the country music field, including Jan Howard.
Biography and career
Early life and rise to fame
Seely was born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, in 1940. She was the youngest of four children. Growing up, Seely, along with her siblings and parents, lived in a two-story farmhouse, which still exists today in her hometown. Her musical influences partially came from her parents, Leo and Irene. Leo played the banjo on the weekends and also called local square dances. Seely’s mother Irene sang with her daughter every Saturday morning while they baked bread together. She started listening to the weekly broadcast of the Grand Ole Opry at age 11. By the time she was 16, Seely appeared on television station WICU in Erie Pennsylvania . While in high school, she was an honors student and was also a cheerleader. After she graduated high school in 1958, Seely worked in her hometown’s bank. She also did night courses at America’s Institute of Banking.
At age 21, Seely packed up everything she owned and moved to California . She first started working at a Beverly Hills bank, but left after a year and worked for half the money as a secretary at Liberty and Imperial Records in Hollywood, California, where she wrote Anyone Who Knows What Love Is ( Will Understand), by asking a young Randy Newman to bang out the chords for her, as she could hear them in her head, but not play the piano well enough yet to play them. R&B artist Irma Thomas recorded it for a Billboard Pop and R&B hit.
Seely also at this time started working for Four Star Records (a record company Pasty Cline once recorded for), where she began her career as a songwriter. Seely also appeared as a regular act on the program Hollywood Jamboree with Glen Campbell , who was a rising country music star at the time. Finally, Seely got a recording contract of her own from Challenge Records. Songwriter Hank Cochran was impressed with Seely’s talents and thought she should move to Nashville to pursue a career in country music, but Seely didn’t think she was ready yet. Upon the encouragement of country singer Dottie West (who also recorded one of her songs), she finally took Cochran’s advice in 1965 and moved to Nashville.
Success of “Don’t Touch Me”
Upon arriving in Nashville, she was hired to fill in for Norma Jean on the Porter Wagoner;’s road show and television series. Seely was also looking for a record label during this time, having been initially turned down by every record label in town; however Monument Records ultimately offered her a recording contract in early 1966. She was recording in the studio by March of that year. One of the first songs recorded was her husband’s composition, ” Don;t Touch Me”. Seely’s recording became her first major chart success, peaking at the No. 2 position on the Billboard country singles charts, and stayed there for three weeks; on all the other major country charts (Cashbox, Record World), the song reached No. 1, and remained on the charts for over five months. The song climbed into the lower regions of the pop singles charts, peaking at No. 85. Because of the success of “Don’t Touch Me”, Seely was invited to perform on the Grand Ole Opry that June. She also won Billboard’s, Cashbox’s, and Record World’s “Most Promising Female Artist Award”. In March 1967, Seely won the Grammy award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for “Don’t Touch Me”, becoming only the third female country singer to win the award. That year, an album was released, titled The Seely Style, which featured “Don’t Touch Me”. In September 1967, Seely joined the Grand Ole Opry, a lifelong dream of hers, where she became only the third woman to celebrate her fiftieth anniversary as a member on September 16, 2017.
Following her breakthrough hit’s success, Seely released a follow-up single titled ” It” only Love”, from her first album. The song made the top 15 on the country charts at No. 15. The next year, Seely had two other top 40 country hits from her next album, Thanks! Hank, one of which hit the Top 20, called “A Wanderin’ Man”. For the rest of the decade, Seely enjoyed only one other top 10 song, titled “I’ll Love You More (Than You’ll Ever Need)” in 1968. Another album released in 1968, titled Little Things, produced a top-30 hit, “Welcome Home to Nothing”. Seely stayed under Monument until late 1968, before switching to Decca records in 1969.
For several years she was married to Hank Cochran , the writer of such songs as “ Make the World Go Away “.” She;s Got You”,”I Fall to Pieces”,“The Chair”, and “Ocean Front Property”. The marriage – the first for Seely but the fourth for Cochran – ended in a divorce