Tommy Tutone is and will forever be remembered for his number one rock hit ‘867-5309/Jenny’ from 1981. It was the first single from his 1981 album ‘Tommy Tutone 2’.
For years, Tutone maintained that the number was real and it was a girl he knew named Jenny. He used to say he wrote the number on a bathroom wall and he and Jenny laughed about it for years. However, this was actually not true.
In June 2004, co-writer Alex call talked about the true origins of the song during an interview with Songfacts:
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.