During the summer of 1967, country music superstar Bobbie Gentry took the world by storm with her debut album. It included her iconic hit "Ode to Billie Joe," a haunting story song that set the stage for generations of country music fans and their unending folkloric speculation about what Billie Joe MacAllister threw off a bridge in Leflore County.
Several theories abound as to what Billie Joe threw off the Tallahatchie Bridge: an engagement ring, flowers, a draft card, a stillborn baby, or an aborted fetus (not to mention a rag doll). There is no definitive answer.
In the song, Gentry relates how a family sits around their table eating their traditional Mississippi country foods while the mother casually relates that Billie Joe MacAllister committed suicide by jumping off the Tallahatchie Bridge. The father asks for more biscuits and says he never thought Billie Joe "had a lick of sense," while the brother claims to have seen him yesterday.
The Tallahatchie River begins in northeastern Mississippi, flowing more than a hundred miles before joining the Yazoo River near Greenwood, MS. It is also the home of the Tallahatchie Dam, a federal flood control structure built in 1936.
There is a new bridge off Ole Roebuck Road on CR 512 in Rising Sun, MS, that replaced the old one in the movie Ode to Billie Joe, but it is not the same place as the original. The original one collapsed in 1972, and was demolished in 1987.