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Home --> Music --> Songs --> Jenny 867-5309

Jenny 867-5309

Claim:   The Tommy Tutone song "Jenny (867-5309)" drove the phone companies (and their customers) nuts.

Status:   True.

Origins:   The 1980s produced a number of one-hit wonders, including the infamous Tommy Tutone and its 1982 hit song "Jenny (867-5309)." This San Francisco band led by Tommy Heath and Jim Keller doesn't appear to have made much of a mark on the music world, and it likely
wouldn't now be remembered were it not for the furor raised by its use of a phone number in its one memorable song.

In "Jenny," a young man laments not having the courage to dial a number found scribbled on a wall but finds some comfort in the notion that he can someday call this girl and sweep her off her feet. Though not explicitly stated in the lyrics, it's strongly implied the name and number were harvested from a bathroom wall, which also implies "Jenny" is a gal of easy virtue and is to be had for the price of a phone call.

"Jenny (867-5309)" caused nothing but grief for telephone customers unlucky enough to have that combination of numbers as their own. Its relentless chorus, "Jenny don't change your number - eight six seven five three oh nah-eeh-ah-ine," pounded the phone number into the minds of teenagers everywhere, resulting in waves of kids dialing it and asking for Jenny. The joke quickly became old for those who had the number and weren't interested in talking to horny teens.

Even as recently as 1999, phone customers unlucky enough to have been assigned an 867-5309 number were still getting plenty of crank calls. An article from Brown University's newspaper explained what happened when the school added an 867 exchange in the fall of 1999:
The biggest complaints about the new phone exchange come from Nina Clemente '03 and Jahanaz Mirza '03, the two students with the telephone number 867-5309.

"It's so annoying," Nina said. "It's the worst number to have in the world."

The girls receive an average of five "stupid" messages every day on their machine, in addition to a slew of hang-ups.

"It's as if they are really expecting Jenny to pick up the phone," Clemente said.

Unfortunately, the problem is not getting better, and people just keep calling. Some ask for Jenny, some play the Tommy Tutone song on the girls' answering machine, and some males even leave their phone numbers in hopes of finding a date.
Whether there was a real Jenny with that very phone number is debatable. Those who attempt to dial 867-5309 on a touch-tone phone will quickly discover that this seemingly random combination of seven digits forms a consistent pattern as tapped out on the pad. The upward diagonal of "8-6" is followed by "7-5-3," the upward diagonal to the left of it, which in turn is followed by "0-9," yet another upward diagonal, this one to the right of the original starting sequence.

The song gave rise to its own lore, which asserted that the "Jenny" in the song was the lead singer's real-life girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend):
[Collected on the Internet, 2000]

I heard a more elaborate story that the number actually belonged to one of the band member's ex-girlfriends (named Jenny, of course) and that he wrote the song to get back at her for dumping him. She supposedly got a restraining order taken out against him and won a court order to have the song pulled from the airwaves for a while, etc. etc.
Other explanations leave off her suing the songwriter but have her becoming angry with him and changing her number (which, ironically, is the one thing the song begged her not to do). In another flavor I'll call you of the tale, the band is sued by a sheriff who had both a daughter named Jenny and the notorious 867-5309 as his home number.

"Jenny" has had a breath of new life breathed into it by the Goo Goo Dolls, a popular band that debuted in 1987 but only began to hit its stride in 1998. Though it has yet to record a cover of "Jenny," the Goo Goo Dolls have often included a rendition of it in club appearances.

An adjunct to this legend is the rumor that due to the overwhelming number of prank calls now made to 867-5309, that phone number is permanently non-assigned for every area code in North America. That isn't the case — although 867-5309 is unassigned in many area codes, we have verified that it is still a valid working number in some of them. In 2004, the putative owner of the 867-5309 phone number in New York (area code 212) put it up for auction on eBay.

Barbara "jenny, they done dizzied you up" Mikkelson

Sightings:   The song "867-5309 (Jenny)" serves as the centerpiece for a 2004 Cingular television ad touting number portability.

Last updated:   27 April 2007

Urban Legends Reference Pages © 1995-2014 by Barbara and David P. Mikkelson.
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
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  Sources Sources:
    Brener, Julie.   "New Phone Exchange Leads to Confusion, Prank Calls."
    The Brown Daily Herald.   10 September 1999.

    Neal, Alan.   "Don't Give Your Number to This Guy."
    The Ottawa Citizen.   23 August 1999   (p. B4).