Mary Kay Place was one of a handful of stars who made television worth watching in 1976-77. As the second banana on the weeknight syndicated soap opera satire Mary Hartman Mary Hartman (Jan. 1976-May 1977) she walked away with the series in the same way Flo stole Alice out from under Linda Lavin.
Place's character, dippy aspiring country singer Loretta Haggers, was one of TV's symbiotic moments - bright script writing brought to vivid life by an actress perfectly suited to her role. Portrayed with a hesitantly sweet but staggering niavete, every scene was rich with comedy gold when Loretta was in the mix. So much so that Mary Hartman herself became irrelevant to the series; star Louise Lasser dropped out after a year and change. (It's a lot more complicated than that but let's move on.)
With the show at its peak of popularity in 1976 Mary Kay Place recorded an album, 'Tonite! At the Capri Lounge, Loretta Haggers' produced by Brian Ahern. The LP was nominated for a Grammy Award, reaching # 6 on the Country album charts; the single, "Baby Boy" written by Ms. Place, reached #3.
"Baby Boy" had quite a bit of crossover play because of the TV tie-in and because Country artists were beginning to invade the pop charts in a big way in 1976, a year that included massive hits like Glen Campbell's "Southern Nights"; "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" by Crystal Gayle; "Here You Come Again" by Dolly Parton; and "You Light Up My Life" from Debby Boone.
This was a period of transition for Country acts in general, touring and hard living seemed to be wearing out veterans like Jerry Lee Lewis and George Jones. Newer, slicker acts wanted to distance themselves from the Nashville twang so this album wasn't exactly embraced by the Country music establishment. At least that's my recollection.
While 'Tonite! At the Capri Lounge, Loretta Haggers' was marketed as a send-up of country music the songs were all solid, pristinely produced. Dolly Parton sang background on at least two cuts, "Good Ol' Country Baptizin'" (below) and “All I Can Do", a Parton original. Emmylou Harris, Anne Murray and Nicolette Larson all sang backup on various tunes as well.
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