The Everett Collection

Linda Henning had big plans for her future after Petticoat Junction

Linda Henning was only 19 years old when she landed the part of Betty Jo Bradley in Petticoat Junction (1963). She joined the cast of legendary actors, which included Bea Benaderet and Edgar Buchanan, as a fresh young face. What an intimidating room to be in!

At the time, Henning had all the aspirations of a young 19-year-old and the money to make it all work. Her character was known for being full of spirit and adventurous while maintaining a close relationship with her fictional sisters: Bobbie Jo and Billie Jo.

In real life, however, Henning had her heart set on something different: Music. 

After listening to any radio station in the '60s, it was clear that there were many young kids who were trying to make it big in the music business, and Henning was proud to say she was one of them.

While many teenagers of the late 1960s were set on becoming the next Beatles, Henning believed that not only did she have the talent to make it in music, but she also had the nerve — something she thought many people her age didn't have.

According to a 1966 interview with The Van Nuys News and Valley Green Sheet, Henning said she was a few years older than the "teen" label but wanted to produce "teenage type songs."

Henning's drive to make music was directly related to her role in Petticoat Junction. When Henning wasn't working on Petticoat Junction, she was performing at state fairs, telethons, and small theaters. She also found that "one standby song" just wasn't enough.

"I'm taking singing lessons and hope to have a little act and maybe cut a record," Henning said. "The musical director on our television show said he would help me."

With the support of Petticoat Junction's musical director and with the help of her dad, Paul Henning, the creator of Petticoat Junction, she was able to start out on the right note. 

Henning said her goal was to do a musical comedy, but her "ultimate goal" was to "have someone write a smash hit show just for me."

In the meantime, Henning said she stayed busy while shooting Petticoat Junction. According to the interview, the series would film three or four days a week and she would work 10 to 13-hour days. 

"I watch other actors who know what they are doing and that's the way I learn," Henning said. "I think it's better than reading about acting. The thing I find most difficult in television work is to sustain a certain mood. It's hard to begin to cry, for example, and then have someone yell 'cut' and wait awhile and then be ready to cry again just as soon as someone says 'filming is starting.'"

Henning believed that the best way to learn both acting and music was by watching and doing. According to the interview, Henning did a lot of amateur work in theaters in order to perfect the way she performed.

"I'd tell anyone interested in going into this business to make sure that is what you really want to do and be willing to work for it regardless of what happens," Henning said.

After her time in Petticoat Junction, Henning did what she said she was going to do: Build a music career. In the 1970s, Henning released a country album titled A Country Session. In addition, she became known for her singing and songwriting.

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