"There was no Jenny," songwriter Alex Call told a Tampa, Florida, columnist in June 2009. "The number? It came to me out of the ether." However, on March 28, 2008, Tommy Tutone lead singer Tommy Heath stated on the WGN Morning News that the number was real and it was the number of a girl he knew. As a joke, he wrote it on a bathroom wall in a motel where they were staying. "We laughed about it for years," he said.
Lead guitarist Jim Keller, interviewed by People in 1982, tells a different story. "Jenny is a regular girl, not a hooker. Friends of mine wrote her name and number on a men's room wall at a bar. I called her on a dare, and we dated for a while. I haven't talked with her since the song became a hit, but I hear she thinks I'm a real jerk for writing it."
In 2003 singer-songwriter Mark Weigle included the song on his album Different and the Same. Weigle changed the title to "867-5309 Jimmy".
Popularity and litigation
The song, released in late 1981, initially gained west-coast popularity in January 1982; many who had the number soon abandoned it because of unwanted calls.
"When we'd first get calls at 2 or 3 in the morning, my husband would answer the phone. He can't hear too well. They'd ask for Jenny, and he'd say 'Jimmy doesn't live here any more.'... Tommy Tutone was the one who had the record. I'd like to get hold of his neck and choke him."
—Mrs. Lorene Burns, an Alabama householder formerly at +1-205-867-5309; she changed her number in 1982.
Asking telephone companies to trace the calls was of no use, as Charles and Maurine Shambarger (then in West Akron, Ohio at +1-216-867-5309) learned when Ohio Bell explained “We don’t know what to make of this. The calls are coming from all over the place.” A little over a month later, they disconnected the number and the phone became silent.
In some cases, the number was picked up by commercial businesses or acquired for use in radio promotions.
In 1982, WLS radio obtained the number from a Chicago woman, receiving 22,000 calls in four days.
Brown University obtained the +1-401-867 prefix in 1999, assigning 867-5309 to a student dormitory room which was promptly inundated with nuisance calls. In 2002 the university transferred the number to Gem Plumbing & Heating, a local business in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Gem began using the number in advertising campaigns both in Rhode Island and in eastern Massachusetts (area code 617), trademarking the number in 2005.
A February 2004 auction for the number in a New York City area code was shut down by eBay after objections from Verizon; bidding had reached $80,000.
A subsequent February 2004 auction for the number in area code 800 and 888 listed Jeffrey Steinberg's Philadelphia business JSS Marketing for sale, including both numbers as part of the bundle. This circumvents eBay restrictions which prevent selling the numbers on their own.
In 2004, Weehawken, New Jersey resident Spencer Potter picked up the number for free after discovering to his surprise that it was available in the 201 area code, hoping it would improve his DJ business. Unable to handle the overwhelming volume of calls, he sought to sell the number on eBay in February 2009. Although bids reached $1 million, his inability to confirm the identity of the bidders led him to sell it privately to Retro Fitness, a gym franchise with a location in Secaucus, New Jersey that felt the 1980s origin of the number tied in perfectly with their business's retro theme.
In 2006, Benjamin Franklin Franchising, a large national plumbing franchise, began using a toll-free version of the number (+1-866-867-5309), which it advertises as "867-5309/Benny". In 2007, Gem brought suit against Clockwork Home Services, the parent company of Benjamin Franklin Franchising, alleging a violation of its trademark. Clockwork contended that Gem's trademark was invalid. Effective in May 2007, Clockwork was ordered by a court to stop using the number in New England. As of 2011[update] +1-866-867-5309 remains in the hands of Benjamin Franklin Franchising as a valid method of reaching BFF customer support. According to Tommy Heath, lead singer of Tommy Tutone, "It's ridiculous. If I wanted to get into it, I could probably take the number away from both of them."
In 2009, nutrition firm Natrient LLC leased +1-800-867-5309 from 5309 Partners Ltd for $25 million as part of a radio ad campaign.
In July 2009, a Pennsylvaniacompany had the number assigned to a Vonage phone line in the name of a small business, and then listed the entire business for sale on eBay. Whereas telephone numbers are the legal property of the wireline carrier, the logic behind this company and several others was that Vonage as a VOIP provider did not own the numbers, making them open for sale, with eBay being the typical medium.
When area code 855 was opened in 2010, +1-855-867-5309 was taken in the first 47 seconds on the first day, while PEnnsylvania 6-5000 was assigned on the twenty-first day. A captive RespOrg "Voice Box International", controlled by the same people who operate "5309 Partners" and "Five309 LLC", also reserved +1-844-867-5309 in the first few seconds after that area code's December 7, 2013 opening. In January 2013, Five309 LLC announced plans to use 855-867-5309 and 888-867-5309 to promote website JennySearch.com but as of 2013[update] that site is not being actively updated.
A study on the security of numerical passwords in 2012 revealed that 8675309 is the fourth most common 7-digit password, speculating that it is easy to remember because of the popularity of this song, despite being otherwise fairly random (as opposed to the #1 most common 7-digit password: 1234567). On Microsoft's WebTV (in standby mode) 8675309 is a hidden code which causes the unit to call Microsoft for firmware updates. 8675309 is prime, and is part of a twin prime pair.
An October 2011 WBTV local newscast reported that a majority of retail loyalty programs which use the client's local telephone number alone as an identifier showed 867-5309 as registered and eligible for point-of-sale discounts.
Singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen's popular single "Radio Nowhere" features a set of guitar riffs at the beginning that many fans considered particularly similar to "867-5309/Jenny", although the lyrics and the tone of the two songs are quite different. Heath said in response, tongue-in-cheek, "the kids do need braces so maybe I will [sue Springsteen for musical plagiarism]". Heath clarified later on that he had no actual intention whatsoever of taking action and that he felt "really honored at a similarity, if any".