"The Silver Fox" Charlie Rich

Charlie Rich was born December 14, 1932 at Colt, Arkansas in St. Francis county. He grew up learning music in the Baptist Church where his mother played the piano and his sisters sang in the choir. Rich knew music was his future. He played in the band for Forest City, Arkansas high school where he met his future wife Margaret Ann. They married in 1952 and would eventually have four children. After one year at the University of Arkansas he joined the United States Air Force and was stationed at Enid, Oklahoma. While there Charlie played with a blues and jazz group known as the Velevetones. Margaret Ann sang lead vocals.

In 1956 the Rich family moved to West Memphis where he attempted farming and sang at some local bars and clubs. He got his first break when he became a session musician for Judd Records owned by Judd Phillips who was the brother of Sam Phillips of Sun Studios. After not fitting in with the new sound coming out at that time, he was told to go home and listen to a stack of Jerry Lee Lewis records. According to Rich he was told, “Come back when you get that bad.”

Charlie Rich was back at Sun Records in 1958 working as a session musician on records with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and others. In 1960 his third single for the Sun Records subsidiary International Records was a hit. The song was called “Lonely Weekends.” He would perform this song for years to come but didn’t have a follow up hit and soon left for another record company.

Charlie Rich signed with RCA records and his next hit was “Big Boss Man.” Once again though he couldn’t follow up with a successful song. He moved to Smash Records and finally Epic Records in 1967. Thats when he found his style of singing under the direction of producer Billy Sherill. Rich moved more in the direction of country music. In 1972 he released the song “I Take It on Home” which reached number 6 on the country charts. Then Charlie Rich released the two biggest songs of his career in 1973.

“Behind Closed Doors” went to Number One on the country charts and hit the Top Twenty on the pop charts.

“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” was Number One for three weeks on the country charts and two weeks on the pop charts.

These two songs won Charlie Rich three Country Music Association Awards. Best Male Vocalist, Album of the Year, and Single of the Year. He also won a Grammy for the Best Male Country Vocal performance and four ACM awards. Rich continued to ride his fame into the next year and was voted Entertainer of the Year for 1974.

Life should have continued to be great for him, but Charlie Rich once again struggled with fame. He began to turn increasingly to alcohol and had several very public meltdowns including one in which he actually set fire to an envelope at the County Music Awards in 1975. He had a role in the 1978 Clint Eastwood movie, “Every Which Way but Loose” and played himself in the movie “Take This Job and Shove It.” He wouldn’t have anymore hit songs though and soon moved back to Arkansas with his wife.

In 1992 the couple were traveling when he watched his son perform with Freddy Fender. Charlie Rich had a severe coughing bout and went to the hospital. He was released and passed away in his sleep on July 25, 1995 in Hammond, Louisiana of a pulmonary embolism. He was buried at Memorial Park Cemetery in Memphis, Tennesse.

References:

Charlie Rich – Biography. http://www.player.listenlive.co

Charlie Rich – http://www.britannica.com

Charlie Rich – Encyclopedia of Arkansas

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