Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 14 Dec. '32, Colt AR; d 25 July '95) Country singer with pop crossover success, aka the 'Silver Fox' (hair turned prematurely white at age 23). A gifted keyboardist, while in USAF he formed jazz-blues band the Velvetones with wife Margaret doing vocals; moved back to his home state and worked part-time as a farmer, but the pull of music was too strong: moved to Memphis, landed residency at the Sharecropper Club. His wife sent a tape to Bill Justis at Sun Records; he worked there as a session player, but as a songwriter Justis told him to listen to Jerry Lee Lewis records and learn to rock. He began recording '58 but had only isolated pop success 'Lonely Weekends' '60 (no. 21 on Sam Phillips's subsidiary Phillips label). He followed Justis to RCA subsidiary Groove, where he made two highly praised LPs '63--4; went to Mercury's Smash, had hit 'Mohair Sam' '65 (no. 11); recorded for Memphis label Hi '67, then reunited with Billy Sherrill, whom he knew from Sun: signed with Epic in Nashville and was groomed by Sherrill in the early days of countrypolitan, an easy-listening country style that appealed to an MOR market: minor country hits '68--9; scraped into pop chart '70 with 'July 12, 1939' '70; 'Behind Closed Doors' was his first country no. 1, reached no. 15 pop, won a Grammy and led to three CMA awards '73; 'The Most Beautiful Girl' same year was no. 1 both country and pop, top ten in UK. Groove tracks reissued on RCA incl. three no. 1 country hits: 'There Won't Be Anymore' (top 20 pop), 'I Don't See Me In Your Eyes Anymore' and 'She Called Me Baby' (both top 50 pop); his fourth no. 1 country hit in a row was 'I Love My Friend' on Epic (top 25 pop); a Mercury issue of 'Field Of Yellow Daisies' went top 30 country, all in '74; he was named CMA Entertainer of the Year. He had more hits '75 but lost credibility with country fans that year by turning up drunk to present the CMA Awards show, and chart success waned; 'Since I Fell For You' '76 was country top ten, his last Hot 100 pop entry. 'Rollin' With The Flow' swept back to no. 1 country. He switched to UA '78 but had only one top ten country hit; 'On My Knees' (a duet with Janie Fricke) reached no. 1 on Epic; in '79 four UA singles failed to reach the country top 20, while 'I'll Wake You Up When I Get Home' on Elektra was top three and 'Spanish Eyes' on Epic top 20. He then faded from the charts completely; he remained a popular live act but was prone to melancholy and drank too much. Early Sun tracks now on The Sun Sessions CD on VerŠse Sarabande; Sings Country And Western on Hi '67 reissued as Charlie Rich Sings The Songs Of Hank Williams And Others '74, reached top 200 pop LPs; among many Epic albums a best seller was Behind Closed Doors, now on CD; Silver Linings '76 was a gospel LP which made top 200. Pictures And Paintings '92 on Blue Horizon was a seamless collection in an informal small- band setting. 'Feel Like Goin' Home' was covered by Mark Knopfler's Notting Hillbillies, 'Life's Little Ups And Downs' by Ricky Van Shelton; among compilations and reissues were three CDs on Koch International: The Fabulous, Boss Man, Set Me Free.