Charlie Rich - His Life and Music
One of the most underrated and talented musical performs of the 20th century was Charlie Rich. Although his career spanned four decades, he is best remembered for his 1973 hits "The most Beautiful Girl in the World" and "Behind close Doors."
Charlie Rich was born into a farming family in Colt, Arkansas on December 14, 1932. Rich spent his early years growing up in Colt till he joined the Air Force in the early 1950's. During his time in the Air Force, he begun his singing career forming a group called the Velvetones. Following his discharge from the Air Force, and after a failed attempt at farming, Rich begun to perform at the clubs there in the Memphis area. Rich was able to get steady work with Judd Records as a session musician. Later in 1958 he recorded a few tracks for the owner of Sun Records, but Sam Phillips didn't think his jazzy style of music was marketable. As the story goes, Rich was able to secure a position as a session musician for Sun Records, after studying the playing style of Jerry lee Lewis.
During his time at Sun records, Charlie Rich played backup on many of the records recorded by Johnny Cash, Billy Riley, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis. Also, he wrote songs for Riley, Lewis and Johnny Cash. In August 1958, Rich released his first song "Whirlwind." This song didn't chart well, and he wouldn't have a top 30 hit until 1960 with "Lonely Weekends." Following this song, none of his next few releases was successful. Going into the 1960's his career stalled. Rich left Sun Records in 1964 to record with an affiliate of RCA(Groove). He had some limited success with the single "Big Boss Man," but when Groove records went out of business, he signed with Smash Records(Mercury) in 1965; while here, Rich had some success with a release called "Mohair Sam."
In 1967 Epic Records decided to take a chance on Rich despite his lack of consistent success. Under the guidance of producer Bill Sherrill, Rich remade himself into a smooth Nashville middle of the road performer. At first his hits were moderately successful, but by the summer of 1972, Rich's songs were appearing in the top ten. The song "I Take it on Home" set the stage for his break though to mainstream appeal. In early 1973 the album "Behind Close Doors" was released. The album earned Charlie Rich awards from the Country Music Association, Best single of the year and Album of the year. In addition, the album went gold, and earned him a Grammy. The title track was a number one hit on country charts and a top twenty on the pop charts. As a result of the success of "Behind close doors", RCA Re-released some of his older songs including "Tomorrow Night," which made the top thirty on its re-release. However, it was "The most Beautiful Girl" that made Charlie Rich a star.
Following "The Most Beautiful Girl" album, the number one's came quickly. Capitalizing on his success, RCA re-released more of his older songs including "A Very Special Love Song," "I Don't See Me in Your Eyes Anymore" and "She Called Me Baby." All these songs were topping the country charts, and some crossed over to the pop charts. Mercury decided to re-release a few of the songs recorded under their label. When "A Field of Yellow Daisies"(written by his wife) and "Something Just Came Over Me" were re-released in 1974, they both were minor hits. Also, In 1974 Rich was named Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association(CMA). When 1975 came, he didn't dominate the charts as he did in1974. Rich had three top 5 hits and one top ten. Despite Rich being at the height of popular, Charlie began to drink heavy, which was causing him problems. Because of the outrage he caused showing up at the 1975 CMA awards intoxicated, and the quality of his singing going down, it prevented his records from being in the top ten until his 1977 release "Rollin' With the Flow."
In 1978 Rich signed with United Artist. Though 1978 he had hits on Epic and the United Artist label. During 1979 he struggles to get a number one hit, but only had minor ones. In 1980 he switches to Eleka, which produced the number twelve single "A Man Just Don't Know What a Woman Goes Through." Rich's final hit in early 1981 was "Are We Dreamin' the Same Dream." Then for the next eleven years, Rich went into semi-retirement until he re-emerged in 1992 with an album "Pictures and Paintings." This album received good reviews and would be his last. During the summer of 1995, while traveling to Florida, Charlie Rich passed away as a result of a blood clot in his lungs. His wife Margaret Ann was at his side as she had always been for years before, and in 1998 Charlie Rich was posthumous awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame for "Behind Closed Doors."