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Charlie Rich

Charlie Rich was simultaneously one of the most critically acclaimed and most erratic country singers of post-World War II era. Rich had all the elements of being one of the great country stars of the '60s and '70s, but his popularity never matched his critical notices. What made him a critical favorite also kept him from mass success. Throughout his career, Rich willfully bended genres, fusing country, jazz, blues, gospel, rockabilly, and soul. Though he had 45 country hits in a career that spanned nearly four decades, he became best-known for his lush, Billy Sherrill-produced countrypolitan records of the early '70s. Instead of embracing the stardom those records brought him, Rich shunned it, retreating into semiretirement by the '80s.

Rich began his professional musical career while he was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in the early '50s. While he was stationed in Oklahoma, he formed a group called the Velvetones, which played jazz and blues and featured his fiancée, Margaret Ann, on lead vocals. Rich left the military in 1956, and he began performing clubs around the Memphis area, playing both jazz and R&B; he also began writing his own material. Rich managed to land a job as a session musician for Judd Records, which was owned by Judd Phillips, the brother of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips. Around this time, saxophonist and Sun recording artist Bill Justis heard Rich play at the Sharecropper Club and asked the pianist to write arrangements for him. Sam saw Rich perform with Justis at a club gig and asked him to record some demos at Sun Studios. Phillips rejected the resulting demos, claiming they were too jazzy. After absorbing some Jerry Lee Lewis records Justis gave him, Rich returned to Sun quickly and became a regular session musician for the label in 1958, playing and/or singing on records by Lewis, Johnny Cash, Justis, Warren Smith, Billy Lee Riley, Carl Mann, and Ray Smith. He was also writing songs, including "Break Up" for Lewis, "The Ways of a Woman in Love" for Cash, and "I'm Comin' Home" for Mann, which was later cut by Elvis Presley.

In August of 1958, Rich released his first single, "Whirlwind," for the Sun subsidiary Phillips International. Throughout 1959, he recorded a number of songs at Sun, though only a handful were actually released. Rich didn't have a hit until 1960, when his third Phillips International single, "Lonely Weekends," became a Top 30 pop hit. However, none of its seven follow-up singles were a success, though several of the songs would become staples in his set, including "Who Will the Next Fool Be?," "Sittin' and Thinkin'," and "Midnight Blues." In the early '60s, Rich's career remained stalled. He left Sun Records in 1964, signing with Groove, a newly established subsidiary of RCA. His first single, "Big Boss Man," was an underground, word-of-mouth hit, but its Chet Atkins-produced follow-ups all stiffed. On Groove, he jazzily interpreted standards, but he also performed a handful of originals, including "Tomorrow Night" and "I Don't See Me in Your Eyes Anymore." Groove went out of business by the beginning of 1965, leaving Rich without a record contract.

Under the direction of Shelby Singleton, Smash Records signed Rich early in 1965. Singleton and Rich's producer, Jerry Kennedy, encouraged the pianist to emphasize his country and rock & roll leanings. The first single for Smash was "Mohair Sam," an R&B-inflected novelty number written by Dallas Frazier. "Mohair Sam" became a Top 30 pop hit, but none of its follow-ups were successful. Again, Rich changed labels, moving over to Hi Records, where he recorded straight country, but none of his singles for the label made any impression on the country charts.

Despite his lack of consistent commercial success, Epic Records signed Rich in 1967, mainly on the recommendation of producer Billy Sherrill. Sherrill helped Rich refashion himself as a Nashville-based, smooth, middle-of-the-road balladeer. At first, the singles were only moderately successful -- "Set Me Free" and "Raggedy Ann" charted in the mid-40s in 1968 -- but persistence paid off in the summer of 1972, when "I Take It on Home" rocketed to number six. "I Take It on Home" set the stage for Rich's big breakthrough into the mainstream, 1973's Behind Closed Doors album. The title track from the record became a number one hit early in 1973, crossing over into the Top 20 on the pop charts. Following the success of "Behind Closed Doors," RCA re-released "Tomorrow Night," which reached the Top 30, but it was "The Most Beautiful Girl," the proper follow-up to his first number one single, that established him as a star. "The Most Beautiful Girl" spent three weeks at the top of the country charts and two weeks at the top of the pop charts. Behind Closed Doors won three awards from the Country Music Association that year: Best Male Vocalist, Album of the Year, and Single of the Year for the title track. The album was also certified gold, Rich won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, and he also took home four ACM awards.

After "The Most Beautiful Girl," number one hits came quickly -- "There Won't Be Anymore" (re-released from his RCA sessions), "A Very Special Love Song," "I Don't See Me in Your Eyes Anymore" (also from RCA), "I Love My Friend," and "She Called Me Baby" (RCA) all topped the country charts, and several of the songs also crossed over into the pop charts. Mercury began re-releasing his Smash recordings, and two of them -- "A Field of Yellow Daisies" and "Something Just Came Over Me" -- became minor hits. All of this success led the CMA to name him Entertainer of the Year in 1974.

Rich didn't quite dominate the charts in 1975 as he did the previous year, but he did have three Top Five hits: "My Elusive Dreams," "Every Time You Touch Me (I Get High)," and "All Over Me," plus the Top Ten "Since I Fell For You." Even though he was at the peak of his popularity, Rich had begun to drink heavily, causing considerable problems off-stage. His destructive behavior culminated at the CMA ceremony for 1975, when he presented the award for that year's Entertainer of the Year. Instead of reading the name of the winner, he set fire to the certificate that named the new winner, who happened to be John Denver. Fans and industry insiders were outraged, and Rich had trouble having hits throughout 1976 -- none of his singles cracked the Top 20.

The slump in his career couldn't be completely attributed to Rich's behavior. His records had begun to sound increasingly similar, as he and Sherrill were working over the same territory they began exploring in 1968. There were exceptions -- such as 1976's acclaimed gospel record, Silver Linings -- but it took Rich until 1977 to break back into the Top Ten with the number one "Rollin' With the Flow." Early in 1978, he signed with United Artists and throughout that year had hits on both Epic and UA. Rich worked at United Artists with Larry Butler, a producer who had a similar style to Sherrill. Epic continued to have hits, as "Beautiful Woman" reached the Top Ten in the summer and a duet with Janie Fricke, "On My Knees," became his last number one hit that fall. "I'll Wake You Up When I Get Home," taken from the Clint Eastwood movie Every Which Way But Loose, was a number three hit early in 1979; it would be his last Top Ten single.

Rich struggled to have a big hit throughout 1979, but none of his singles were anything more than a minor success. In 1980, he switched labels to Elektra, resulting in the number 12 single "A Man Just Don't Know What a Woman Goes Through" in the fall of that year. One more Top 40 hit followed -- "Are We Dreamin' the Same Dream" early in 1981 -- but Rich decided to remove himself from the spotlight. For over a decade, Rich was silent, living in semiretirement and only playing the occasional concert. He returned in 1992 with Pictures and Paintings, a jazzy record produced by journalist Peter Guralnick and released on Sire.

Pictures and Paintings received positive reviews and restored Rich's reputation, but it would be his last record. Rich died from a blood clot in his lung in the summer of 1995, when he was travelling to Florida with his wife, Margaret Ann. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: The Complete Sun Masters

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3


Awesome song, would hear it playing on the radio, in my dad's 64 impala when I was a little boy, day dreaming of my beautiful lady. And now 30 years later it still warms my heart......
When Country was Country well what can I say...differ e n t I guess ..
brings back many memeriors
My mom used to play this song alot when I was little. Love it. Can't help but sing along to it.
My parents had 2 restaurants in the 70's remember his music playing in the jukebox. Such a great man with talent and music writer doesn't get better then this! May God bless your soul Mr. Silver Fox: -) YES 70's & 80's music were the best!

Charlie Rich was the best. Super talent. He could write, sing and play and arrange it, like no other. He was much more than a country music singer, Jazz, the blues gospel, super..He was the ultimate soul man. His bio. is very interesting. Read about him in the Lost highway, by Peter Guralick.

1995 was a year of turmoil for me, and the year of new beginning for me also. It was the Silver Fox that kept me going, to listen to his music gave me hope and determinatio n to put one foot ahead of another. His music kept me going and put me to sleep many a sleepless night. I will always love Charlie Rich, he was the MAN, he inspired so many. 1995 was a new beginning for me and a new beginning for THE SILVER FOX, I feel he is singing his heart out in heaven, so sweetly, so to him I salute.
Like this song.
Wow!!!! Just good to hear his songs;)))))) >
Love the silver fox!
How can anyone say they don't like country after hearing sweet sounds like this. Some growing up to do maybe?
A lady in the street but a freak in bed.
Don't read this cause it actually works. You will get kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if u don't post this comment on at least 3 songs you will die in two days. Now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary... put this in at least 5 songs in at least 143 minutes when if done press f6 and ur lover's name will appear on the screen in big letters. this is scary Cuz it actually works
I knew the guy who wrote Behind Closes Doors, Norro Wilson. Would have been great had you included his name on the Rich biol.
lil_ladyluck 7 7 7 6
O my...I can remember listening to Charlie Rich when I was just a kid and my favorite was behind closed doors among others...he was great...RIP
My grandmother was in love with Charlie
My oldest son would sing most beautiful girl in the world to his mother he was 9 years old at the time pretty good to influance a boy that young. He was great .
A true silver Fox Loved his voice
He was smooth, talented and easy on the ears. My wife and I always went where we could hear him in person never were we disappointed . After an evening at a show it was always a good and productive be time story. I'll take it any way I can. Thank you Charlie Rich for your time here on earth and God Bless You in Heaven. The good do die young. Bill and Marilyn Keener in Virginia is for Lovers.
BEEyoutiful SOUND! pdick2527
Way to yes! after the third of the month, capeesh!
pdick2527@ya h o o . c o m
I still have his albums from when I was a kid and listen to them to this day along with all of the others greats of his time. No one can compare to the old guys.
A Pioneer in Country Music, and very under-rated singer.
It's something about that voice. It's beautiful
I last saw Charlie in the airport in Dallas, somewhere around 1992. He looked good. Great voice.
great voice
Charlie Rich was one of my favorites. I miss his music. I wish he had been cloned. I am sorry he is not with us anymore.
He was responsible for our marriage in 1976 due to his great music. My wife and I miss him so much! Love ya, Charlie, God Bless! It's been 35 years now and we both still cry while listening to his songs. We are currently arranging a video/audio presentation for our funeral(s). If the internet reaches heaven, I'm sure he will get the message.
who could blame him for burning the certificate naming the Country Music Association' s Entertainer of the Year to John Denver. I like John Denver but he'll never be country. Of coarse, Ann Murray and Olivia Newton John were winning country awards. A new low in country music.
It was one hell of a singing that's for sure.
Great singer. His personal problems stood in the way of greater stardom.
jerrycline00 1
Most under rated artist I know!
hunnyandjenn e r
Still can't believe that Mr. Sunshine on my shoulders John Denver won that award.
" Behind Closed Doors " is one of the great country albums from the 70's!
loved his style of music .
He has a great voice. My favorite song of his was Behind Closed Doors.
What a smooth voice...Spec i a l Love Song was his best....grea t love song!!!
how could you not like this. i used to fall asleep listening to him. rocked me right to sleep
Behind Closed Doors - what a great album!
helped a lot of cross-over fans get through the days that was to come
What's Up Honey?
great singer,songs
we lost one of the great one
great fantastic. love the music.
for people who love all genres of music, Charlie Rich evoked so many feelings with one voice
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