Pat Boone By Nelson A Garcia
After all this time, Pat Boone still holds the record for spending 220 consecutive weeks on the Billboard charts with one or more songs! He has so many stories to tell about his exciting life.55+ Magazine has the pleasure of speaking with the legendary Pat Boone!
55+ Tell us about the new 60th Anniversary album called ‘Pat Boone: Duets.’
PB Well, I realized that I am the only one who has these recordings from my television show and it hit me that nobody knows about them except for those that may have seen the show in the late 50s. There was no video at that time so they would have been lost to history if I didn’t put this album out. It is an historic album and the kind of thing that you might want to put in a time capsule about legendary performers like Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Roy Rogers, Count Basie, George Shearing, Connie Francis and Andy Williams. They were all singing with me and we were having a ball!
55+ This album is available on CD and vinyl. Why release it on vinyl too?
PB There is a renaissance in vinyl recording now. A lot of young people have discovered how much better audio quality is when you play it on a good machine. Companies are making record players again. Vinyl is the fastest growing segment in the record business today. I didn’t know this when I was thinking about putting the album out on vinyl, so we caught the wave just at the right time. I am so proud of these historic performances.
55+ You also are releasing the DVD, “Love Letters in the Sands of Time.” Is that right?
PB Yes. I am proud of that too. It makes me feel good after all these years that there is a renewed interest in what I was doing then. I think we underestimate the sensibility of young people and the fact that they could appreciate what we older folks love. When the grandparents introduce them to it and they hear me singing some of my hit songs from that era, like ‘April Love,’ ‘Love Letters in the Sand,’ and ’Friendly Persuasion,’ they say, “Wow, that’s good!,” and they go out and buy the record. I am pleased that the young people today are open to music that their parents and grandparents love!
55+ We understand that Elvis opened for you in one of your shows in 1955. How did that come about?
PB It was at a ‘sock hop.’ The number one DJ in the country, Bill Randall, asked me to headline it. He was very influential early in my career so I agreed to do it. He told me on the way in from the airport that he had a young kid also in the show tonight and his name was Elvis Presley. I was startled and said, “Bill, he is a hillbilly!” I had just heard his record on a jukebox and it was Bluegrass; a song called ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky.’ Bill said that RCA Victor just bought his contract and they think they have something special with him. I met him backstage and he looked like a ‘greaser,’ you know, those kids in high school with a cigarettes rolled up in their sleeve. He sang his song and received a tepid response since that is not what the kids were into. Then he sang the R&B song, ‘That’s Alright Mama’ and the kids loved it and wanted more… but that’s all he had. He went backstage and Bill introduced me. I got all the screams that night since I had three hit songs that I recorded that year. When I was done, I went backstage and he was gone. I saw him again a few years later and I asked him about that night. He was so shy. He said that he did not know how to talk to me back then because I was a big star!
55+ Many white artists in the late 50s recorded their own versions of R&B hits. Thanks to you, this was beneficial for many of those R&B artists. Even Rev. Jesse Jackson made a remark about it. Would you comment on this?
PB I did an album, ‘R&B Classics: We are Family’ with the original R&B performers doing new versions of their songs with me. I had called in to promote the album on a station in Chicago hosted by Santilla, Rev. Jesse Jackson’s daughter. Rev. Jackson called in and joined the conversation. He said, “We love Pat Boone here in Chicago. He had some huge hits with our R&B songs and I am going to make a statement that I have never made publicly before. I think Pat Boone did more for race relations in his music than any other artist.” I was really taken aback! He then went on to say, “Look…. Pat Boone, a white boy from Nashville in the South doing these songs that were considered black music and helping to make them popular!” That was saying to the huge white audience who knew nothing about R&B or their stars, that it was OK. If Pat Boone was singing these songs and ‘hob knobbing’ with Little Richard and Fats Domino, then it must be OK. For Jesse Jackson to say that was astounding to me!
55+ In your television show, ‘The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom,’ you ran into some difficulties from Southern television stations and sponsors because you were featuring African-Americans on your show. Tell us what happened?
PB Harry Belafonte called me one day and told me that he liked the way I treated my guests on the show and if I would like for him to come on and sing some songs with me. I said, “Of course I would.” I had a meeting with Chevrolet, the ad agency and the production team at ABC and I said to them, “You would not believe it but Harry Belafonte wants to come on the show and I am so excited about it!” They looked at me with a stony look and said, “We are sorry, but we can’t do it.” They told me that some Chevy dealers in the South were having problems with me because I was having too many black guests on the show and I was treating them like the other guests and acting so proud to have them there and sing with them. They had people coming in to the dealerships saying that they liked Chevy and Pat Boone but Pat has all these black people on his show all the time so they might just switch to Ford. That sounds incredible but this was the mid 50s. I was appalled! I told them that if I had to say NO to Harry Belafonte then they better get someone else to do the show. They finally agreed as long as no civil rights statements were made. I told them that the only statement we would be making was the two of us singing together and having a good time!
55+ Which person had the most influence on your music?
PB Bing Crosby! Bing was my parent’s favorite. I tried to do my music in that easy style he had.
55+ ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ was one of my favorite movies that you made. Do you have any movie that really stands out for you?
PB The most successful fi lm I made was ‘The Cross and the Switchblade;’ the true story of David Wilkerson and his ministry to drug addicts. It was a great honor to play him. I also have to mention ‘April Love,’ which is also my theme song. My wife was born in April and she has been my April love all these years.
55+ You were quoted as saying that you prayed with Rock Hudson at the end of his life. How was that experience for you?
PB It was very moving. I knew him and we had been friends. When it was publicized that he was dying of AIDS, we were grieved. We met his nurse, who was a Christian, and she had been sharing her faith with Rock. The nurse asked us to come and pray with him. We brought a little vial of oil with us. His friend and companion, Tom met us at his home. Rock was not able to talk but his eyes seemed to glow with welcome and acceptance. We asked Roy, (which was his real name), if we could pray with him and he nodded his head. His pajama shirt was open and since the Bible says to ‘anoint the sick with oil’ I asked him if he minded that I rub the oil on his chest. I poured it on his chest and made the sign of the cross. Tom came back in and said that he looked better and said that tomorrow will be a good day and he will put Roy’s happy clothes on him. In the morning, Tom put his happy clothes on and Roy lay back on his bed, watching the sun rise and quietly passed away. He did have a better day, a happy day, he went to heaven. We are so grateful for that time we had with him. •
UPDATE OCTOBER 16,2015
Pat Boone to release new album
"This classic, ultimate party record fulfills a career long desire to record with many of my most favorite artists, bringing me back full circle to my first R&B million sellers," say an enthusiastic Boone. Not one to rest on his laurels, Pat Boone decided to expand his horizons by recording his first ever R&B album. And not one to do things in a small way, he was thrilled to work with some of the genre's biggest superstars of all time! He has powerful duets with James Brown, Smokey Robinson, Earth Wind & Fire, The Four Tops, and KC & The Sunshine Band plus members of Kool & the Gang, and Sister Sledge and even Hip Hop legend Kool Moe Dee. By joining with Cleopatra Records, this stunning album now has national distribution is available to his legion of fans worldwide.
Pat Boone R&B Duet Hits
1. Papa's Got a Brand New Bag with James Brown
2. Soul Man with Sam Moore
3. Get Down Tonight with KC & The Sunshine Band
4. Tears of a Clown with Smokey Robinson
5. Celebration with Robert "Kool" Bell of Kool & The Gang
6. I Can't Help Myself with The Four Tops
7. A Woman Needs Love with Ray Parker Jr.
8. We are Family with Joni Sledge of Sister Sledge
9. Shotgun with Geraldo Albright
10. That's The Way Of The World with Earth, Wind & Fire
11. Backbone with Kool Moe Dee
Released October 16, 2015 on Goldenlane Records - a division of Cleopatra Records