Singer Charlie Rich

Celebrities, Celebrity Q&A, People
on June 29, 2003

Charlie Rich (The Silver Fox) was one of the greatest country music singers ever. Can you tell me about his career and what happened to him?
—John O., New Jersey

The man who's probably best known for the hit song Behind Closed Doors was born in Forest City, Ark., in 1932 to a family of missionaries. He grew up listening to gospel and country music, and discovered the blues as a teenager. At the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, he studied piano and tenor saxaphone, as well as music theory, and was a member of the school's marching band. After graduating, he enlisted in the Air Force, but kept up his interest in all types of music, playing jazz at clubs around the base in Oklahoma where he was stationed. When his military duties were finished, Rich worked days on the family farm, and nights playing piano at local clubs. His wife Margaret Ann, knowing that Elvis Presley got his break at Sun Records, brought a tape of her husband's music over to the famed Memphis label. He started his career as a rock 'n' roller, but found his greatest success when he started making country records. In 1973, Behind Closed Doors topped the country charts (and was nearly as big a hit on the pop charts), starting a streak of hits for the smooth-singing piano player that lasted for the rest of the decade. Though his domination of radio lessened in the following years, he continued to make music through the 90s, until he passed away in 1995 at age 63.