1960 Charlie Rich – Lonely Weekends
Charlie Rich was born in Arkansas and played saxophone in his high school band and learned to play blues on the piano from a sharecropper on his family’s land. Arkansas State College awarded Charlie a football scholarship that he lost after an injury. He transferred to the University of Arkansas and became a music major.
While in the military in the early fifties, Charlie formed the Velvetones, featuring his wife on vocals. The band primarily played blues and jazz. In 1956, Charlie left the military and moved back to the Memphis area to run a 500-acre farm. He also played jazz and blues in small clubs in the area and began writing songs. He recorded some demo records for Sun Records, but they insisted his music was too much like jazz to be commercial and suggested he write songs similar to those performed by Jerry Lee Lewis.
In 1958, Sun Records hired Charlie as a session musician. He played on records and sometimes even wrote songs for Johnny Cash, Ray Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others. Sun began to allow Charlie to record his own singles. The first two failed to chart. His third single was Lonely Weekends, which reached #22 on the Hot 100 in 1960 and sold over a million copies. He was unable to follow-up that single with another hit and after several failed singles he left Sun Records.
Releases on RCA-Victor did not fare any better.
It was years before Charlie reached the charts again. He signed with Smash Records in 1965 and began working with producer Jerry Kennedy. Jerry suggested that Charlie focus on Country records, and the result was Mohair Sam. The single climbed as high as #21 on the Hot 100 but failed to reach the Country chart. Several other singles failed completely, after which Charlie recorded a few non-charting singles for Hi Records.
Charlie signed with Epic Records in 1967. He began working with producer Billy Sherrill, who helped him move to a more contemporary Country sound. Several singles reached the forties on the Country chart before he finally hit pay dirt in 1973 with Behind Closed Doors. The single was the first of four consecutive number one Country hits and also reached #15 on the Hot 100. The single won Charlie a Grammy award for the Best Country Vocal Performance, Male.
His next single that year did even better on the charts. The Most Beautiful Girl topped both the Country chart and the Hot 100. While he did not have many more records chart on the Hot 100, he had seventeen top ten Country hits.
Charlie’s career stretched into 1979 when he had his last top twenty Country single. He died from a pulmonary embolism in 1997.
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