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Boone, Pat (Charles Eugene)

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Boone, Pat (Charles Eugene), American singer and actor; b. Jacksonville, Fla., June 1, 1934. Boone wasone of the most successful recording artists of the second half of the 1950s and the only one who effectively straddled the conflicting styles of traditional pop and emerging rock ‘n’ roll. Though his well-articulated tenor and relaxed singing style marked him as a successor to Bing Crosby and Perry Como, his initial success came with his covers of recordings by such artists as Fats Domino and Little Richard. Among the 60 recordings he placed in the singles charts between 1955 and 1969, there were ten gold records and six #1 hits, the most popular being “I Almost Lost My Mind,” “Love Letters in the Sand,” and “April Love.”

Boone was the son of Archie and Margaret Prichard Boone; his father was a building contractor and his mother a registered nurse. The family moved to Nashville, Term., in 1936, where he grew up, first performing publicly at age ten. In high school he had his own local radio show, Youth on Parade . He enrolled at David Lipscomb Coll. in Nashville and married Shirley Foley, the daughter of Red Foley, on Nov. 7, 1953. They had four daughters, among them the singer Debby Boone. Finding a job at a television station in Fort Worth, Tex., he moved to Dentón, Tex., and transferred to North Tex. State Coll. His singing brought him to the attention of the network television talent show The Original Amateur Hour, and he appeared on the show and won three times. He was signed to Republic Records and made a few singles for the label.

In 1954, Boone appeared on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts, a rival show to The Original Amateur Hour, and was equally successful. He signed to Dot Records, whose president, Randy Wood, was finding success having Caucasian pop singers cover songs previously done by African Americans for the R&B market. Recording cover versions of hits was a common practice in the record business, but at a time when R&B music was starting to cross over to the pop charts, whites sometimes denied blacks the opportunity to score hits themselves. At the same time, whites popularized the material, and given that many of the songs were written by black artists, also brought them publishing income.

For Boone’s first Dot single, Wood chose “Two Hearts” (music and lyrics by Otis Williams and Henry Stone), a Top Ten R&B hit for the Charms. Boone’s cover peaked in the Top 40 in April 1955. His next single, a cover of Fats Domino’s #1 R&B hit “Ain’t That a Shame” (music and lyrics by Dave Bartholomew and Fats Domino), topped the charts in September and sold a million copies. Arthur Godfrey invited him to become a regular on his series Arthur Godfrey and His Friends, and Boone moved to the N.Y. area, transferring to Columbia Coll. (Though his career forced him to take occasional leaves of absence, he graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. degree in 1958.)

Boone had three more songs in the charts before the end of 1955. He had ten in 1956, including the million-selling #1 hits “I Almost Lost My Mind” (music and lyrics by Ivory Joe Hunter, whose original version had been a #1 R&B hit in 1950), “Don’t Forbid Me” (music and lyrics by Charles Singleton), and the million-sellers “I’ll Be Home” (music and lyrics by Stan Lewis and Ferdinand Washington; a Top Ten R&B hit for the Flamingos) and “Friendly Persuasion (Thee I Love)” (music by Dmitri Tiomkin, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster). He ranked second only to Elvis Presley as the most successful singles artist of that year.

Success brought further opportunities. Boone was signed to a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox Pictures and began shooting his first film, Bernardine, which opened in July 1957. His second, April Love, appeared in November. In October he began hosting his own television series, the half-hour musical variety program The Pat Boone-Chevy Showroom; it ran for three seasons, through 1960. Meanwhile, his recording career continued apace: He placed eight songs in the charts in 1957, among them the #1 million- sellers “Love Letters in the Sand” (music by J. Fred Coots, lyrics by Nick Kenny and Charles Kenny) and “April Love” (music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster), as well as two other million-sellers, “Why Baby Why” (music and lyrics by Luther Dixon and Larry Harrison) and “Remember You’re Mine” (music and lyrics by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe). He also released his only gold album, Pat’s Great Hits . Again, he ranked second only to Elvis Presley as the year’s top recording artist.

Focusing primarily on his television show and his recordings in 1958, Boone had only one film role, Mardi Gras, released in November. He had nine songs in the charts, four of them in the Top Ten, and one, “A Wonderful Time Up There” (music and lyrics by Lee Roy Abernathy), a million-seller. He also published his first book, ’Twixt Twelve and Twenty, which offered advice to teenagers.

Boone’s career began to decline in 1959. Though he continued with his television series and appeared in another film, the science fiction story Journey to the Center of the Earth, among his seven chart songs there were no Top Ten hits. By 1960 he was having trouble getting into the Top 40. He scored a surprise #1 hit in June 1961 with “Moody River” (music and lyrics by Gary D. Bruce) and a final Top Ten with 1962’s novelty “Speedy Gonzales” (music and lyrics by Buddy Kaye, David Hess, and Ethel Lee), but he was only in the charts rarely after the early 1960s. Similarly, his film career largely subsided after his appearances in All Hands on Deck (1961) and a remake of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s State Fair (1962).

After his commercial peak, Boone spent much of his time on entertainment activities related to religion, writing books, and touring and recording with his family. In 1982 he and his wife hosted the television series Together with Pat and Shirley Boone on the Christian Broadcasting Network, and starting in 1983 he began broadcasting a Christian radio show on stations across the country. He also made occasional recordings, placing a few singles in the country charts in the 1970s, and some personal appearances, notably a run in the title role of The Will Rogers Follies in a production in Branson, Mo., in 1994. In 1997, Hip-O Records released his tongue-in-cheek album Pat Boone in a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, on which he covered heavy-metal songs. But heavy-metal fans were not intrigued, and some of his Christian fans were offended.

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