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Charlie Rich

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Charles (Charlie) Rich (December 14, 1932 – July 25, 1995) was an American country music singer and musician. His eclectic-style of music was often hard to classify in a single genre, encompassing in the rockabilly, jazz, blues, country, and gospel genres.
In the latter part of his life, Rich acquired the nickname The Silver Fox. He is perhaps best remembered for a pair of 1973 hits, “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Most Beautiful Girl”. “The Most Beautiful Girl” topped the U.S. country singles charts, as well as the pop singles charts and earned him two Grammy Awards.

Though he resided in Benton, Arkansas, from around 1960 to 1981, Rich was born in Colt, Arkansas, to rural cotton farmers. His professional musical career began while he was in the U.S. Air Force in the early 1950s. His first musical group, the Velvetones, played jazz and blues and featured his fiancée, Margaret Ann, on lead vocals. Rich left the military in 1955 and tried to farm five acres in Tennessee. He also began performing in clubs around the Memphis area, playing both jazz and R&B. It was during these hard times that he began writing his own material.

Rich was a session musician for Judd Records, owned by Judd Phillips, the brother of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips. After recording some demos for Sam Phillips at Sun Records that Phillips didn’t find commercial enough, and too jazzy, legend has it that he was given a stack of Jerry Lee Lewis records and told: “come back when you get that bad.” A September 6, 2010 NPR airing of 1992 interview with Fresh Air host Terry Gross Charlie Rich tells the story himself of Bill Justis telling Rich’s wife those exact words.

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