Singer. Musician. Born near Forrest City, Arkansas. He attended Consolidated High School in Forrest City, where he played saxophone in the high school band. After high school, he attended Arkansas State College on a football scholarship. He then transferred to the University of Arkansas as a music major but left after one semester to join the Air Force. He married his life-long love, fellow jazz enthusiast Margaret Ann in 1952. He supplemented his military responsibilities with piano and saxophone duties in a group called the Velvetones in area night clubs. Charlie lived in rural Arkansas until settling in Memphis during his days at Sun Records. It was at Sun that he first met the man who would make him a star and become a country music legend in his own right, producer Billy Sherrill. After 2 more years at Sun's Nashville and Memphis studios, Charlie bounced around a few studios including RCA, Mercury and Hi. He recorded a greatest hits of Hank Williams package before landing back in Nashville at the Epic division of CBS/Columbia in December 1967. He recorded the soul classics "Big Boss Man," "River Stay Away From My Door," "Why, Oh Why" And "Mohair Sam" for the Groove division of RCA. "Behind Closed Doors" won three awards from the Country Music Association in 1973: Best Male Vocalist, Album of the Year, and Single of the Year. The album was also certified gold and he won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male. He was known as The Silver Fox and practically owned the country charts in the mid 1970s. He had one smash country hit after another, classics like "Most Beautiful Girl In The World," "A Very Special Love Song," "Every Time You Touch Me I Get High," "Peace on You" and "Sunday Kind of Woman." Rich began to drink heavily, causing considerable problems off-stage. His destructive personal behavior famously culminated at the CMA awards ceremony for 1975, when he presented the award for that year's Entertainer of the Year. Instead of reading the name of the winner, who happened to be John Denver, he set fire to the envelope with a cigarette lighter. Many considered it an act of rebellion against the Music Row-controlled Nashville Sound. Others, including industry insiders, were outraged and Rich had trouble having hits throughout 1976. Rich appeared as himself in the 1979 Clint Eastwood movie "Every Which Way But Loose" where he performed the song "I'll Wake You Up When I Get Home." This song hit number three on the charts in 1979 and was his last top ten single. For over a decade, he was silent, living off his investments in semi-retirement and only playing an occasional concert. Charlie had always wanted to record a jazz album, one that would capture his own, genre-bending style. His life-long dream came true in 1992 with "Pictures and Paintings," his final album. He died in Hammond, Louisiana from a blood clot in his lung.
Bio by: Jane Stacy Eubanks
Margaret Ann Greene Rich