The Envelope Burning
One of the questions I'm most asked is in regard to my father burning "John Denver's" envelope at the CMA Awards. The "envelope incident" is either loved or hated, depending on your point of view. Many John Denver fans thought it was a tacky thing to do. Then you have those that think it was the greatest pro-traditionalist country stance ever. Let's back up for a moment and I'll try to explain what I think it was all about.
For those of you that assume Charlie thought John wasn't country enough, I'm sorry but I disagree. If you feel that way fine, but that wasn't my father's general point of view. Anybody that knows much about the history of my father will know that it wasn't in his mind set to judge someone for not being "country enough", "blues enough", or "anything enough". It went against his philosophy. He started out as a rockabilly, then did R&B for several years, then he migrated to Jazz, and finally to country. For years people said my father wasn't country enough. In fact, a few well known country artists at the time tried to start their own awards show (separate from the CMA), primarily because they thought "Behind Closed Doors" and Charlie Rich just weren't traditional country. What are people really saying when they something isn't country enough? I like what Kenny Rogers said: "country music is whatever country people listen to". I couldn't agree more. I love Shania, Vince, Rascal Flats, and Charlie Rich. You couldn't really call any of them a die hard honky tonk red neck. Neither was Eddie Arnold, Ronnie Milsap, Eddie Rabbit, or any number of country superstars. So, let me make it clear, I don't believe my father burned that envelope because of that.
He also didn't burn it because he disliked John Denver. I never heard him utter one bad word against any musician or singer. In John Denver's case, Dad told me that he liked him. I think the saddest thing that came out of the whole affair was that people thought it was an anti-John Denver thing when it wasn't. Dad had met John before and liked him, in fact he said the award goes to my good buddy John Denver. Those are the words he used. Then of course he lit the envelope and the rumours started flying.
Okay then, why did he do it? I'll tell you why I thought he did it.
- #1 He thought it would be funny. He set it up by talking about how the potential winners were probably nervous, as he had been the previous year.
- #2 Bad judgement. He had recently broken his foot in a freak accident at his home in Memphis. It sounds funny, but he got his foot caught in an awkward position while getting out of a reclining chair. He cracked several bones in his foot. So...
- Due to the pain, he took pain medication the night of the show: Bad idea!
- Secondly, he and another country star got to drinking Gin and Tonics while waiting in the dressing room. The show was long, so by the time Dad was supposed to go on, the drinks on top of the medication got him buzzed. So, there ya' go. That's why I think he did it. Primarily he thought it would be funny.
I know the last thing my father would have wanted to do was set himself up as judge of another musician. He felt badly that people thought it was a statement against John Denver.
A few months after all this happened, my mother and father were in Aspen, Colorado. My father tried to look up John just to set things straight and explain what happened. Unfortunately, John wasn't there at the time, so that opportunity was missed. I honestly don't know if he ever got in touch with him or not, but I know he tried to on that occasion. So now you know. I've had a lot of people tell me they thought it was the coolest thing that ever happened. I've been reluctant to post what I know about it, but I think the truth of the situation is important for people to know.
I think my father's gotten a bad rap on this one. Country music should be proud to have someone with such a rich musical legacy as Charlie Rich. I think he was the greatest country vocalist, pianist, and artist of all time,, but then that's just one man's opinion. ; )
Still more stuff...
- Being taken seriously.
- How my father became a star.
- So, you wanna' be a country star?
- Who do you like better, Garth or Gershwin?
- You'll eat what you're served...
- The Media: Out with the old, in with the new.
- It's great exposure.
Thoughts on some of the people I've played with or known.
- Charlie Rich
- Freddy Fender
- Smokey Robinson
- Jo-El Sonnier
- Randy Meisner
- Billy Swan
- Flaco Jimenez
- Augie Meyers
- Doug Sahm
- Jerry Lee Lewis
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