The Silver Fox, my Dad!
This may be a little different that the other articles I've written about in this section. Many of you may have found this site by putting the words "charlie rich" in a search engine. Good. Well, Charlie was my father. I didn't call him Charlie, I called him Dad.
Obviously we had a longer history together than any of the other artists I'll write about. I loved my father very much. When I was young, I didn't get to spend nearly as much time with him as I would have liked because he was out trying to scrape together a living. I certainly understand how that goes since I've been doing the same thing now for over thirty years myself.
Being proud of your Dad
I can't ever remember not being proud of my father, even when the folks where I grew up thought it was not that big a deal. In fact, some of the folks with "real" jobs sort of looked down on him and on our family. Musicians have not always had the best reputation, particularly in small towns. Anyway, all things considered, he made life for us as normal as could be expected.
Fast times at Benton High.
Actually I didn't get to really know my father until I was almost grown. I suppose I knew him, but when he came home off the road he was usually too beat to do the father/son hang. The road will do that to you. I can totally relate now. You save all your energy for the traveling and going on stage, and there's not much energy left to go around. It takes a lot out of you. When Dad was home, we usually tried to keep our volume down, as he needed his rest.
We lived in Benton, Arkansas, so my mother could be close to her parents. Dad was on the road quite a bit, so that was probably a good idea. Even when he didn't have a lot of money, my father tried the best he could to give us nice things.
Music brought us together
When I got into my later teens, my father started taking me on the road with him. The first real big deal was going to Alaska with him in 1971. I opened the show for him. I didn't even remember that until I ran into the fellow that promoted the show. He now lives in the same little town I live in—Nolensville, Tennessee. Anyway, he reminded me that I would go do an hour or so each night, then my father's band would come on and kick butt. I had a blast in Alaska. We were up there for a couple of weeks, and I was just one of the guys. It was great.
Hey Dad, I got a deal too.
I also had a major label deal in those days. Ah, those were the days, and it enabled me to spend yet more time with my father. We were both recording in Nashville, and on the same label. We would drive to "The King of the Road" hotel, Roger Miller's place. It was THE hang in those days. We would stay in the suite on the top floor. Pretty nice for a couple of Arkies. We spent a lot of time together, listening to music, talking about life. It was great. We even drank a few beers together.
My Ole' Man, the Superstar!
Well, Dad got famous quick. It took him over 30 years to get there, but when he did everything happened really fast. "Behind Closed Doors" was a smash hit. Then "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" came out. My album came out too, but it was overshadowed to say the least. I had a second deal with Columbia, but it flopped. Dad then asked me to come play with him. The timing was perfect, and frankly I needed a job. We traveled all over the world together. He was a great boss. Not just to me either, he knew how to treat musicians. Heck, he was one.
What he taught me.
Dad taught me lessons in ROAD 101. He showed me how to treat musicians with respect and kindness. He would always say, "you have to be good to your musicians, they're the ones that brung ya'". That's not to say that it was all wine and roses. Every now and then someone got out of line. He wouldn't fire them, he just wouldn't call them for the next gig. That was the policy. No questions asked. If you did your job, gave it your best, and showed up on time you were employed. If you repeatedly screwed up, or worse yet got a little big for your britches, NEXT. He would just hire someone else. No big deal. No reason to have a big drama scene. Dad didn't go in for that. He set the ground rules at the beginning, paid people well, and expected them to follow the rules.
We had great times on the road playing with my father. I think most people that worked with him would agree with that. Since then I've played with countless other bands, and let me tell you Charlie Rich was the best bandleader I've ever worked for. I was Freddy Fender's bandleader for quite a while, and I tried to adhere to the same philosophy as my father taught me. Sometimes musicians get mad at one another. They want you to take sides and punish whoever it is that they're mad at. Just like a bunch of naughty little kids. I've fired people, but more often I just don't ask them back. I don't see that as cowardly as long as you put it right up front in the first place. Music is supposed to be fun. With my father, it was. He used to tell me, "We're too old to work with the bad ones". Boy, was he right. I sure miss having him around. He was without a doubt, the single most talented artist I've ever worked with. I would say that even if he wasn't my father. He was that good. The best I've ever played with, the best I've ever heard. Frankly, it wasn't even close. Charlie was the man.
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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