Pat Boone Exclusive Interview
It’s hard to say the name Pat Boone without attaching the word legendary. That is truly the correct description of Pat’s career, which includes 45 million albums sold, 38 Top 40 hits and appearances in several Hollywood movies. His talent as a singer and actor, combined with his old-fashioned values, contributed to his popularity in the early days of rock and roll and continue to this day.
According to Billboard, Pat Boone was the second biggest charting artist of the late 1950s, behind only Elvis Presley. He is ranked at No. 9 in its listing of the Top 100 Top 40 Artists 1955-1995 and Pat Boone still holds the Billboard record for spending 220 consecutive weeks (that’s over 4 years) on the charts with more than one song. Pat continues to perform today and he enjoys speaking as a motivational speaker, a television personality, a conservative political commentator and even a preacher on occasion.
Pat will be the very special guest for the aptly-named “An Evening with Pat Boone and Friends” on Thursday, May 26th at Tommy V’s restaurant in Del Mar. He will share some thoughts, sing a few songs and join local favorites, The North Coast Quintet (featuring members The Joe Satz Trio) on stage as the entertainment for the evening. The Event will celebrate America and our military both past and present, with proceeds benefiting Ryan’s Reach, one of the many charities Pat supports, plus the Rancho Santa Fe Rotary Club, known for the many worthwhile causes they support.
We caught up with Pat at his office on famous Sunset Boulevard where he shared some thoughts and a few of his many stories.
Q: You look great! I can’t believe how busy you are; it’s been so hard to track you down. Tell our readers what you been up to lately.
Pat: My wife has been begging me to think about retirement for a few years now because certainly I’m around retirement age (laughs), but I still feel very vigorous and vital and energetic. And I still think of myself as 30, 35. I still play singles tennis – real hot, competitive tennis – with a kid. He’s only 73 or 74. I’m 76.
I tell my wife and others, my problem is I know how to spell “n-o,” I just can’t pronounce it. I just keep saying yes to almost everything that anybody asks me to do because I see it’s a good thing. I think, “Well maybe I can wedge that into my schedule.” And as a result I find myself constantly on the go with a tremendous diversity of things.
I’ve been writing weekly columns for World Net Daily and News Max and have been recording still. I have a recording company featuring other performers, other business investments, as well as working with all kinds of charitable endeavors. Plus, I still try to wedge in some tennis and golf and spend time with grandkids too. It’s such a busy active life, at least for me, seems to keep me younger instead of wearing me out.
Q: Let’s go back a few years. At the tender age of 20 you started recording. You had your 1st #1 single in 1955…
Pat: Yes, I had my first #1 single in 1955. It was my second record. The first record was a top 10 million-seller called “Two Hearts, Two Kisses.” I recorded that one when I was 20, maybe 21. The second record in 1955 was “Ain’t That a Shame.” It was a million-seller and went to #1. The next record was a song called “Crazy Little Mama (At My Front Door).” I was doing nothing but Rock and Roll at that point. It was Rhythm and Blues done more Pop, but still really Rock.
I find hard to believe myself, but from March of ‘55 when I made my first record, to February of ’56, I had 6 million-selling singles. And two of them were #1s. The other #1 after “Ain’t That a Shame” was “I’ll Be Home,” it was also a Flamingos’ hit in the R&B field. I did a Pop version of it. That came out just before Elvis hit with “Heart Break Hotel.” I thank God I had an eleven month head start with two #1s and a few million-sellers. It helped me weather the Presley ‘storm.’ A lot of other singers went by the wayside in that time.
Q: Tell us how everything changed in that year for you.
Pat: Starting in ‘55 and right through ‘58 when I graduated from Columbia University with honors, Magna Cum Laude, it was a whirl wind. I was on the cover of TV Guide in my cap and gown. I had already done several big movies and had already started the weekly Pat Boone Chevy Showroom TV show. Chevrolet had sponsored my show, sometimes #1 in the Nielson Ratings. I was married with four children at 23. All of that set the tone for the rest of my life. I’ve never been able to catch up.
Q: You’re very humble, but I read some data on a survey back then that among High School students you were a 2-to-1 favorite over Elvis among boys and were preferred 3-to-1 by girls. I think you held your own in that period of time. And you were busy with children and a family. Talk briefly about the challenges that presented.
Pat: Well, God bless my wife. Shirley is one of the great blessings of my life. We married at 19 and by the time we were 23 we had four children. I probably should have been jailed, or neutered, but Shirley had this strength. She even had a ‘show biz’ background because of her father Red Foley who is a country music legend. Shirley helped me weather the storm and help me do everything I had to do and still be an active daddy, involved with my kids. We just found the ways to keep getting everything done, and using every second and every minute of every day. We made sure that included family time and togetherness.
We were always in church Sunday mornings, Sunday nights, and Wednesday nights. I was a congregational song leader, sometimes Sunday School teacher, and that facet of our lives is what helped us keep our heads on straight with all the glamour, the money, the girls screaming, the success. I knew because of my family roots and our involvement in our church that all the other stuff was superficial. It was wonderful and we appreciated it greatly, and I enjoyed it, but my real life was with my wife and my girls.
When we were all on the cover of all the teen magazines it was amazing to me that the teenage kids and girls would still scream when I walked on stage with my white buck shoes, knowing I was married and having a child a year. I wasn’t available but I think that they saw in me something they aspired to. I was somebody that was living by the rules and winning. On the other hand, Elvis seemed to be breaking a lot of the rules and winning big. Elvis appealed to a different instinct in us; he was fascinating. We were two Tennessee boys living different lifestyles and both succeeding.
Q: Was it love at first sight with you and Shirley?
Pat: It was for both of us, but at different times. She remembers when we first met. We were 13. I was playing American Legion Ball when a girl that was a friend of hers and a girl I thought was pretty cute introduced me to Shirley. But I was more interested in a hot grounder, not a hot date, so I didn’t really remember that meeting.
Three years later, when we were 16, she transferred to our high school. This time I saw her in the hallway talking to the captain of our basketball team and I walked up and asked to be introduced to this girl. We started holding hands right away and we still are, almost 60 years later.
Q: What’s the secret to almost 60 years of marriage?
Pat: Shirley and I made commitments not just to each other when we got married at 19. We knew even then that we would meet obstacles, that there would be pressures. We actually got married as young as we did because her dad was moving to Springfield, Missouri and was going to take his family with him. I couldn’t stand to let her go. She didn’t want us to be apart either. So we asked for his permission and he gave it tearfully. We got married. We eloped, I say. But she says, “We didn’t elope, you asked my dad’s permission.” But I didn’t ask my parents. They had just said, “Not on your life. Get your college education and then you think about getting married.” So we didn’t ask them. So I like to say we “half-eloped.”
As far as the secret to a good, long marriage, it is the commitment we made to God as well as to each other. It was “till death do us part, for better or worse, in sickness and in health.” It was all of those things. As we had kids so young in our lives, even when we met the stresses and strains of the entertainment business and all that goes with it, it was looking at our kids, being involved in our church life, knowing we had made commitments to God, knowing He had made commitments to us and to our marriage; that helped us greatly to weather the storms that are inevitable.
Q: Your girls have performed, you have recorded them, produced them, sung with them. That had to present some challenges. Talk about the family performance dynamic.
Pat: Well, as a performer in the middle of my career, I saw my four daughters all becoming teenagers. They are only a few years apart, so they would all be teenagers at once. They were pretty teenage girls. I had been a boy, so I knew there were going to be boys flocking around wanting to peel off my daughters too soon. So Shirley and I formed a family act that became the Pat Boone Family. And for seven years, my four daughters, who sing beautifully, performed in Las Vegas, on TV specials, on Bob Hope’s and Glen Campbell’s shows, and many others. We also had our own series and specials. We were a family act. That was not something a pop singer would normally do – bring his wife and four kids on stage and even record with them. But it kept my pretty teenage girls in sight at all times and we had a lot of fun doing it.
Some may consider me overly protective. Okay, I was. But they all met wonderful guys and married them, eventually, when they broke through my defenses. And we’ve had 15 wonderful grandkids now as a result. It was a great blessing. Not everyone can do that, but for me as an entertainer it was a tremendous blessing.
Q: You’re starting a one man show. What can fans expect in your show?
Pat: I have started something new after all these years. It’s really what Cary Grant was doing in the last couple years of his life. He would walk on stage and show film clips from his movies and talk about some of the behind the scene stories he experienced working with people like Sophia Loren and Frank Sinatra. The last night of his life he had just done one of those elegant nights. He walked off stage and an hour later had died. The applause were still ringing in his ears, I’m sure.
Now that’s not what I’m looking for, but I am doing something similar called “Music and Memories.” It’s a night like that except in my case I’ve got more than just movie clips. I’ve worked with Ann Margret and Debbie Reynolds. I’ll show scenes from the movies and musical scenes especially. I will also show clips from my television shows. So instead of just seeing me for the evening you’ll be seeing Nat Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Count Basie, and on and on. I also sing live with a pianist.
I won’t just show the great moments from my career either. I have also decided to show the other side as well. I’ll show some of my most embarrassing moments on television. I show the audience those clips and bring them into the moments in my life from which I’ve recovered. At least I think I have. I let the audience ask questions as well. It is a happy and informal night, highlighting some of the great moments and some of the embarrassing moments of my career.
Q: You’ve really done it all in your career. You are a hit singer, variety show host, product spokesman, record producer… What’s your favorite job description?
Pat: I’m at a time in my life where I’ve enjoyed everything that I’ve had the privilege to do: movies, television, and recording – which I love the most. When I walk into a studio and stand in front of the microphone with some great musicians and some good songs, it is up to me to create something right there on the spot. Once it’s done, it’s permanent. The recording is a legacy. I’ve recorded some 1500 songs of all types, more diverse than any other singer. I am in the gospel music hall of fame. And if I had to choose one kind of music to sing it would be gospel music because I know I’m going to keep on singing that kind of song from here on out. I’m going to sing that kind of song for eternity. Singing songs is always meaningful to me. Some songs I write myself to express what is important to me. These songs seem to communicate emotionally with others. What I do these days is much more personal than just performance.
And also what I truly enjoy the most are situations like the one we’re doing in Del Mar where I get to give some testimony about my faith and what has motivated me. I want to share that with people who are looking for guidelines in their lives and ways to make it through the turbulence and the uncertainty. Plus, as you know, I have such a strong heart for this country so to be honoring the military means so much to me. Plus, thanks to the generous giving spirit of the Sexton Advisory Group and The Financial Knowledge Institute, we’ll be generating money for some very worthy causes.
Q: Pat thanks so much for your time. I know a lot of folks are looking forward to attending “An Evening with Pat Boone and Friends” on May 26th in Del Mar, to not only celebrate our great country, but have the opportunity of meeting you in person as well.
Pat: Well I know I’m looking forward to it.