Before there was Elvis or Ricky Nelson there was teenage heartthrob Pat Boone. Born Charles Eugene Boone in 1934 in Jacksonville, Florida, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee at the age of two. He is a direct descendant of frontiersman Daniel Boone. He is also cousin to “Have Gun Will Travel” star Richard Boone as well as to Randy Boone, star of the TV western “The Virginian.”
When Pat won on “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour” and “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” in 1954, his career took off. He first recorded with Republic Records in 1954 and then with Dot Records in 1955.
In 1955, Pat recorded a cover version of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame” and it went to number one on the Billboard charts. Thanks to white artists like Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson covering R&B songs, many black artists not getting airplay on “white market” stations were finally getting recognized.
While his music career was in full swing, Pat attended and graduated from New York’s Columbia University in 1958. Between 1957 and 1960, he hosted his own TV show, “The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom”, and appeared in fifteen films.
A devout Christian, Pat turned down songs and film roles that could have compromised his religious standards, including a starring role in a film opposite Marilyn Monroe. Although in the 1960’s Pat’s marriage to Shirley Lee Foley, daughter of country music legend Red Foley, almost came to an end when he turned to drinking and partying. Shirley ended up leading him back to his Christian path.
Pat had 38 songs on the Billboard Top 40 weekly charts between 1955 and 1962 and went to number one a total of six times. Here are Pat Boone’s twenty biggest hits, according to Billboard’s weekly Top 40 charts.
1. Love Letters In The Sand – 1957
Inspired by an 1881 composition, Pat took this song to number one for seven weeks.
2. April Love – 1957
From the film of the same title, starring Pat Boone and Shirley Jones.
3. I Almost Lost My Mind – 1956
A cover version of the 1950 hit by Ivory Joe Hunter.
4. Ain’t That A Shame – 1955
Even though Pat’s suggestion to change the title of Fats Domino classic to “Isn’t That A Shame” was rejected, it gave Pat his first number one single.
5. Don’t Forbid Me – 1957
The flip side “Anastasia” went Top 40 for Pat and was included in the film of the same title starring Ingrid Bergman.
6. Moody River – 1961
Pat’s last number one single was also covered by Creedence Clearwater Revival leader, John Fogerty and the Blue Ridge Rangers in 2009.
7. I’ll Be Home – 1956
A number 5 R&B hit for The Flamingoes.
8. A Wonderful Time Up There – 1958
9. It’s Too Soon To Know – 1958
The flip side of “A Wonderful Time Up There” (see #8), a song originally performed by The Orioles and considered, by some, to be the first “rock and roll” song.
10. Friendly Persuasion (Thee I Love) – 1956
From the film of the same title, about a Quaker family, starring Gary Cooper.
11. Why Baby Why – 1957
The flip side, “I’m Waiting For You” went Top 40 for Pat and was a #5 R&B hit for Lucky Millinder in 1951.
12. Sugar Moon – 1958
13. Remember You’re Mine – 1957
The “B” side, “There’s A Gold Mine In The Sky” went to #14 on the weekly charts for Pat.
14. Speedy Gonzales – 1962
Pat’s last Top 40 hit featured background singing (La-la-la) by Robin Ward, who had a 1963 hit, “Wonderful Summer.” It also featured Mel Blanc, doing the voice of his popular Warner Brothers cartoon character, Speedy Gonzalez.
15. At My Front Door (Crazy Mama) – 1955
The flip side, “No Arms Can Ever Hold You” also went Top 40 on the weekly charts.
16. If Dreams Came True – 1958
That’s How Much I Love You, the “B” side made it into the Top 40.
17. Long Tall Sally – 1956
A cover version of the Little Richard hit, who also helped write it, the song was originally titled “The Thing.”
18. Chains Of Love – 1956
The flip side of “Friendly Persuasion” this song went to #10 on the weekly charts and was a #2 R&B hit in 1951 for Ivory Joe Turner.
19. Tutti Frutti – 1956
A cover version of Little Richard’s first hit from 1955.
20. Bernardine – 1957
The flip side of “Love Letters In The Sand” both songs are featured in the Pat Boone film “Bernardine.”
In the mid 1960’s, Pat recorded gospel music and toured with his four daughters Cherry, Linda Lee, Deborah Anne and Laura Gene. Daughter Deborah (Debby) recorded solo in 1977 and had the number one song of that year, “You Light Up My Life” which went to number one on the Billboard singles chart for ten weeks. She won three Grammys that year, including Best New Artist of 1977.
Pat came under controversy in 1997, with his religious counterparts, when he recorded an album of “heavy metal” covers and appeared at the American Music Awards in black leather.
Pat and his family continue to record today and they released an album of R&B classics in 2006.