Pat Boone was born Charles Eugene Boone – the great-great-great-great-grandson of pioneer Daniel Boone – in Jacksonville, Florida, on 1 June 1934 and started singing in High School.
One of his fellow students at North Texas State College was Roy Orbison who was spurred on to his own singing career following Pat’s initial success.
In 1954, Pat sang on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour Show and ended up winning first prize. This was followed by a spot on the famous Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show – the springboard to success for so many major recording artists, although Elvis Presley failed the audition to appear in 1954.
Boone won the show again and was signed to a contract with Dot Records by the label’s president, Randy Wood. It was under Wood’s direction that Boone covered a string of songs first recorded by blacks, beginning with his version of Fats Domino‘s Ain’t That A Shame, which made the British and American Top 10 in late 1955.
The following year, he scored with his versions of Little Richard‘s Tutti Frutti and Long Tall Sally, Ivory Joe Hunter’s I Almost Lost My Mind, and his biggest UK hit, I’ll Be Home – originally recorded by The Flamingos.
For seven years, Boone was second only in popularity throughout the world to Elvis, and in a four year period from 1955 to 1958 he had the distinction of always having at least one single in the American Hit Parade.
During this time he also enjoyed a successful career in movies, including State Fair, April Love, The Main Attraction and Mardis Gras.
A devout born-again Christian, Boone refused movie roles that he felt might compromise his standards, including a role opposite the decade’s reigning sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe. In April Love he refused to give co-star Shirley Jones an on-screen kiss, because the actress was married in real life.
Pat Boone was the complete all-American boy – from his well-trimmed hair to his buckskin shoes – and became the first rock star with that elusive ‘all round appeal’.
As such he was despised by hard-core rock & rollers, who saw him as “one of them” – If their parents approved of this smiling smoothie who wouldn’t even kiss his leading lady in a film, then he couldn’t be the genuine article.
It must be said in his defence that a great many more people than care to admit it heard their first – albeit ersatz – rock & roll on a Pat Boone record.
The British Invasion effectively ended his career, though he continued recording throughout the 1960s, and in the 1970s he switched to gospel and country, devoting his life to religious entertainment and making several religious albums for specialist labels, while his children (Debbie in particular) also entered the recording field with some success.
In the early 1990s, Boone joined Amway and spoke at many motivational seminars.
Despite the many criticisms fired at Pat Boone, several of his hits from the fifties – including Friendly Persuasion, Love Letters In The Sand, A Wonderful Time Up There (an early hint at his post-hit career) and Speedy Gonzales – remain well known, and his overall impact cannot be denied.