The iconic singer, composer, and actor reminisces on his heck of a journey and what’s coming up next.
C&I: The magazine’s crew has enjoyed listening to your latest album, Country Jubilee. But did you surprise some fans and friends by releasing an LP devoted entirely to country music?
Pat Boone: Well, I’ve been having to talk to some of these country folks and remind them that I am a country boy. I grew up out on Lone Oak Road [in Nashville] and milked the family cow every morning. Even during my high school days, I’d finish milking the cow, then go to school on my bike and sit next to my wife-to-be, Shirley Foley. But then I became known as a rock ’n’ roller and a teen idol, and started making movies and TV shows and all that, and people sort of forgot that I’m fresh out of the country. And as they say, “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.”
C&I: Well, you were certainly born in the right place to launch a musical career.
Pat: [Laughs.] Well, like I say, I want people to know I grew up in the country, I am a country boy, and I have always wanted to be known in that way. In fact, I think there are only two entertainers that I know of, Dinah Shore and me, who actually grew up in Music City, USA. Even Hank Williams and Eddy Arnold — they all came here, but they didn’t grow up here. Of course, I grew up here out on Lone Oak Road when it was outside what was the city limits at that time. So it was really in the country.
C&I: Most of the 25 tracks on Country Jubilee have been culled from the many albums you’ve released since 1956. How did you go about the selection process?
Pat: I’ve been recording them over the last 50 years, with most of them including country classic songs. So it hit me just recently: “Wait a minute, I’ve got more than enough for at least one full album of classic country songs, all of them million-selling songs that I recorded myself.” And there’s never been an album like that, because country artists, as you know, don’t generally do each other’s songs. George Jones plays George Jones. Eddy Arnold plays Eddy Arnold. But I’ve been recording all of those songs with orchestras and background singers and singing my heart out, doing all of these great songs. Three or four Hank Williams songs, of course, are here in this album. But most of them are big hits for other singers that I’ve recorded over the years. So we put them together in Country Jubilee.
C&I: In addition to such standards as “Tennessee Waltz,” “Wolverton Mountain,” and “Paper Roses,” you’ve included two newly recorded cuts: A cover of “You and I,” which you sing as a duet with Crystal Gayle, and “Grits,” a funny little tune that you sing with a passel of other country artists. How did the latter song come about?
Pat: Well, you’ll find it hard to believe; anybody would. Heck, I wouldn’t believe it if it hadn’t happened to me. But I was dreaming, and maybe it was wishful thinking, that I had another big country hit. And I’ve already had a couple country hits on my own, like “Texas Woman,” and they’re in this album. But I dreamed I was having another country hit before [Country Jubilee] even occurred to me. And in that dream, I was singing this verse, and I came out of the dream with, “Grits, bestest food there its. Country caviar, Tennessee foie gras, grits, grits, bestest food there its. You can keep cuisine, give me my grits.” Like I was making fun of all the hors d’oeuvres and things that are given at receptions with people standing around making small talk and eating. They bring this stuff on trays, and you don’t know what it is you’re eating in many cases.
C&I: Of course, shrimp and grits is a dish now popular all over the country. So maybe grits can be considered high cuisine at long last.
Pat: [Laughs.] That’s right.
C&I: So anyway, you had this verse, and you expanded on that, and then?
Pat: Well, Jim Nichols, the great producer, said, “Well, let’s make a record of it.” And then we decided it needed to have a party atmosphere, so we got Ray Stevens, the Gatlin Brothers, Lorrie Morgan, Deborah Allen, and others to join us. And Roger Miller’s son, Dean, he paid me a tremendous compliment by saying he could hear his father Roger Miller writing this song. Playing with words the way Roger Miller did, with “Grits, bestest food there is.” He couldn’t have given me a greater compliment. And he even sings with me on the record.
This article appears in our January 2024 issue.
Country Jubilee is available now in stores and on music streaming services.