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Not Standing Pat

By Chris Carpenter Program Director In a career that has spawned 61 radio hits, it would seem that 71 year old Pat Boone would be content to fade into the history books as a musical icon. But that is certainly not the case.

Since Boone first hit the charts in 1955 with a cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame”, he has gone on to be one of Billboard Magazine’s ten best selling artists of all time. To celebrate his 50 years in show business, the ever youthful Boone has decided to record and release not one, not two, but six new albums over a 12 month span, an unprecedented feat. Before March 2006, the man who made white buck shoes popular, will release an album of Latin love songs, a collection of patriotic military anthems, a tribute to R&B, an ode to NASCAR, and a disc of Celtic tunes recorded during his summer 2005 Ireland Tour.

But it is his new Gospel album Glory Train: The Lost Sessions that is receiving the most attention. Beyond the fact it was originally recorded in 1975 and then misplaced for nearly 30 years, Boone has added an all-star tribute to the world’s most famous evangelist, Billy Graham. Entitled “Thank You Billy Graham”, the ensemble single and supporting DVD features a diversified line up including, Bono, Larry King, Leanne Rimes, DC Talk, Andre Crouch, Kenny Rogers, Michael McDonald, and the late Vestal Goodman. Program Director Chris Carpenter sat down with Boone recently to discuss his long and illustrious career in show business, the improbability of releasing six albums in 12 months, and the impact that Billy Graham has had on the world as well as his own life.

Correct me if I am wrong but I think you will be the first person to ever accomplish the release of six albums in one year. Many artists have released two, sometimes even three, but never six. You have quickly become the new “hardest working man in show business”. Why do this now?

Pat Boone: I had come up with the concept. This is my 50th year (in show business) and I have been very eclectic in my recordings. It hit me that the kinds of music we hear these days – separate genres, they are more separate than ever. Country pays no attention to Gospel or Rock and vice versa. I have had success in each of these fields so I thought, well, rather than just fading away I am going to do six albums and see if I can hit the charts with all six of them in one year. The 50th year of my recording career began in March of this year and it will conclude in March of 2006. The first album has already achieved the goal, “American Glory”, which is a patriotic album. Nobody has recorded America’s great patriotic songs in 50 years except for me. I am really sad and upset but I did something about it.

I am always fascinated when I hear about musicians “uncovering” lost recordings. Unfortunately, I am skeptical as to whether they were ever lost in the first place. But in the case of your new gospel album, “Glory Train”, that is really what took place. What happened?

Pat Boone: The Glory Train album was meant to be and is meant to be a continuation of trying to dissolve these arbitrary borders between secular and Christian music for the benefit of everybody. So we did it but the album was just ahead of its time. People resisted it for one reason or another so it was put on a shelf. My producer, Ray Ruff, went one direction and I went another. Then, 20 years later, we got together to do this country album and I asked Ray whatever happened to the gospel album we had recorded. He said he couldn’t find it. He had been looking for it for several years and the master tapes were nowhere to be found. I was horrified that the tapes may have been lost. And they were. Ray actually hired a private detective to find them. The private detective never did uncover them. When we were just finishing up the country album Ray called me and said that he had a big old closet at the front of his house, a catch all storage area, where stuff had stacked up for years. He and his wife were cleaning it out and she picked up a couple of dusty old boxes back in a corner and asked Ray if she should throw them out. The word “gospel” and the word “Boone” were written on the side. So Ray shouted, “Wait a minute! Those are the “Glory Train” tapes!” We remixed them, added some mandolin and a couple other things that made the album more effective. Out of that, we had the “Glory Train” album. Later, we added the tribute to Billy Graham to it.

Why did you add a tribute to Billy Graham? It is an amazing and powerful song but it was not part of the original “Glory Train” recording.

Pat Boone: My whole purpose for recording this song is to pay homage to and tribute to this magnificent brother of ours who has never flinched, has never stopped, and he has lived a clean, good life. He never gave any chance for his ministry to be criticized or vilified. People have tried but there has never been one breath of scandal, financial, or any other way. He refused to get in fights with other ministers or ministries to criticize anybody. He just goes on preaching the gospel.

What triggered “Thank You Billy Graham”, was Princess Diana’s death and all the worldwide attention that it got. At that time, when the world and the media were totally focused on Princess Diana, Mother Teresa died. All the media devoted a little time and space to Mother Teresa’s passing but the main focus remained on Princess Diana. This was so out of whack that I thought ahead to what was going to happen when Billy passes on. I was concerned there would be some big scandal, some other big media focus, and Billy will not be given the attention he is due. I decided that I wanted to get people to acknowledge the greatness and the ministry of Billy Graham while he is still with us.

You have an amazing all-star cast who participated on “Thank You Billy Graham”. While I expected to see folks like Vestal Goodman and Andre Crouch to be on board, I never would have dreamed some of the others. Perhaps the most notable celebrity is Bono. How were you able to convince him to be part of it?

Pat Boone: I bumped into him at a Grammy celebration. I walked up behind him and said, “I think it is time that Boono met Bono.” He turned around and said, “We have met before.” I said, “We did?” I was stunned. He said, “Yes, we were just getting started and nobody knew us. You were in England on tour and we were introduced to you. You were very nice, very encouraging. We didn’t expect you to remember but we do.” I was blown away by that. Later, I asked if we would be willing to be part of this tribute song to Billy Graham. He gave me his phone number in Dublin and said he would love to because he admired Billy very much.” I was just over in Ireland in July and several people told me that it was a real act of courage for Bono, who is a Catholic from Ireland, to be so admiring of a protestant preacher. But Bono didn’t hesitate.

Why do you think Billy Graham was the most influential evangelist of the 20th Century?

Pat Boone: Since the first century, Billy Graham is the most effective evangelist there has ever been. In terms of the millions and millions of people that he has preached to, the conversions, the impact worldwide, the fact that he is the best known and most admired figures in contemporary society for the last 50 years. All over the world, he always ranks one or two with the pope whenever they do any sort of ranking of admired people. But the thing is, his message is simple, it is pointed, and he does not mean to personally offend anybody. But people are offended by the message. Humanity just bristles when they are told that God says, “Thou Shall Not …”, or “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be condemned”, that makes the hackles rise on unregenerate people. They don’t like to be told that they must accept God’s way, that there is none other. So, Billy just never backed off. You just have to respect the man for what he believes.

And we respect you Pat Boone for 50 years of working in an unforgiving sometimes sinful industry all while standing firm in your faith.

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