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Pat Boone celebrates 60 years of show business with O.C. concert

Pat Boone, pictured with wife Shirley Boone, will perform at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on Sept. 23. The appearance will mark his 60th anniversary in show business.
(Photo by Rebecca Sapp)

Pat Boone is chatting about his Orange County ties from his Beverly Hills home when a phone rings in the background.

He suspects the call to be a scammer.

“Hang on a second,” he says. “Listen to this.”

The answering machine plays his tailored greeting.

“I can’t come to the phone right now because I’ve got a furry animal in my throat,” the recording says in a strange vocal pattern.

The caller hangs up.

“I have some fun with that,” Boone says with a laugh. “I make up voices all the time, and my wife wants me to take it off, but it’s funny.”

Though he loves entertaining, the 83-year-old crooner is embarking on his closing national tour with a special concert Sept. 23 at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. “Music & Memories” celebrates Boone’s 60th anniversary in show business and commemorates his milestone in movies, with his first two films, “Bernardine” and “April Love,” also turning 60 this year.

“I know this is my last go around, and I know I can’t do it forever,” Boone says. “My wife has been begging me forever to slow down, and I owe her that. I’ve owed her that for some time. I’ve had the most incredible career, and it’s been a wonderful ride.”

In the years before the British Invasion, Boone rivaled the chart dominance of Elvis Presley.

With his signature white buck shoes, combed hair and wide smile, Boone embodied American values during the rise of rock ‘n’ roll. He went on to sell more than 45 million records, garnered 38 Top 40 hits and appeared in more than 15 Hollywood films.

A conservative Christian, Boone declined certain songs and movie roles — including one with Marilyn Monroe — that he felt might compromise his beliefs.

He became the second-biggest charting artist of the late 1950s, behind Presley, and he still holds the Billboard record for spending 220 consecutive weeks on the charts with one or more songs each week.

The successful pop singer has been married to his wife, Shirley, for 63 years, has four daughters, 16 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

The Boones, who have lived in Beverly Hills for 57 years, bought a home in Coto de Caza nearly 15 years ago to be closer to their grandchildren. They visit each weekend and attend church services in San Juan Capistrano.

Singing is, and always will be, a part of his life, Boone says.

Charles Eugene “Pat” Boone was born in 1934 in Jacksonville, Fla., a descendant of American frontiersman Daniel Boone. While growing up in Nashville, Tenn., the then-12-year-old Boone sang all over the capital, at school functions, Kiwanis meetings, Junior Chamber of Commerce events, women’s club luncheons and on local television and radio.

During his final years in high school, he was voted student body president and met his future wife, Shirley Foley, the daughter of singer Red Foley, a musician who was known for his contribution to the growth of country music after World War II.

At 18, Boone won first place in a Nashville talent contest, earning him a trip to New York City for an audition on “The Ted Mack Amateur Hour,” a program Boone equated to “America’s Got Talent.” After winning three weeks in a row and entering a second talent scouts show, Boone thought an entertainment career unlikely.

He planned to be a high school English teacher and a local preacher.

Shortly before his 19th birthday, Boone married Shirley. The couple moved to Denton, Texas, where he enrolled in North Texas State University, now the University of North Texas.

A phone call from a record label executive who had heard Boone perform would change the course of his life.

In 1954, Boone made his first recordings for the small Republic Records label, followed a year later by his debut recording of “Two Hearts, Two Kisses” on the Tennessee-based DOT Records. His version of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” hit No. 1 on the pop charts.

Boone would record a number of cover versions of songs first credited to African American performers, including Little Richard, The El Dorados, The Flamingos and Ivory Joe Hunter.

Major record labels didn’t want to work with R&B artists until pop artists like Boone covered R&B hits. Listeners were in search of the original sound, and Boone served as a bridge in paving the way for the budding R&B-based rock ‘n’ roll music during the mid-’50s.

While starting a family of four daughters and launching a television, record, movie and concert career, Boone finished magna cum laude from Columbia University School of General Studies.

Serving those with special needs

Giving back to charitable causes has remained important throughout his career, he says.

Since 1979, The Pat Boone Foundation has contributed more than $7 million to more than 30 charitable causes. He hosted the annual Easter Seals Telethon for 18 years and helped raise more than $600 million for individuals with disabilities and special needs.

Boone also has helped co-found and support Ryan’s Reach, a charitable organization honoring the name of Boone’s grandson, Ryan Corbin, who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and survived a fall.

Funds raised provide rehabilitation and home care and are directed to the operation of Ryan’s Reach R&R, a licensed Tustin home providing care for survivors of traumatic brain injuries.

Boone says he stays physically fit by playing tennis. He has worked with a personal trainer so he can reach his high school weight. He’s 10 pounds away from meeting his goal and can still fit into his high school jacket.

They’re all stories he plans to share during his upcoming show where he will highlight video clips of past performances along with singing some of his biggest hits, including patriotic and spiritual songs.

“These last shows mean more to me than the others,” Boone says. “I’m going to relive all that, and I realize after all these years, audiences have weaved me into their lives, and now I’m weaving you into my life.

“As of this night, we are part of each other’s lives and memories.”

If You Go

What: Pat Boone

When: Doors open at 6 p.m. Sept. 23

Where: The Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano

Cost: $49.50

Information: (949) 496-8930 or visit thecoachhouse.com.

kathleen.luppi@latimes.com

Twitter: @KathleenLuppi


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