See Charlie Rich Sing 'Behind Closed Doors' on Late-Night TV - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: See Charlie Rich Sing ‘Behind Closed Doors’ on Late-Night TV

Grammy-winning song was written by Kenny O’Dell, who died March 27th at 73 years old

After nearly a decade of recording, musician Charlie Rich signed a deal with Epic Records in 1967, making it his sixth record label since signing with Sun in 1960. Rich’s bent for jazz and R&B made the idea of marketing him as a country artist less than ideal, but at the urging of songwriter-producer Billy Sherrill, Epic took a chance on the piano-playing entertainer. By 1974, the risk had paid off handsomely as Rich turned a series of middle-of-the-road ballads into pop-country classics.

One of those classic tunes, “Behind Closed Doors,” was an across-the-board and around-the-world smash, featuring a now-famous piano intro played, not by Rich, but by session musician (and now Country Music Hall of Fame member) Hargus “Pig” Robbins. The sessions for “Behind Closed Doors” were recorded in Studio B of Music Row’s famed Quonset Hut, built by producer Owen Bradley and his guitarist Brother Harold, and included an 11-piece string section. Rich and all the musicians recorded together live in the session, with Rich standing close to the piano. Sherrill would go on to record that way for years, placing singers beside the studio’s 7-foot Steinway.

Of course, “Behind Closed Doors” is an iconic record for another key reason: the song itself. Sadly, on March 27th, the writer of that tune, Kenny O’Dell, passed away at 73 years old of natural causes at a health care facility south of Nashville. The Oklahoma native, born Kenneth Guy Gist, Jr., was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1996. “Behind Closed Doors” earned O’Dell a Best Country Song Grammy in early 1974, and the song was also nominated in the overall Song of the Year category, in addition to taking top honors at both the ACM and CMA Awards. O’Dell, who worked briefly with guitarist Duane Eddy after high school, would pen a Top Twenty Pop hit in 1967 with “Next Plane to London,” by the Rose Garden, before signing a publishing deal with singer Bobby Goldsboro’s House of Gold. He would again top the charts with songs penned for Loretta Lynn, Billie Jo Spears and Tanya Tucker, with Cher, Kenny Rogers and Mac Davis among the many others who cut his tunes. O’Dell also had a Top Ten hit of his own with the 1978 single, “Let’s Shake Hands and Come out Lovin’.” The songwriter’s wife, guitarist Vivian “Corki” Casey O’Dell, died last year.

Charlie Rich would perform “Behind Closed Doors” on numerous high profile television shows and specials throughout the remainder of his life. The above performance, from NBC’s The Midnight Special, is a scaled-back rendition of the mellow, romantic tune, with Rich at the piano backed by three musicians. The singer hosted this particular episode, which originally aired in April 1974, at the height of his fame. Rich died at 62 years old in 1995. Three years later, “Behind Closed Doors” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. 

In This Article: Charlie Rich


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