Pat Boone is celebrating — and dropping the curtain on — his five-decade recording career by issuing five albums in five different genres. Bono, James Brown and LeAnn Rimes lead the diverse group of artists joining the seventy-one-year-old crooner.
“I see this as my fireworks display,” Boone says. “When I was a kid growing up in Nashville, my brother, two sisters and I would beg Daddy to take us out to the state fair to see the fireworks display at the end. We’d drive out at night, lie back on the car and look up at the night sky . . . If I can get on five different charts with five different types of music in one year, I’ll feel like I made a mark.”
The barrage began in March with American Glory, a record of patriotic anthems and military songs, and continues with the country-flavored Ready to Rock on July 12th, the gospel record Glory Train on August 9th, the ballads collection Hopeless Romantic on August 30th, and the R&B showcase We Are Family early next year.
Glory Train features “Thank You, Billy Graham,” a star-studded tribute to the longtime evangelist, featuring an introduction from Bono, a spoken-word part from Larry King and artists like Rimes, Michael McDonald and Kenny Rogers trading verses.
Boone recruited Bono at a 2001 Grammy after-party following U2’s win for “Beautiful Day.” “I came up behind him and said, ‘I think it’s time Boone-o met Bono,'” Boone says. “And he said, ‘We met before. Our group was just getting started and you were on tour in England. We were introduced to you, and you were very nice and encouraging. It meant a great deal to us, but I don’t expect you to remember it.’ Honestly, I did not remember — but nobody knew his group at that time. When I asked if he’d be willing to participate in the Billy Graham tribute, he said in a flash, ‘I will. I admire him greatly.'”
For the aptly titled We Are Family, Boone performs new versions of R&B classics alongside the original artists, such as Brown, the Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, Sister Sledge, and Kool and the Gang. Boone and producer Ollie Brown, a former drummer for Stevie Wonder, went to the artists’ home cities to record the tracks, visiting Detroit, Houston, Phoenix, Miami and, of course, Augusta, Georgia, where the Godfather of Soul joined in on “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”
“He agreed to do it, but he didn’t know what it was going to sound like,” Boone says of Brown. “So we brought the track in with us on ProTools and put it on. When it kicks off, he looks up and says, ‘You got my groove. How did you get my groove?’ And Ollie says, ‘Mr. Brown, I learned to play drums by listening to your records. I got to where I could play every lick on every one of your records, and I didn’t know until years later that you had two drummers.'”
After the album hits stores, Boone says he’s going to hang up his mike. “I’m going to tip my hat and call it a day,” he says. “My wife has been begging me for years: ‘Please let us drift into some kind of private life, while we can still ambulate.'”