Looking out the window of his hip-roofed, 7,000-square-foot Beverly Hills home, Pat Boone says his street is a little quieter these days. For three years, he explains, Ozzy Osbourne was his neighbor — and Meat Loaf nearly moved in.
“It looked like it was going to be Pat Boone, Ozzy Osbourne and Meat Loaf in three consecutive houses at the corner of Beverly and Sunset,” says the 81-year-old singer. “I was already looking ahead to the block parties that might happen.”
Truth is, Boone doesn’t have much time for neighborhood get-togethers. With multiple ventures underway, he’s using the big, round table in his recreation room as a desk, and he has turned that family space into a working office. “To my wife’s displeasure,” he adds.
This spring marked the 60th anniversary of Boone’s debut single, “Two Hearts, Two Kisses,” on Dot Records. The song only reached No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. But it launched a six-plus-decade career that has included success in TV, books, film and a pop streak highlighted by his breakthrough, chart-topping cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame.” He also spent seven weeks at No. 1 with “Love Letters in the Sand,” six weeks atop the chart with “April Love” and has notched more than 60 hits in all.
Boone is drawing from one high point of his career for his latest release, Pat Boone: Duets, arriving June 9 on his own record company, The Gold Label. It features 13 never-before-released performances from his TV series, The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, which he hosted from 1957 to 1960. It follows his 2014 album, Legacy, for which Boone recorded 17 original gospel songs.
But Boone’s not just about music. An entrepreneur as well as entertainer, he appeared in May on ABC’s Shark Tank pitching a low-emission “Air Car” and struck a deal with “shark” Robert Herjavec to develop the concept. And he is politically outspoken, often taking controversial stands on current events. He recently criticized Robert Gates, president of the Boy Scouts of America, for endorsing gay adult leaders in the organization. “From the beginning, I was known as a family guy, a Christian, a conservative,” says Boone, who accepts that his views alienate many in the entertainment industry.
Born in Jacksonville, Fla., and raised in Nashville, Boone is widely considered America’s first teen idol of the rock’n’roll era. His covers of R&B hits — “Ain’t That a Shame” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” — are credited with helping bridge the gap between pop, soul and the burgeoning rock scene in the 1950s.
“As I got older and looked back, [Pat] really opened a wider door for me,” says Little Richard. “By him recording [“Tutti Frutti”], it made it bigger and made me accepted to a wider market, and I became ‘pop’ instantly!”
With “Ain’t That a Shame,” Boone topped the Hot 100 in July 1955, eight months before Elvis Presley earned his first No. 1 with “Heartbreak Hotel.” Boone’s boy-next-door charm was seen as a counterpoint to Presley’s rebellious persona. Presley, in fact, opened shows for Boone early in his career, and the two became friends.
“I was already going so fast and furious and with hit records that I could weather the Presley avalanche,” recalls Boone. “He and I became friendly competitors, emphasis on friends. We played flag football in Beverly Hills on Sunday. We’d visit each other’s homes. He was single and dating young starlets. I was married, had two, then three, then four kids.”
Boone married Shirley Lee Foley, the daughter of country legend Red Foley, in November 1953, before he turned 19. The couple are still married and have raised four daughters, including singer Debby Boone, who topped the Hot 100 for a remarkable 10 weeks in 1977 with “You Light Up My Life.” They have 15 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Despite the bona fides, Boone hasn’t always presented a squeaky-clean image. In 1997, he released In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, a collection of heavy metal covers that has sold 64,000 copies, according to Nielsen Music. In promoting the album, he appeared at the American Music Awards in a black leather outfit and, even though he is well-known as a devout Christian, subsequently lost his job on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
“Christian TV took me right off the air immediately, thinking that I had gone over to the dark side and sold out,” recalls Boone, who was later reinstated. Though the album created a stir, he made fans out of Metallica and other hard-rock artists who liked his approach to their songs.
When he’s not planning a new album or pitching a new tech business on Shark Tank or writing a book (he has authored more than 15, mostly Christian- or memoir-themed), Boone supports several charities, including the global aid agency Mercy Corps, which he helped launch 30 years ago.
“I have business interests and political interests,” says the busy octogenarian. “I write columns for WorldNetDaily and NewsMax. I’ve written books. I stay crazy active in all sorts of things, whether it’s political, spiritual, business and, of course, music.”