When Pat Boone Was Cooler Than Elvis
After debuting on the charts in 1955, Pat Boone went on to record 38 Top 40 hits and be named Billboard's No. 10 all-time rock recording artist, before changing gears to host TBN's Gospel America and the eponymous one-hour gospel radio show he still hosts now.
Back in the late 1950s, though, Boone was the 45-record jam. My mother absolutely adored him. So much so that just for a piece of the Pat, she nearly forsook a personal token from the King of Rock 'n' Roll. In 1958, people.
Being a considerate family, we have teased her somewhat mercilessly about "The Elvis Incident" for as long as I can remember. I'm pretty sure other folks did so well before we started, too.
Pat Boone performs Sunday, September 11, at Murchison Performing Arts Center on the University of North Texas campus.
In anticipation of Pat Boone's Sunday appearance, she has finally agreed to go public with what happened.
This is Pam's story:
"As an oil company kid, in 1957, I lived in Benghazi, Libya, and went to a correspondence school with several grades in one classroom. There was no television, no radio hit parade and very little to tell us what was going on back in the States. American Bandstand was an unknown to our little group.
"Every now and then, I would receive a 'care package' from my Aunt Billie back in Texas. She sent items like movie magazines, candy bars and 45 rpm records to keep me in the swing of things.
"I played those records over and over until I knew all the words by heart. I knew that Elvis was the biggest deal ever on the music scene in the U.S., but I was infatuated with Pat Boone. 'April Love,' 'Love Letters in the Sand' and 'Bernadine' were my favorite songs. I thought Pat and his white buck shoes were really something.
"When Elvis Presley went to Army basic training at Fort Hood in 1958, my father happened to be on the same train with him. He got an autograph for me from Elvis. 'To Pam, from Elvis' it read. It was pretty special to me at 12 years old, but even so, at that time, I would have traded it for the latest hit from Pat Boone.
"As a matter of fact, in the thick of the battle to expand my collection of Pat Boone hits, I did try, on a couple of occasions, to trade the autograph to Tom, the other eighth-grader in my class. Tom had an album of Pat Boone's hits, complete with a picture of my idol on the cover, resplendent in those aforementioned white buck shoes. My father was terribly insulted, as he had gone to great lengths (or so he declared) to get the Elvis autograph. Much to my dismay, he stopped me from completing the trade.
"The Elvis collectable has remained safe all these years later, which would have made my daddy proud. Just the same, the crooning Boone (who once employed Elvis as an opening act) brought me lots of happy times — some of which were spent writing love letters to him in the sand just outside my house."
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