Saturday, December 6, 2014

Charlie Rich burns card with John Denver's name on it: CMA 1975

I have been waiting for several decades to finally see this video.  Apparently it never made it to the internet until earlier this year.

As a presenter at the Country Music Association awards in 1975, the unpredictable Charlie Rich got the chore of handing out the Country Entertainer of the Year Award, even more difficult to get through because that year’s winner was John Denver, a figure loathe to honky-tonk fans.  On live network television, upon pulling the card from the envelope at the podium, the annoyed Charlie dryly read the name, simultaneously pulling his cigarette lighter from his pants pocket and proceeded to set the card ablaze.  I never knew until seeing the video just now that Denver himself was watching his named reduced to ashes live via satellite in Australia.  Denver’s smiling gosh-gee golly reaction was as expected.

Country music was really getting stylistically reamed-out in the 1970s, as was rhythm ’n’ blues and rock at the time as well.  But the platinum record awards, packed stadiums and soaring tickets prices all seemed to conceal the musical reality happening for a few years until musical stylists wishing to return to form found themselves again en vogue.  But at that moment a guy like Charlie Rich who knew a country song when he heard it, felt boxed in and needed to fight back, ignoring the potential damage to his own appearance fees and royalty rates.

John Denver was not a product of the dives that produced the likes of Hank Williams, George Jones, or Charlie Rich.  Those who were felt themselves being made obsolete and at least to some degree would remain loyal to the beer swilling, blues tinged music of the honky-tonks.  No new fresh faced kid like Denver was gonna get a country music award without first being told by those lived and breathed the real thing that they were insulted.

(Sadly, this above link has been rendered void by the You Tube copyright cops.  Well, at least the video was available for a couple years.  The symbolic happening seen on this video clip looked as dramatic as I had imagined.)