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    Tuesday, July 23, 2024

    Pat Boone dreamt he had a hit about grits. So the 89-year-old wrote the song.

    Over his 70 years in music, Pat Boone has almost always sung covers of pop and R&B and country — songs written by other people. Heck, he even did a whole album of heavy metal covers once.

    But every so often, a song just ... appears.

    "It came to me in a dream literally," says Boone, 89, of his self-penned new single "Grits." "I dreamed I was having a hit record and when I came out of the dream I had the first verse."

    Then for the first of four times in our 30 minutes on the phone, he breaks into song: "Grits, grits, bestest food there it's! Country caviar, Tennessee foie gras. Hey grits, grits, bestest food there it's! Keep your fancy food. Give me my grits!"

    Sure, like grits, it's a little corny but with Boone's enthusiastic delivery, backing vocals by country stars such as Ray Stevens, Lorrie Morgan, and the Gatlin Brothers, and a music video that would have been at home on "Hee Haw," it's kind of hard to resist.

    "Grits" is one of 25 songs on Boone's new compilation double album, "Country Jubilee," a collection that also includes a new cover of "You and I" sung with Crystal Gayle, who in 1982 had a crossover hit with the song with the late Eddie Rabbitt.

    The rest of the album is made up of country songs that Boone recorded mostly in the '60s and '70s, covers of classics by artists such as Hank Williams, Eddie Arnold, George Jones, Ray Price, and Boone's father-in-law Red Foley. (It's also produced in no-expense-spared vinyl and CD editions with booklets filled with archival photographs and stories about each song.)

    "So now I'm really coming back," Boone says. "I never left country, but I'm now reminding people I'm a country boy, grew up in Nashville, and I've been recording country all along the way."

    In an interview edited for clarity and length, Boone talked about his country roots, his mother's grits and performing live again.

    Q. You grew up in Tennessee, so you were probably always hearing country music.

    A. I dated and married the daughter of Red Foley, Hall of Fame country artist. We met at 16 in high school, married at 19. And I was on his television show, the 'Ozark Jubilee,' and he was on my show, 'The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom' by the time I was 22, 23. So I was country all the way.

    Q. Who were your favorite country singers when you were a kid? Did you have some favorite songs?

    A: Yes. For instance, one of the songs on the album, 'Tennessee Waltz,' Patti Page had a big hit record of it, which I loved. Never occurred to me that one day I'd be singing it, recording it myself. Then people like Eddie Arnold and Hank Williams. Recorded three Hank Williams songs on this album. And three Red Foley songs — 'Just a Closer Walk With Thee,' and a song I'm thinking about singing at the Coach House, 'Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy.' Are you familiar with that song?

    Q: I don't think so.

    A: Oh, it was a No. 1 country hit when I was still in my teens and dating Shirley. Bing Crosby, who was my role model for singing at that time, recorded it, and Sinatra recorded 'Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy.' But Red Foley's was the No. 1 million-selling hit. [He breaks into song for a verse.] It's so infectious, and I think I may have to sing it there at the Coach House.

    Q: So you wrote a song about grits. That's pretty country. Did you grow up eating them?

    A: Definitely, I was very used to it growing up. Mama fixed it with eggs and ham. One of my lyrics, I'm not sure I used it in the song, was, 'I'm a country ham and red-eye gravy man.'

    But all I can think (about writing the song) is that the dream was born out of chagrin from not really being considered as much a country artist as I am, and as I want to be remembered for. I actually give God credit, lyric credit, because those two words came to me in a dream, 'country caviar' and 'Tennessee foie gras.' The fact that they almost rhyme and they're both good descriptors. And words that were never on a country record before.

    Q: Tell me about recording 'You and I' with Crystal Gayle. It was a big hit and a great love song with Eddie Rabbitt.

    A: She's so beautiful and sings so great. And she and I both agreed that we would make this a tribute to my wife Shirley (who died in 2019), to whom I've been married 67 years. And I'm still married. She's in heaven waiting for me.

    We were both tearful, and she knew that we were singing it for Shirley, but for Crystal and her husband as well. So two marriages, two love songs we're combining on one record.

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