Pat Boone first hit the charts in 1955. His first hit was “Two Hearts” and then he began covering the hits that were done by black artists during the rise of rock-and-roll. He covered “Ain’t It a Shame” by Fats Domino (renaming it slightly to “Ain’t That a Shame”) and Ivory Joe Hunter’s “I Almost Lost My Mind,” both of which went to number one in the Fifties.
By 1961, Pat was in a slump. He hadn’t had a Top 10 hit since 1956 and he needed something to recharge his career. “Moody River” was a country song written by Chase Webster, who recorded on the Dot label. Dot was also Pat Boone’s label and when someone at Dot heard the song, they thought it was a good fit for Pat. Webster didn’t hit the country chart with the song, but it looks like he re-released it in 1970 when it peaked at number 60, so still not a big hit for him.
That wasn’t true for Pat, however. He recorded it in 1961 and got his sixth number one record. “Moody River” continued the early Sixties obsession with death. The song tells the story of a man who goes to the river to meet his girl, only to find out that she has committed suicide. She just couldn’t tell him that the guy she was with was just a friend.
“Moody River” may hold the record for the fastest release to the public in history. Pat went to the studio to record the song. He then drove to a friend’s house to pick up his wife. As they left the friend’s home, they heard the song on a radio there. At first, he thought it was Webster’s version, but then realized it was the song he had recorded earlier that day. The record company had cut an acetate copy of the song and delivered it to the local radio station in just a few hours.
While Pat Boone would be a star for many years and his daughter, Debbie Boone, would have one of the biggest selling records of all time, “You Light Up My Life” in 1977, Pat’s recording career died away very quickly after “Moody River.” It was his last number one and hist last time on the Top 40 was just a year away with “Speedy Gonzales” which peaked at number six in 1962.
“Moody River entered the pop chart on May 22, 1961 and spent one week at number one.