August 10

1975 Flashback: Charlie Rich Literally Set the Stage on Fire

Charlie Rich
The Silver Fox, Charlie Rich/

Charlie Rich created one of the most infamous scenes in the CMA Awards history when he went on stage drunk and lit John Denver’s card on fire.

Charlie Rich was at the peak of his career in the 1970’s. He is best remembered for his top hits “Behind Closed Doors” and “The Most Beautiful Girl,” which earned him two Grammy Awards. He was named the CMA Entertainer of the Year in 1974. The sad thing, however, Rich began drinking heavily during the most successful years of his musical career. Some say he wasn’t able to handle his success that’s why he fell into addiction.

During the 1975 CMA Awards Ceremony, Rich’s destructive behavior culminated. That was when he presented the award for Entertainer of the Year, while he was obviously intoxicated. After he was introduced, he lumbered up the stage, blew a kiss, held up the Entertainer of the Year trophy and said,

“This is the most beautiful thing in the world right here.”

A couple of smatterings of nervous chuckles could be heard from the crowd. He then managed to mention the name of the nominees – John Denver, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Ronnie Milsap, and Conway Twitty. He even muttered if Loretta Lyn can go out with him that night. After a few seconds, he clumsily opened the envelope on his hand, he took a lighter and set the card on fire, before he announced the winner, “My good buddy, John Denver.”

John Denver was on tour in Australia, and he appeared from there via a satellite hookup. He wasn’t aware of what had just taken place in Nashville. He instead delivered his short acceptance speech with a heartfelt gratitude.

John Denver
John Denver / SugarHouse Casino

What Happened After

Most historians believe that Rich’s rowdy actions during that night were a protest against country music’s pop crossover. However, Rich’s son released his explanation through a post on his social media. He said the incident was caused by a combination of the wrong prescription of pain medication and gin. Before the event, Rich had broken his foot on an accident. He needed to take pain medication the night before the show. And while waiting for the show to start, he had been drinking gin and tonics with another country star backstage.

CMA blacklisted Rich from its future shows. Though he apologized days later for his misbehavior, The Silver Fox of country music hardly gets records or spot on the chart since the incident.

I chose to post below one of Charlie Rich’s beautiful song “The Most Beautiful Girl.” Why? Because I want to emphasize that his mistake won’t make us forget his good music. Let’s stray away from judging a person because of one error.  Have a good day, fella!

And folks, if you like to read more articles about our favorite country stars, check out the Country Thang Daily website or follow us on FacebookTwitterand Instagram.


ACM Awards, charlie rich, The Most Beautiful Girl

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