The Story Behind The Song: “Behind Closed Doors”

Sherrill found the “right” song in the catalog of Kenny O’Dell, who had written Rich’s first top-ten single “I Take It On Home” in the fall of 1972. By the end of the year, O’Dell brought a new song to Billy called “Behind Closed Doors.” It had started with just a title he jotted down and carried in his wallet. Kenny had only that title and a little guitar riff in his head for a couple of years, and was in absolutely no hurry to finish it. He finally did though, and the song proved to be the exact ingredient to send Charlie Rich’s career into high gear.

During his Sun days back in Memphis, Rich had often played piano on some of Jerry Lee Lewis’s recording sessions. Likewise, Charlie turned over the keyboard duties on his own records to the house pianist. For example, when Rich was under contract to RCA Victor between 1963 and 1965, Floyd Cramer was used. At Epic, it was Hargus “Pig” Robbins who worked all of Charlie’s sessions, and Pig developed the classic bluesy opening piano riff for “Behind Closed Doors,” which O’Dell had envisioned as a guitar line when he was fleshing out the song. After the recording was completed, Billy Sherrill decided to make a couple of changes at the end of the second verse, and Rich overdubbed the new words.

Initially, “Behind Closed Doors” drew the expected amount of controversy because of its suggestive lyrics, and some radio stations prohibited the playing of it. This was common practice in those days (especially with several Loretta Lynn records and a few others by Conway Twitty) and the protests always backfired, turning the records into even bigger hits. Such was the case with “Behind Closed Doors.” It reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart April 28, 1973, spending two weeks at the top. The record climbed to #15 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart, and had sold a million copies by September. The following month, it garnered the “Single of the Year” and “Song of the Year” trophies from the Country Music Association, and later won a pair of Grammy awards. 

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