International Man of History: Author seeks to tell story of Charlie Rich

Cody Berry
Special to The Saline Courier

Polly Coufos grew up in the Western Australian town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. He has written on popular music and the arts for more than 25 years and recently was in Benton doing research for an upcoming book about the late singer and former Benton resident Charlie Rich and his family.
Charlie Allan Rich was born in Colt, Arkansas, on Dec. 14, 1932. But, in the late 1950s, Rich signed with the famous Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee.

At that time, Sun Records employed a young Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Charlie would have known them then. However, it was not until the 1970s that the “Silver Fox” truly reached his highest point.
From there, Charlie’s career slowly died out. He later went through rehab for his alcoholism but continued to perform occasional shows. Rich died July 26, 1995 — at only 62.

Around the time that Charlie had his biggest hits like “Behind Closed Doors,” “Rolling with the Flow,” and “The Most Beautiful Girl,” Coufos was a teenager. He said that he bought six or eight Charlie Rich albums in 1974 when he was 16.
Why write a book on Charlie Rich?

“My partner and I came to the U.S. two years ago and as soon as I got to Memphis and visited Charlie’s grave I got the feeling that the someone who was going to write his biography was going to have to be me — a man from the other side of the world,” Coufos said.

Because there has never been a book about Charlie Rich, Coufos believes that “he (Charlie) deserves that the first one be thorough, knowledgeable, and hopefully interesting for the reader.”
He added that “the people of Benton have certainly done their bit to help me with this. I have loved the affection everyone has for the Rich family. It has poured out of their reminiscences.

“I want to make sure there is a book on the shelves for those who come after us to know about this giant of popular music. (Charlie) deserves so much more than a book, but it is a start.”
Having been researching for more than 18 months, Coufos expects his book to be done in about two years if all goes according to plan. He has been in the U.S. collecting firsthand accounts about the Rich family from people who knew them.
Coufos says that he loved his week in Benton talking to people about Charlie.

“I want to capture all of them — or as many of them as I can — before I begin seriously collating and writing," he said. "Charlie's life and career are remarkable and unique in the history of popular music.”
Coufos endured more than 30 hours flying from Australia to research and write about his subject.

He says that there is something about being in the space where a person lived that makes it worth the trip.

“My idea of Arkansas was much different than what it has turned out to be,” Coufos said.
“I went to Hot Springs and saw Lake Hamilton. That was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.”

Kalgoorlie-Boulder is about the same size as Benton. But the landscape there is sparser than anywhere in Arkansas.
What else is in store for Coufos' American voyage?

Back to Tennessee. He said that while on vacation he plans to tour the South. He will visit Nashville, Memphis, and Franklin, Tennessee. Florence, Alabama, Austin and San Antonio, Texas, and finish in San Francisco for the city's Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.

It has been quite the adventure so far for him and there will be much more to come for Coufos.

“I will be looking to soak up as much music along the way as I can,” Coufos said.

He now lives in Perth, on the coast of Western Australia, where he works as a writer and in the disability sector.