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Charley Pride: History Maker & Perpetual Pride of Country Music

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Charley Pride was made known by his sleek, Southern-accented baritone voice. He was the most accomplished African-American during the 1960s. Over the span of 23 years, from 1966 to 1989, he was able to produce unforgettable songs that spent multiple weeks atop the charts.

Charley Pride’s Background and Childhood

Born on March 18, 1938, in Sledge Mississippi. Charley Pride was known to be a standard-bearer for the hard-core honky-tonk country music sound.

Pride had a similar story that classic blues singers would tell. His father was a straight-laced sharecropper. Their forty-acre cotton farm in Mississippi was Pride’s playground. At the age of fourteen, he had to pick cotton to be able to buy his first Sears, Roebuck guitar.

Pride had the influences of Ernest Tubb, Pee Wee King, Hank Williams, and Roy Acuff. This being the result of his father’s dislike of the culture and lyrics of blues music.

Teenage and Baseball

Pride left home at the age of sixteen to play professional baseball in the Negro American League. After playing for several teams in Memphis and elsewhere, Pride entered the army and married Rozene Cohran, an ambitious and highly motivated Memphis woman.

In 1958, Charley Pride mustered out of the service to pursue a career in baseball. He was able to play in the Pioneer League for a short time then had a job in a smelting plant in Helena where he was able to continue his passion for baseball. Pride played for the plant ball team.

Charley Pride was able to have tryouts during the early sixties with the California Angels but unfortunately had his throwing arm injured.

Life After Baseball 

In 1862, Pride was discovered by Red Sovine and Red Foley, both were country stars, in Helena and eventually helped him come to Nashville.

Producer Jack Clement, who has worked with several country music legends including Johnny Cash and rockabilly musician Jerry Lee Lewis, was hooked up with Pride. Their initial demos at the RCA Records caught Chet Atkins’ ear. Without hesitation, Atkins flew to Los Angeles to play the side to top label executives. They agreed to enlist Pride for his remarkable voice.

Charley Pride’s first recording with RCA happened in August 1965. In January 1966, “Snakes Crawl at Night” exhibiting Pride’s baritone voice was first heard. It drew instant attention and spiked the listenership for Country songs.

Charley Pride and Race

With Charley Pride signing with RCA Records, his race was shielded from country radio up until his third single, “Just Between You and Me” climbed the country top ten. At this time African American singers have never seen success in the singing field and the singing industry was certain that there could never ever be one. Country Charley Pride, his gold-selling first album, was when most fans knew that he was black.

Charley Pride and Jackie Robinson

Determined that talent was what counted, Pride placed every discrimination he was thrown at to silence, just as Jackie Robinson was breaking the color line in big-league baseball. However, Pride was not the Jackie Robinson of music. Robinson opened opportunities for black players in baseball.

While Pride established a name for himself, no other black country singers came anywhere near his commercial achievements during his hit-making years and had a track record that is unmatched. 

Records and Awards

With his incredible talent, Charley Pride gained twenty-nine #1 country hits between his debut year in 1966 and 1989. Over the next 20 years, Pride produced singles that sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Among his unforgettable classics were “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” (1970), “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin” (1971), and “All I have to offer You is Me” (1969).

With this, Pride was able to achieve multiple awards from the Country Music Association. This included the Entertainer of the year award in 1971 and the Top Male Vocalist in successive years in 1971 and 1972.

In 1993, Charley Pride finally joined the Grand Ole Opry. Pride’s father was a huge fan of the Grand Ole Opry, but Charley first declined the invitation in 1968.

The following year, Pride: The Charley Pride Story, written with Jim Henderson was published. In the year 2000, Pride was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In the course of the 21st century, he released more momentous works including Pride and Joy: A Gospel Music Collection (2006) and Choices (2011).

2017 was another year to remember for Charley Pride as he was honored with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.  In the same year, he released the album, Music in my Heart.

What’s Charley Up To Now?

In addition to becoming an excellent singer and entertainer, Charley Pride is a wise and conventional businessman. He was able to establish Chardon, a booking and management company that later on helped Janie Fricke, Dave & Sugar, and Neal McCoy to stardom.

Tom Collins and Charley Pride partnered in Pi-Gem song publishing, with Pride producing hit after hit and was a nonstop touring artist.

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