Charley Pride made history when he recorded “All I Have To Offer You (Is Me)” The song made him the first artist to reach No.1 on the Billboard’s Country Chart in 25 years. Black R&B singer and saxophonist, Louis Jordan somehow managed to achieve this feat in 1944, however, Charley Pride did it with an actual country song.
The ascent of Charley Pride in the country music industry following his 1965 signing with RCA Victor was occurring in the midst of a racially tense period in the U.S. It was a potential bombshell, and RCA went to some very unusual lengths to hide Charley’s “uniqueness” for as long as possible. When his first single, which was written by Mel Tillis, “The Snakes Crawl At Night,” shipped on December 28, 1965 and the disc jockeys received their copies without the usual accompanying photograph and bio. The label hoped to draw attention to Pride’s vocal quality before he gained attention for his color. So sensitivities were minority issues in the South that on April 6, 1968, Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry cancelled performances for the first time in its 43 year history due to racial tensions following the murder of Martin Luther King two days earlier in Memphis.
On addition, Charley Pride’s early releases on RCA was credited four well-known and highly-regarded producers on each disc: Chet Atkins, Bob Ferguson, Felton Jarvis and Jack Clement, even though Clement is the only one of these four men who ever actually entered any studio with Charley Pride. The label felt it was essential for the disc jockeys to see those names on there, proving that this was a bona fide artist and not just some “gimmick” once Charley’s skin color was revealed. For extra emphasis, each of Pride’s first five singles credited the artist as “Country” Charley Pride. The third record, “Just Between You And Me” was the first to chart, reaching #9 in 1966. Each successive release after that slightly improved his chart standing, and seven records later, “All I Have To Offer You (Is Me)” brought him to the top.
Charley’s first nine singles were written primarily by Clement or the team of Jerry Foster and Bill Rice, (with the exception of Mel Tillis who wrote the first one, as mentioned earlier), but “All I Have To Offer You (Is Me)” was the first Pride record written by another successful duo, Dallas Frazier and A. L. “Doodle” Owens. The title popped out of a conversation they were having while driving around Nashville one day, and the actual writing took very little time at all. Likewise, it took comparatively little time for Pride to find success with the song, as his record reached #1 in its ninth week on August 9, 1969. Twenty-eight more #1 hits would follow during Charley Pride’s incredible career, concluding with 1983’s “Night Games.”
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