Charley Pride was an American singer, guitarist, and professional baseball player. He had the greatest musical success in the early to mid-1970s during which he was the best-selling performer for RCA Records since Elvis Presley.
It is said to be his peak years of his recording career (1966–87) when he garnered 52 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, 30 of which made it to number one. He also won the Entertainer of the Year award at the Country Music Association Awards in 1971.
The legendary musician Charley Pride died in Dallas on December 12, 2020, of complications related to COVID-19. He was 86 years old.
Today let’s look at some of the facts about the legend musician Charley Pride:
Pride was born on March 18, 1934, in Sledge, Mississippi. He was the fourth of eleven children of poor sharecroppers. Interestingly, his father intended to name him Charl Frank Pride, but due to a clerical error on his birth certificate, his legal name was Charley Frank Pride.
Charley Pride family:
Pride met Rozene while playing baseball in Memphis. They married in 1956 while Pride was on Christmas leave from Army basic training. They had two sons, Kraig and Dion, and a daughter, Angela.
The family resided in Dallas, Texas. They also had five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
The lifelong dream for baseball:
Though Pride loved music, one of his lifelong dreams was to become a professional baseball player. As a first attempt, he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League in 1952. He signed a contract with the Boise Yankees in 1953, the Class C farm team of the New York Yankees. Due to an injury he was sent to the Yankees’ Class D team in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
When he joined army in 1956, he was a quartermaster and played on the Fort’s baseball team. That team won the “All Army” sports championship. When discharged in 1958, he rejoined the Memphis Red Sox. He tried to return to baseball, though hindered by an injury to his throwing arm.
Charley Pride played three games for the Missoula Timberjacks of the Pioneer League (a farm club of the Cincinnati Reds) in 1960, and had tryouts with the California Angels (1961) and the New York Mets (1962) organizations, but failed to get selected for either team.
The birth of a singer:
When Pride was 14, his mother bought a first guitar for him and he taught himself to play. Pride’s singing ability came to the attention of the baseball team manager, who used to pay him to sing for 15 minutes before each game.
This increased attendance and earned Pride another $10 on top of the $10 he earned for each game. He also played gigs in the local area, both solo and with a band called the Night Hawks.
The rise as a star performer:
While he was active in baseball, Pride had been encouraged to join the music business by country stars such as Red Sovine and Red Foley. Pride visited Sun Studios in 1958, in Memphis and recorded some songs. Chet Atkins at RCA Victor heard a demonstration tape and got Pride a contract and this was a big break for Charley Pride in his music career. He released his first RCA Victor single, “The Snakes Crawl at Night” in 1966.
Subsequently, Nashville manager and agent Jack D. Johnson signed Pride. Atkins was the longtime producer at RCA Victor who had made stars out of country singers such as Jim Reeves, Skeeter Davis, and others. Pride was signed to RCA Victor in 1965. “The Snakes Crawl at Night” did not chart.
Soon after the release of “The Snakes Crawl at Night”, Pride released another single called “Before I Met You”, which also did not chart. Soon after, his third single, “Just Between You and Me”, was released. This song finally brought Pride success on the country charts. The song reached number nine on Hot Country Songs on February 25, 1967.
First large show:
The success of “Just Between You and Me” was enormous. Charley Pride was nominated for a Grammy Award for the song the next year. He was invited for his first large show in the late summer of 1966, in Detroit’s Olympia Stadium. Since no biographical information had been included with those singles, few of the 10,000 country fans who came to the show knew Pride was black, and only discovered the fact when he walked onto the stage, at which point the applause trickled off to silence.
“I knew I’d have to get it over with sooner or later,” Pride later remembered. “I told the audience: ‘Friends, I realize it’s a little unique, me coming out here—with a permanent suntan—to sing country and western to you. But that’s the way it is.”
Charley Pride achievements:
Let’s look at the key achievements of Pride:
- Honored by the Recording Academy in 2017 with its Lifetime Achievement Award
- Three-time Grammy Award winner, including “Best Male Country Vocal“
- Performance” in 1972.
- Three-time CMA winner, including “Entertainer of the Year” in 1971
- Received the ACM “Pioneer Award” in 1994
- Winner of three American Music Awards
- Ranked 18th on CMT’s 40 Greatest Men in Country Music
- Recipient of the “Living Legend” award by TNN / Music City News
- Trumpet Award for “Outstanding African-American Achievement” in 1996
- Cashbox award for “Top Male Country Artist of the Decade” for the 1970’s
Charley Pride death:
Charley Pride died in Dallas on December 12, 2020, of complications related to COVID-19 when he was 86 years old.