Remembering Charley Pride
Born on March 18, 1934, to a poor sharecropping family in Sledge, Mississippi, Charley Pride first pursued a promising career as a professional baseball player as his ticket out of the cotton fields. But when his side gig as a musical performer on the road began to attract more attention than his performance on the diamond, he jumped tracks and signed a deal with RCA Victor in 1965, under the oversight of Chet Atkins.
As a black entertainer in a predominantly white genre, Pride certainly had some biases and stereotypes to confront and overcome – but overcome them he did, with class and an easy-going affability that won over virtually everyone in short order. When the applause died off abruptly as he walked out on stage at one early performance in front of a crowd of 10,000 who knew him by name and voice only, the singer 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.” Within five years he would be honored as the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year, in 1971 – and then again the following year.
Pride lent his rich baritone voice to such hits as “Just Between You and Me,” “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me),” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” “Roll On Mississippi,” and “Mountain of Love.”
Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000, Charley Pride was honored again by the CMA in 2020, this time with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He gave his final performance barely a month before his death, when when he sang “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’” during the CMA Awards show at Nashville’s Music City Center, with Jimmie Allen, on November 11, 2020.