Charley Pride

Legendary singer and baseball player.

An American artist whose rich baritone voice broke down barriers in country music was also the first Black star to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Charley Frank Pride was the epitome of a trailblazer. He was known for his rich baritone voice and considered country music’s first African American superstar. His greatest musical success came in the early to mid 1970s, when he was the best-selling performer for RCA Records since Elvis Presley.

The legendary artist had 52 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, 30 of which made it to number one. He won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1971, its top male vocalist prize in 1971 and 1972 and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020. In 2000 Charley Pride was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

On December 12, 2020, at the age of 86, Charley Pride died of complications from COVID-19. To honour him, the Texas Rangers baseball team on March 14, 2021, announced that their spring training field in Surprise, Arizona, had been renamed “Charley Pride Field”.



Name:   Charley  Pride
Born:   18 March 1934
Star Sign: Pisces
Died:   12 December 2020
Birthplace: Sledge
Country: Mississippi (MS) United States
DetailsOther Names
Frank
Father:
Fowler McArthur Pride
Mother:
Tessie Pride
Marriages:
Rozene Cohran in 1956 to 2020
Children:
Two sons - Kraig and Dion and daughter, Angela. Two grandsons, Carlton and Malachi.


Childhood
Charley Frank Pride was born on March 18, 1934, and was the fourth of eleven children born to sharecroppers Tessie and Fowler McArthur Pride on a cotton farm in Sledge, Mississippi. Growing up, Charley was exposed primarily to Blues, Gospel and Country music. His father, Fowler was a devoted listener of the Grand Ole Opry.

When Pride was fourteen, his mother bought him his first guitar - a Silvertone. He taught himself how to play the instrument by listening to country music on the radio. Although Pride loved music, his lifelong dream was to become a professional baseball player.

Baseball
Pride’s ability as a pitcher and outfielder landed him a spot in the Negro League’s Memphis Red Sox when he was just 16. It opened a door for him to play for other teams including - the Louisville Clippers, Boise Yankees and the Birmingham Black Barons.

While travelling from game to game, Pride often sang and play his guitar. He was attracted both by Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts featuring the “King of Country Music” Roy Acuff and honky-tonk artists Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb. While playing in Memphis, Charley met cosmetologist Rozene Cohran, who was a dedicated baseball fan.

Army and Marriage
In 1956, Pride began a two-year service in the United States Army. While he was serving in the Army, Pride and Rosene got married. Upon his discharge, he meant to return to baseball; however, he sustained injuries that affected his throwing arm. In 1960, the couple moved to Helena, Montana, where Pride worked in a smelting plant and also played baseball with the East Helena Smelterites.

Pride's singing ability soon came to the attention of the team manager, and Pride wad paid to sing for 15 minutes before each game, which increased attendance. He also played gigs in the local area, both solo and with a band called the Night Hawks. Following the positive responses to his singing talent, Charley Pride began pursing a musical career.

Big Break
In 1967, Pride and his family moved to Great Falls, Montana as his music career was taking off. His break came when Chet Atkins at RCA Victor heard a demonstration tape and got Pride a contract. In 1966, Pride released his first RCA Victor single, "The Snakes Crawl at Night".

After the release of "The Snakes Crawl at Night", Pride released another single called "Before I Met You", which did not chart. His third single, "Just Between You and Me", reached number nine on the US country chart. It finally brought Pride success on the country charts.

Country Music Success
An historic day for country music was in 1967, when on that date Charley Pride became the first Black singer to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. That night, he sang two songs: his first single and Hank Williams' "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You).

In 1969, Pride had his first number one hit, “All I Have To Offer You (Is Me)” on the Cash Box Country Singles Chart. In 1969, he made his first national appearance on TV in the premiere episode of Hee Haw. The same year, his compilation album, 'The Best of Charley Pride,' sold more than one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Country Hits
Between 1969 and 1971, Pride had eight singles that reached number one on the US Country Hit Parade and also charted on the Billboard Hot 100: Pride's biggest hit, “Kiss an Angel Good Morning,” spent five weeks atop the country charts and crossed over to the pop market. In 1971, Charley Pride was named the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year, eventually earning a Lifetime Achievement award.

On May 1, 1993, Pride was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry and becoming only the second African American inductee of the stage show. The following year, he published his autobiography, 'Pride: The Charley Pride Story' and was given the Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music.

Crystal Chandeliers - Ireland and UK
In November 1976, Charley Pride's appearance at Belfast's Ritz Cinema brought the community together and he became a hero to both sides of the conflict for helping to break the informal touring ban of Northern Ireland, after several other international music acts such as Rod Stewart and The Rolling Stones followed suit. Shortly thereafter, “Crystal Chandeliers” became considered a ‘unity song’ in Ireland and the UK when it was subsequently released as a single

Country Music Hall of Fame
In 1996, Pride received the Academy of Country Music’s Pioneer Award; The Trumpet Award for Outstanding African American Achievement and was the headliner for a special Christmas performance at the White House for former President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton.

In July 1999, Pride received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On October 4, 2003, he became the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Recognition and Accolades
In 2020, Pride received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award - in recognition of his work in the genre. It marked the first of his eventual 41 albums. He also broke down color barrier to become the first Blacks country music superstar. Over three decades, Pride has remained one of the top twenty best-selling country artists of all-time.

Pride's incredible legacy includes: 32 gold and 4 platinum albums; one which has reached quadruple platinum (The Best of Charley Pride). Pride is second in sales for RCA Records only to Elvis Presley.

Marriage and Family
Charley Pride met his wife, Ebby Rozene Cohran, while playing baseball in Memphis. They tied the knot on 28 December 1956. The couple had a daughter, Angela Rozene Pride; and two sons, Carlton Kraig Pride and Charles Dion Pride together. They also have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Facts
Pride's father intended to name him Charl Frank Pride, but a clerical error on his birth certificate, made his legal name as Charley Frank Pride.

Pride was the only black country singer with a contract from a major label until the early 1990s

Willie Nelson once kissed Pride on the lips while onstage at the Big D Jamboree in Dallas. Nelson‘s colorblind endorsement of the singer, caused fans to rethink their assessment of Pride.

The first time Pride met his future wife, Rozene Cochran, he bought her a record.

Pride revealed that he had battled manic depression throughout his career as a country music singer.

Pride wanted to be remembered as a good person who tried to be a good entertainer and made people happy - a good American who paid his taxes and made a good living.

Pride had big problem early on with concert promoters because they were reluctant or scared to book him, but they finally came around.

In July 2020, he sang the National Anthem at the first-ever baseball game played at the Rangers’ new Globe Life Field in Arlington.

After Pride's death, the Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers honored Charley Pride by naming their spring training field after him.

Pride as the first artist of any race to win the Country Music Association’s male vocalist award two years in a row.

Quotes
"I was always a dreamer, in childhood especially. People thought I was a little strange."

"Even now, when I'm asked how I'm doing, I like to reply, 'Pretty good. I've got all my fingers and both eyes."

"I think there's enough room in country music for everybody."

"When I came up, there was room for the new and the old. For every new artist, an old one didn't have to be pushed out."

"I learned to tune a guitar by ear. That method has served me pretty well."

"For most entertainers, there is a single experience, one defining moment, when confidence replaces the self-doubt that most of us wrestle with."

"A fan will grab you and hug you and will not let go. When that happens, you wish it could be that way all over the world."

"Performing is an experience, for me, that is as humbling as it is energizing."

"Fans will praise you, scold you, and offer helpful advice. Fans will also defend you."

"Fans are what make a performer and I've always taken them seriously."

Funeral

On December 12, 2020, Charley Pride died in Dallas County, Texas, of complications related to COVID-19. He was 86 years old. He is survived by his wife, Rozene and three children, Kraig, Dion and Angela and several grandchildren. His family and close friends held a private wake and memorial in Dallas. He is buried at Calvary Hill Cemetery and Mausoleum Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, USA

A tribute: 'Charley Pride will always be a legend in country music. He will truly be missed but will always be remembered for his great music, wonderful personality and his big heart.'


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