Charley Pride

Country singer Charley Pride was born on March 18, 1934 in Sledge, Mississippi. One of the most successful artists in country music from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, Pride was one of the few recognized African-American artists in the country genre and member of the Grand Ole Opry. He was born the fourth of 11 children and learned to play the guitar at the age of 14. While music was important to him, he chose to pursue a career as a professional baseball player. He began building a respectable career as a baseball player before he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1956. He continued his baseball career after being discharged in 1958, but due to an injury to his throwing arm, he had to give up on his dream of playing for the major leagues. His musical talents were discovered when he would perform short musical sets before games by a team that he also played on. Encouraged by country artists like Red Sovine and Red Foley, he recorded a few songs at Sun Studios in 1958. After years of performing and occasionally recording, one of his demo tapes was heard by Chet Atkins and he was signed to RCA Records. His 1966 debut single for the label was “The Snakes Crawl at Night”. However, he didn’t score a chart hit until his third single, “Just Between You and Me” (1967). The success of the single – which reached Number 9 on the Billboard Country Singles chart and was nominated for a Grammy – led to Pride being the first black musician to perform at the Grand Ole Opry in nearly 30 years. Over the decades, he achieved over 50 Top 10 hits on the Billboard Country chart, with 30 of them reaching the Number 1 position. “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” (1971) sold a million copies. He became the biggest selling artist on RCA since Elvis Presley. Named Artist of the Year 1971 by the Country Music Association, he won the Best Singer Award that same year and in 1972. Charley Pride continued to record regularly over the following decades and became a staple on country radio up through the late 1980s. He became enormously popular overseas including the UK and Ireland. While he continued to tour and record, the sound of country music changed in the 1990s and his record sales declined. He published his autobiography, Pride: The Charley Pride Story, in 1994. Over the course of his 55 year career, he won numerous awards and is now considered one of country music’s most successful artists. Charley Pride died at the age of 86 on December 12, 2020 from Covid-19.

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