Pride, Charley Frank

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Pride, Charley Frank

March 18, 1938


The country singer and guitarist Charley Pride was born in Sledge, Mississippi. Though he grew up steeped in the African-American Mississippi Delta blues culture he encountered on his parents' sharecropper farm, as a child he gravitated toward the country music that was largely favored by whites. He taught himself guitar by the age of fourteen, but by his late teens he was concentrating on becoming a professional baseball player. Aside from a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, Pride played for Negro American League teams in Detroit, Memphis, and Birmingham from 1955 to 1959. Starting in 1960 he worked off-season as a tin smelter in Great Falls, Montana, and during the season played for the Class C Pioneer League team there, occasionally singing for the fans between innings. He also sang occasionally in nightclubs, where country music producers from Nashville heard him. After a brief time in the major leagues with the Los Angeles Angels in 1961, he returned to Montana. A final, unsuccessful tryout for the New York Mets in 1963 convinced Pride to give up baseball. On the trip back to Montana, he stopped off in Nashville, where his velvety baritone quickly earned him a reputation in the local country music scene.

From the mid-1960s on, Pride's love songs, starting with "Atlantic Coastal Line" (1965) and "Snakes Crawl at Night" (1965), were among the most popular recordings in country music, and Pride quickly became the first African-American star in country music since DeFord Bailey (18991982) more than three decades earlier. However, the all-white country music industry at first proved wary of an African-American star and took advantage of Pride's "white" sound, hiding the fact of his race. His first recordings were released without the usual publicity photos, while some country disc jockeys who knew Pride's race boycotted his music. Nonetheless, country music fans embraced Pride from the start, and he had numerous hit singles, including the Grammy Awardnominated "Just Between You and Me" (1966), "All I Have to Offer You Is Me" (1969), "Is Anybody Going to San Antone?" (1970), "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" (1973), "My Eyes Can Only See as Far as You" (1976), and "You're My Jamaica" (1979). Pride won the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year award in 1971, and that year he also won two Grammy Awards, for best sacred album (Did You Think to Pray? ) and best gospel performance ("Let Me Live"). During this time he also toured extensively and became one of the few African Americans to perform at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry.

Pride's success continued unabated through the 1980s, with hit recordings including "Honky Tonk Blues" (1980), "I'm Missin' Mississippi" (1984), and "Amy's Eyes" (1989). Since then, he has also pursued a career in business; he owns three radio stations and a cattle ranch in Dallas and is a majority shareholder of First Texas Bank in Dallas, where he lives. Pride was married in 1956; he and his wife, Rozene, have three children.

In 1999 Pride was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2000 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

See also Music in the United States

Bibliography

Burton, Charlie. "Charley Pride." Rolling Stone (May 27, 1971): 5253.

Millard, B. "Alone in the Spotlight." Journal of Country Music 14, no. 2 (1992): 1822.

Pride, Charley, and Jim Henderson. Pride: The Charley Pride Story. New York: William Morrow, 1994.

jonathan gill (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005

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