Skip to main content

Charley Pride - An Obituary

Charley Pride – Singer

 Born March 18, 1934: died December 12, 2020  


 Charley Pride, who has died aged 86 from complications of Covid-19, was a Country singer who broke the mould several times over. His honey-sweet, easy-going voice on deep fried classics such as Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’ and Crystal Chandelier saw him sell millions of records and become successful all over the world. Pride released more than fifty albums, and scored twenty-nine No.1’s in the Country music chart. During his thirty years with the RCA record label, only Elvis Presley sold more records. 


As a black artist operating within what has historically been a predominantly white genre, Pride’s talents came to the fore during an era of institutionalised racism, and his early records were issued without a picture of him. He was only the second artist of colour to become a member of the home of Country royalty, the Grand Ole Opry.


Pride wore such pioneering as gently as his records. Having played for every American president who reached office during his career other than the last one, Pride was also a pillar of understated diplomacy. In the run up to the 1984 election, he performed for the sitting president, Ronald Reagan, and his Democrat rival, Walter Mondale.


Closer to home, Pride became a hero in Northern Ireland when he played Belfast in 1976. With the city torn by the Troubles, visits by touring artists were unofficially off limits. Playing to an audience from both sides of the political divide, Pride’s own brand of unity opened the door for other artists to play there. It also resulted in the UK release of Crystal Chandelier as a single. Recorded by Pride in 1967, Ted Harris’ song became a bar-room staple for all-comers. 


Charley Frank Pride was born in Sledge, Mississippi, USA, fourth of eleven children to Tessie (nee Stewart) and Mack Pride Snr, who worked as sharecroppers. They had intended to name their son Charl, but a clerical error on the birth certificate picked it up wrong.


Under the influence of his father, who saw the blues as unsavoury, Pride turned to the music of Hank Williams and other country stars, and aged fourteen bought a $10 guitar from money earned picking cotton.


Despite his love of music, Pride had ambitions to become a baseball player. Under the auspices of the Negro American League, Pride pitched for the Memphis Red Sox, and signed with the Boise Yankees, before injury saw him play with increasingly minor teams. He continued playing after being drafted into the army in 1956, and pursued a professional career before moving into construction work in Montana in 1960. 


While pitching for the semi-professional East Helena Smelterites, Pride’s singing ability was spotted by the team manager, who paid him extra to sing for fifteen minutes before each game. Pride also played local gigs, both solo and with a band called The Night Hawks. A demo by Pride was heard by Chet Atkins, who signed him to what was then RCA Victor. 


Initially billed as Country Charley Pride, his first single, Snakes Crawl at Night (1966) did okay, but it wasn’t until his third release, Just Between You and Me (1966) that he made a breakthrough into the Country chart for the first time. The same year, Pride played his first big show in Detroit to an audience of 10,000, and Just Between Me and You was nominated for a Grammy award.


By now resident in Dallas, between 1969 and 1971, Pride had eight Country number 1’s. His 1971 hit, Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’, crossed over to the Billboard Hot 100, and became one of his defining numbers as he helped take Country into the mainstream. A succession of hits and awards followed over the next three decades, with Pride’s easy-going professionalism accompanying what by now was regarded as one of the greatest voices in Country.


Outside music, Pride invested in real estate, music publishing and a talent agency. He channelled his love of baseball into becoming part owner of the Texas Rangers. In 2000, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and in 2003, a thirty-three mile stretch of Mississippi Highway 3, running from Pride’s hometown of Sledge to Tutwiler in Tallahatchie County, was named Charley Pride Highway. The honour was symbolic of just how big a road Pride had travelled beyond his sharecropper roots.


This was epitomised even more in 2008, when Pride, his brother Mack and twenty-eight other surviving veterans of the Negro American League became honorary draftees of the thirty current teams in Major League Baseball.


In 2017, Pride received a Grammy lifetime achievement award. His final public appearance came in November at a Country Music Association awards ceremony, where he sang Kiss an Angel with contemporary country singer Jimmie Allen. The same night, he was honoured with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.


“I’m in the business of selling lyrics, feelings and emotions,” Pride said in a BBC radio interview in 2019. “I bring all those three together. When I go in a studio I wanna’ do the best job I can, and then, when I go out on stage, I want to do it even better.”


Pride is survived by his wife, Rozene; their two sons, Carlton and Dion; their daughter, Angela; two brothers, Stephen and Harmon; two sisters, Catherine and Maxine; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

The Herald, December 30th 2020




Popular posts from this blog

Big Gold Dreams – A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989

Disc 1 1. THE REZILLOS (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (12/77)  2. THE EXILE Hooked On You (8/77) 3. DRIVE Jerkin’ (8/77) 4. VALVES Robot Love (9/77) 5. P.V.C. 2 Put You In The Picture (10/77) 6. JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS Dead Vandals (11/77) 7. BEE BEE CEE You Gotta Know Girl (11/77) 8. SUBS Gimme Your Heart (2/78) 9. SKIDS Reasons (No Bad NB 1, 4/78) 10. FINGERPRINTZ Dancing With Myself (1/79)  11. THE ZIPS Take Me Down (4/79) 12. ANOTHER PRETTY FACE All The Boys Love Carrie (5/79)  13. VISITORS Electric Heat (5/79) 14. JOLT See Saw (6/79) 15. SIMPLE MINDS Chelsea Girl (6/79) 16. SHAKE Culture Shock (7/79) 17. HEADBOYS The Shape Of Things To Come (7/79) 18. FIRE EXIT Time Wall (8/79) 19. FREEZE Paranoia (9/79) 20. FAKES Sylvia Clarke (9/79) 21. TPI She’s Too Clever For Me (10/79) 22. FUN 4 Singing In The Showers (11/79) 23. FLOWERS Confessions (12/79) 24. TV21 Playing With Fire (4/80) 25. ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980) 1. THE REZILL

Losing Touch With My Mind - Psychedelia in Britain 1986-1990

DISC 1 1. THE STONE ROSES   -  Don’t Stop 2. SPACEMEN 3   -  Losing Touch With My Mind (Demo) 3. THE MODERN ART   -  Mind Train 4. 14 ICED BEARS   -  Mother Sleep 5. RED CHAIR FADEAWAY  -  Myra 6. BIFF BANG POW!   -  Five Minutes In The Life Of Greenwood Goulding 7. THE STAIRS  -  I Remember A Day 8. THE PRISONERS  -  In From The Cold 9. THE TELESCOPES   -  Everso 10. THE SEERS   -  Psych Out 11. MAGIC MUSHROOM BAND  -  You Can Be My L-S-D 12. THE HONEY SMUGGLERS  - Smokey Ice-Cream 13. THE MOONFLOWERS  -  We Dig Your Earth 14. THE SUGAR BATTLE   -  Colliding Minds 15. GOL GAPPAS   -  Albert Parker 16. PAUL ROLAND  -  In The Opium Den 17. THE THANES  -  Days Go Slowly By 18. THEE HYPNOTICS   -  Justice In Freedom (12" Version) 1. THE STONE ROSES    Don’t Stop ( Silvertone   ORE   1989) The trip didn’t quite start here for what sounds like Waterfall played backwards on The Stone Roses’ era-defining eponymous debut album, but it sounds

Edinburgh Rocks – The Capital's Music Scene in the 1950s and Early 1960s

Edinburgh has always been a vintage city. Yet, for youngsters growing up in the shadow of World War Two as well as a pervading air of tight-lipped Calvinism, they were dreich times indeed. The founding of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947 and the subsequent Fringe it spawned may have livened up the city for a couple of weeks in August as long as you were fans of theatre, opera and classical music, but the pubs still shut early, and on Sundays weren't open at all. But Edinburgh too has always had a flipside beyond such official channels, and, in a twitch-hipped expression of the sort of cultural duality Robert Louis Stevenson recognised in his novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a vibrant dance-hall scene grew up across the city. Audiences flocked to emporiums such as the Cavendish in Tollcross, the Eldorado in Leith, The Plaza in Morningside and, most glamorous of all due to its revolving stage, the Palais in Fountainbridge. Here the likes of Joe Loss and Ted Heath broug