Pride performing at the Capital Centre on the 1981 Inauguration Day
Pride is one of the few African-American country musicians to have had considerable success in the country music industry and only the second African American to have been inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
In 2010, Pride became a special investor and minority owner of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball club.
Early life and careerPride was born in Sledge, Mississippi, one of eleven children of poor sharecroppers. His father intended to name him Charl Frank Pride, but owing to a clerical error on his birth certificate, his legal name is Charley Frank Pride.
In his early teens, Pride began playing guitar. Though he also loved music, one of Pride's lifelong dreams was to become a professional baseball player. In 1952, he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. He pitched well, and in 1953, he signed a contract with the Boise Yankees, the Class C farm team of the New York Yankees. During that season, an injury caused him to lose the "mustard" on his fastball, and he was sent to the Yankees' Class D team in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Later that season, while in the Negro leagues with the Louisville Clippers, he and another player (Jesse Mitchell) were traded to the Birmingham Black Barons for a team bus. "Jesse and I may have the distinction of being the only players in history to be traded for a used motor vehicle," Pride mused in his 1994 autobiography.
He pitched for several other minor league teams, his hopes of making it to the big leagues still alive, but the Army derailed this. After serving two years in the military, he tried to return to baseball. Though hindered by an injury to his throwing arm, Pride briefly played for the Missoula Timberjacks of the Pioneer League (a farm club of the Cincinnati Reds) in 1960, and had tryouts with the California Angels (1961) and the New York Mets (1962) organizations, but was not picked up by either team. He worked construction in Helena, Montana during this time. When it became apparent that he was not destined for greatness on the baseball diamond, Pride pursued a music career.
On June 5, 2008, Pride and his brother Mack "The Knife" Pride and 28 other living former Negro league players were "drafted" by each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams in a recognition of the on-field achievements and historical relevance of 30 mostly-forgotten Negro-league stars. Pride was picked by the Texas Rangers, with whom he has had a long affiliation, and the Colorado Rockies took his brother.
Rise to music fameWhile he was active in baseball, Pride had been encouraged to join the music business by country stars such as Red Sovine and Red Foley, and was working towards this career. In 1958, in Memphis, Tennessee, Pride visited Sun Studios and recorded some songs. One song has survived on tape, and was released in the United Kingdom as part of a box set. The song is a slow stroll in walking tempo called "Walkin' (the Stroll)."
Nashville manager and agent Jack D. Johnson signed Pride and landed him a contract with a record label, and he caught the ear of record producer Chet Atkins. Atkins was the longtime producer at RCA Victor who had made stars out of country singers such as Jim Reeves, Skeeter Davis and others. Pride was signed to RCA in 1965. In January 1966, he released his first single with RCA, "The Snakes Crawl at Night", which did not chart. On the records of this song submitted to radio stations for airplay, the singer was listed as "Country Charley Pride". At this time, country music was a white medium. Jack made sure that there were no pictures of Pride distributed for the first two years of his career, in order to avoid the effects of Jim Crowism.
Soon after the release of "The Snakes Crawl at Night", Pride released another single called "Before I Met You", which also did not chart. Soon after, Pride's third single, "Just Between You and Me", was released. This song was the one that finally brought Pride success on the Country charts. The song reached No. 9 on US Country chart.
Height of his careerThe success of "Just Between You and Me" was enormous. He won a Grammy Award for the song the next year.
In 1967, he became the first black performer to appear at the Grand Ole Opry since harmonica player DeFord Bailey. Bailey was a regular cast member of the Opry from 1925 through 1941, and made a final appearance in 1974. Pride also appeared in 1967 on the American Broadcasting Company's "The Lawrence Welk Show".
Between 1969 and 1971, Pride had eight single records that simultaneously reached No. 1 on the US Country Hit Parade and also charted on the Billboard Hot 100: "All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)", "(I'm So) Afraid of Losing You Again", "I Can't Believe That You've Stopped Loving Me", "I'd Rather Love You", "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone", "Wonder Could I Live There Anymore?", "I'm Just Me", and "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'". The pop success of these songs reflected the country/pop crossover sound that was reaching Country music in the 1960's and early 1970's, known as "Countrypolitan". In 1969 his compilation album, The Best of Charley Pride sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.
Pride sang the Paul Newman directed film Sometimes a Great Notion's main soundtrack song "All His Children" in 1970. The film starred Newman and Henry Fonda and received two Oscar nominations in 1972, one being for the song that Pride sang.
"Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'"In 1971, he would release what would become his biggest hit "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'", a million-selling crossover single that helped Pride land the Country Music Association's prestigious Entertainer of the Year award, as well as Top Male Vocalist. He won CMA's Top Male Vocalist award again in 1972.
"Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" became Pride's signature tune. Besides being a five-week country No. 1 in late 1971 and early 1972, the song was also his only pop Top 40 hit, hitting No. 21, and reaching the Top Ten of the Adult Contemporary charts as well.
Pride during the 1970's, 1980's and beyondDuring the rest of the 1970's and into the 1980's, Pride continued to rack up country music hits. Other Pride standards of the 1970's and 1980's include "Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town," "Someone Loves You, Honey," "When I Stop Leavin' (I'll Be Gone)," "Burgers and Fries", "I Don't Think She's in Love Anymore", "Roll On Mississippi", "Never Been So Loved (In All My Life)" and "You're So Good When You're Bad." Like many other country performers, he has paid tribute to Hank Williams, with an album of songs that were all written by Hank entitled There's a Little Bit of Hank in Me, which included top-sellers of Williams' classics "Kaw-Liga," "Honky Tonk Blues" and "You Win Again".
Pride has sold over 70 million records (singles, albums, compilation included).
He stayed with RCA Records until 1986. At that point, he grew angry over the fact that RCA began to promote newer country artists and didn't renew contracts with many older artists who had been with the label for years. He moved on to 16th Avenue Records, where Pride bounced back with the No. 5 hit, "Shouldn't it be Easier Than This." He had a few minor hits with 16th Avenue, as well.
Pride's lifelong passion for baseball continues; he has an annual tradition of joining the Texas Rangers for workouts during Spring Training. A big Rangers fan (Dallas has been his home for many years), Pride is often seen at their games.
In 2008, Pride received the Mississippi Arts Commission's lifetime achievement award during the organization's Governor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts.
He performed the National Anthem at Super Bowl VIII and again at Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, accompanied both years by the Del Rio High School JROTC Color Guard. He performed the National Anthem before Game 6 of the 1980 World Series as well.
PersonalPride met his wife Rozene while he was playing baseball in the southern states. They married in 1956 and have two sons, Kraig and Dion, and a daughter, Angela. They currently reside in Dallas, Texas.
Kraig now goes by the name Carlton and has somewhat followed in his father's footsteps as a performing artist. His band, Carlton Pride and Zion started in San Marcos, Texas in 1995 and they perform a variety of reggae, funk, and soul music throughout the United States.
Dion Pride played lead guitar for his father, and entertained troops on USO tours in Panama, Honduras, Guantanamo Bay and the island of Antigua. Dion Pride co-wrote a song on Charley Pride's 2010 album "Choices" titled "I Miss My Home".
In 1994 Pride co-wrote (with Jim Henderson) his autobiography, Pride: The Charley Pride Story. In this book he reveals that he has struggled for years with manic depression.
Pride had a tumor removed from his right vocal cord in 1997 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He returned to the site in February 2009 for a routine checkup and surprised the Arkansas Senate with an unplanned performance of five songs. He was joined by Governor Mike Beebe during the show. Pride is an avid fan and part owner of the Texas Rangers. He sang the national anthem before game 5 of the 2010 World Series, played between the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants. Pride sang the national anthem before game 2 of the 2011 ALCS between the Detroit Tigers & Texas Rangers.
FilmOn April 29, 2011, it was announced that a biopic was in the works based on Pride's life and career. The film will be produced by and star actor and professional wrestler, Dwayne Johnson.
- 1960's, Pride lived in Helena, MT and played legion baseball for the Helena Smelterites.
- January 1966 - "The Snakes Crawl At Night" his first RCA Single is issued, receives airplay but does not chart.
- June 1966 - Second RCA Single - "Before I Met You" also does not chart.
- December 1966 – Makes his debut on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart with "Just Between You and Me." The song would peak in the top 10 less than three months later; two earlier singles had failed to chart.
- August 9, 1969 – Scores his first Billboard No. 1 hit with "All I Have to Offer You Is Me."
- September 6, 1969 – Pride appears on national television on The Johnny Cash Show to perform a medley of Hank Williams songs with Cash. Pride's medley with Cash can be seen here.
- 1971 – Enjoys the biggest hit of his career with the million-seller "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'." The song was his eighth No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart, and spent five weeks atop the chart.
- September 17, 1983 – Scores his 29th and final No. 1 hit on Billboard with "Night Games." He still remains sixth on the all-time list of most No. 1 hits on the Billboard country charts. "Night Games" would be the last song performed by a black artist to hit the top of the Billboard country charts until Darius Rucker's "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" reached No. 1 in 2008.
- May 1, 1993 – Pride accepted an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry, in the process becoming the first black Opry regular in the show's more than 70-year history.
- 1994 – Pride released his autobiography, Pride: The Charley Pride Story (published by William Morrow).
- June 1994 – Pride was honored by the Academy of Country Music with its prestigious Pioneer Award.
- January 1996 – Pride was honored with a Trumpet Award by Turner Broadcasting, marking outstanding African-American Achievement. His 1981 hit, "Roll On Mississippi", is considered the official song of his home state, a stretch of Mississippi highway was named for him and he headlined a special Christmas performance for President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Clinton at the White House.
- July 1999 – Pride received his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- March 25, 2003 - Received the Texas Cultural Trust's Texas Medal of Arts.
- March 27, 2003 - Ranked No. 18 on CMT's 40 Greatest Men in Country Music.
- May 20, 2003 – Pride's album, Comfort of Her Wings, was released on Music City Records.
- November 7, 2006 – Pride's album, Pride & Joy: A Gospel Music Collection, was released on Music City Records.
- January 10, 2008 - Received a lifetime achievement award from the Mississippi Arts Commission.
AwardsAcademy of Country Music Awards
- 1994 Pioneer Award
- 1973 Favorite Country Album - "A Sun Shiny Day"
- 1973 Favorite Country Male Artist
- 1976 Favorite Country Male Artist
- Inducted in 2000
- 1971 Entertainer of the Year
- 1971 Male Vocalist of the Year
- 1972 Male Vocalist of the Year
- 1972 Best Country Vocal Performance, Male - "Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs"
- 1972 Best Gospel Performance (other than soul) - "Let Me Live Lyrics"
- Grand Ole Opry
- Inductees of the Country Music Hall of Fame (2000 inductee)
- Official Website
- Record Label
- at the Grand Ole Opry