Charley Pride is one of the most well known country singers of all time. At the peak of his career in the early to mid-1970s, he even became the best-selling performer for RCA Records since Elvis Presley. The Country Music Hall of Fame member has had countless hits over the years since his very first single"The Snakes Crawl at Night," and he continued to release music up until his death at the age of 86 in 2020.
Here are 9 things you might have not known about the country music legend.
1. His invitation to join the Opry came much earlier than his induction
Pride made his Opry debut in 1967, making history as the first Black solo singer, and only second Black performer, to appear on the show. (Harmonica player DeFord Bailey was the Opry's first Black performer.)
Shortly after Pride's debut, he was invited to join the institution. However, due to performance requirements, he politely declined.
"I had a standing invitation to join the Opry since 1967, but they had a requirement that you had to play twenty six Saturdays per year, and those were the best days where you could draw and make your money out on the road," Pride told Country Stars Central. "You weren't making that much when I was starting out. (Laughs) I made about a nickel a single from RCA, and a hundred to two hundred dollars for a gig on the road. So at that time, it was an economical thing for me, and I didn't argue with it. Country music basically is known for that factor, it's like a family, all for one and one for all. It's not that way now as much, but it was back when I came along."
On May 1, 1993, Pride officially became a member of the Opry.
2. He had a huge family
He grew up one of 11 siblings to sharecropper parents in the delta town of Sledge, Mississippi. Parents Mack and Tessie B. Stewart Pride raised their children in a three-room house and taught them to be grateful for what they had.
"There were eight boys and three girls, and we were farmers. We'd feed the hogs, milk the cows, and wash the dishes, but the boys didn't wash the dishes, the girls did that. We picked up chips in the evening so mama could get the fire started so we could be in the field by sun up," Pride told Country Stars Central. "It was hard work but I learned a lot from my family."
3. His father inspired his love of country music
Pride has said that when he was growing up his father would play the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts on the radio. He was drawn to the bluesy rhythms and country twang of artists like Hank Williams, eventually teaching himself to play the guitar by mimicking the artists he listened to regularly.
4. He was a talented baseball player
Though he had always loved music, Pride initially wanted to pursue a career with the major leagues. Starting out in the minors he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro American League, followed by the Boise Yankees, which was the Class C team for the New York Yankees. Though his career didn't come to fruition, he always loved the sport. He became an owner of the Texas Rangers in 2010.
5. He pursued music after his baseball career hit a snag
After rejections from major league teams the Angels and the New York Mets, it was time to pursue his passion for music. Pride auditioned for producer Jack Clement in Memphis who was so impressed he connected him with Chet Atkins, then vice-president of RCA recording in Nashville. Atkins was also impressed and offered the singer a contract with RCA Records. The rest is history.
6. He's a family man
Pride has been married to his wife Rozene since 1956. They welcomed three children, Kraig (Carlton), Dion and Angela.
7. He won numerous awards throughout his career
Pride won 13 awards, including four Grammy awards, one of which was a Lifetime Achievement award. His shelves are also stocked with industry awards, including the Country Music Association's (CMA) 1971 Entertainer of the Year trophy and Male Vocalist of the Year awards from 1971 and 1972.
8. He had over 30 number one hits
Songs including "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone," "I'm Just Me," "All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)," and "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" — all hit number one on the country charts — in addition to many more.
9. His wife, Rozene, is to thank for his collaboration with Dolly Parton
Despite his status as a country icon, Pride was still nervous to approach Dolly Parton about recording Parton's song "God's Coloring Book" for his album Pride and Joy: A Gospel Music Collection. As reported in the American Masters documentary on Pride, Rozene called Parton on Charley's behalf. Parton agreed — as long as she could sing the song with Pride.
This story was originally published on March 18, 2019. It was updated on Feb. 22, 2022.
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