Garth Brooks presented the late Charley Pride's son Dion with an RIAA Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday (Oct. 25) for his father's cumulative album sales and his incalculable contributions to country music and pop culture.
The presentation took place at the National Museum of African American Music in downtown Nashville. Per a press release, RIAA Chairman & CEO Mitch Glazier and COO Michele Ballantyne brought two plaques: one for the Pride family and the other for the museum's collection.
Brooks gladly accepted the opportunity to celebrate someone who over the years went from being a voice on the radio to a peer and friend.
"He made the effort to make sure that I knew I was accepted in his world, in the icon world," Brooks told Wide Open Country. "That's crazy because most of the time what I do is I scratch and claw to try and be accepted in the icon world, and here's the icon from the other side going, 'Hey, you're welcome here. Just be yourself.'"
Brooks and Pride's friendship strengthened over time, in part because the Country Music Hall of Fame always seated them together, for whatever reason, at induction ceremonies. Pride's kindness in this setting eased the mind of Brooks, who felt out of place among country music royalty.
"I'm not sure Garth Brooks believes he belongs in that room, but because of guys like Charley Pride, I can walk in that room," he added.
More than country music strengthened the bond between Brooks and Pride. Both were baseball players and diehard sports fans, with Brooks overperforming during spring training stints for the San Diego Padres, New York Mets and Kansas City Royals and Pride's journey including runs as a pitcher in the Negro Leagues and as a part-owner of the Texas Rangers.
"We played the Rangers when I was with the Padres, and so we met out on the mound that morning," Brooks said. "He was already dressed and everything. I was just crawling out of bed. He was already dressed, waiting. We sat out and talked on that mound forever. It was great. The rest of the young guys were all getting stretched out or whatever, and I got to sit out on the mound with Charley Pride... It was great."
Brooks, a former student-athlete at Oklahoma State University, found it easy over the years to connect with the Sooners and Longhorns he's met in country music circles through some good-natured smack talk.
"What I love too is when you run into somebody that's a fan of a team you're not," Brooks added. "It's great because your common bond came before you knew you had two different teams, so you get to talk about the rivalry in a good way, which is what it should be. Sports for me is just what kind of brings us together. That's what music should be, too."
A Q&A between Brooks and songwriter, author and Vanderbilt University professor Alice Randall preceded the award presentation. Randall and Matraca Berg co-wrote "XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl)," a No. 1 hit in 1994 for Brooks' future wife, Trisha Yearwood.
Brooks and Pride's lone duet, "Where the Cross Don't Burn," can be heard on Brooks' Nov. 2020 album Fun. It arrived just weeks before Pride's Dec. 12, 2020 passing.