Although he was already an established name with seven number one hits, it took the 1971 single "Kiss an Angel Good Morning" to solidify the Hall of Fame credentials of Charley Pride.
Born March 18, 1934 in the literal "Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town" of Sledge, Pride hoped his talent at either baseball or country music would allow him to escape sharecropping. After stints in the Memphis Red Sox and the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro American League and the New York Yankees farm system, he chased country music stardom with RCA Records.
Pride didn't enter the big label game as an unknown talent. Red Sovine and Red Foley helped him before his Nashville arrival, while Jack Clement and Chet Atkins made sure his Music City stay got off to a hot start. His third single, 1967's "Just Between You and Me" cracked the charts--a feat all of his singles would duplicate over the next 22 years. Its top 10 success led him to become the first African American to grace the Grand Ole Opry stage since country pioneer DeFord Bailey's last appearance in 1941. It was the first of 52 straight top 25 singles, a run of success that lasted until 1984.
When it comes to both his quality of work and critical acclaim, the golden years of Pride's mainstream career remain 1971 to '72. Beginning with the release of Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs and its lead single "Kiss An Angel Good Morning," he started dominating awards shows. At the 1971 CMA Awards, he took home Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. The album later won the singer's third Grammy in a two-year span -- the others came for 1971 gospel album Do You Think to Pray and its single "Let Me Live."
Pride left no doubt that he was the right singer to implore the married men in his audience to "kiss an angel good morning" and "love her like the devil when you get back home." It became one of the biggest hits for both its singer and writer Ben Peters, the mind behind Freddy Fender's "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" and Kenny Rogers' "Daytime Friends." Beyond topping the American country charts for five weeks, it was Pride's only top 25 appearance on the pop charts and cracked the top 10 on the adult contemporary chart.
It's the only single off a stacked album, featuring "You'll Still Be the One," "Miracles, Music and My Wife," "What Money Can't Buy," "Pretty House For Sale" and other showcases of the singer's immense talent. The song also represents a career tipping point. Hit singles like "It's Gonna Take a Little Bit Longer," "She's Too Good to Be True," "The Happiness of Having You," "My Eyes Can Only See as Far as You" and numerous others followed as new fans and established listeners clamored to hear more from one of country music's most gifted vocalists.
An Instant Cover Song Candidate
Back then, country stars covered each other all the time. It's hard now to imagine both Eric Church and Thomas Rhett rushing to the studio to interpret the latest Luke Combs track, but that's exactly what happened in 1972 when both Conway Twitty and George Jones recorded "Kiss an Angel Good Morning." While those two struck while the iron was hot, Alan Jackson simply paid tribute to one of his favorites when he cut a version for his 1999 album Under the Influence.