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*Charley Pride was born on this date in 1934. He was a Black country music singer, musician and business owner.
Charley Frank Pride was born in Sledge, Mississippi, one of 11 children of poor sharecroppers, eight boys and three girls were in the family. When Pride was 14, his mother purchased him his first guitar and he taught himself to play. Though he loved music, one of Pride's childhood dreams was to become a professional baseball player. In 1952, he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. 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. Pride 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. While he was active in baseball, Pride had been encouraged to join the music business.
In 1958, in Memphis, Pride visited Sun Studios and recorded a slow stroll in walking tempo called "Walkin' (the Stroll)". He played music at clubs in Montana solo and with a four-piece combo called the Night Hawks during the time he lived in Montana. Pride's singing ability soon came to the attention of the team manager, who also paid him to sing for 15 minutes before each game, which increased attendance and earned Pride another $10 on top of the $10 he earned for each game. He also played gigs in the local area; both solo and with a band called the Night Hawks and at company picnics. His job at the smelter was dangerous and difficult; he once broke his ankle. Between his smelter job and his music, he made a good living in the Helena area. He moved his wife and son to join him and they lived in Helena until 1967, purchasing their first home there, and with their children Dion and Angela being born. The family then moved to Great Falls, Montana, because his music career was taking off and he required quicker access to an airport; the family ultimately moved to Texas in 1969.
In a 1967 interview with the Helena Independent Record, his wife commented that the family encountered minor racism in Montana, citing an incident where they were refused service in a restaurant and another time when a realtor refused to show them a home, but she felt that the family endured less racism than she saw leveled against local Native American people, whose treatment she compared to that given to black people in the South.
His break came when Chet Atkins at RCA Victor heard a demonstration tape and got Pride a contract. In 1966, he released his first RCA Victor single, "The Snakes Crawl at Night". 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 no pictures of Charley were distributed for the first two years of his career, to avoid the effects of Jim Crow. Soon after, Pride's third single, "Just Between You and Me", was released. This song finally brought Pride success on the country charts reaching number nine on the US country chart.
The success of "Just Between You and Me" was enormous. He was nominated for a Grammy Award for the song the next year. Also in 1967, he became the first black performer to appear at the Grand Ole Opry since harmonica player DeFord Bailey, who 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 Lawrence Welk Show. In 1975, he was one of the stars of Bob Hope's Stars and Stripes show emceed by John Davidson and filmed in front of a live audience in Oklahoma City to celebrate the United States Bicentennial.
Between 1969 and 1971, Pride had eight singles that simultaneously reached number one 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'". 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. During the rest of the 1970s and into the 1980s, some of Pride’s music hits included: "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".
In 1975, Pride's agent sold a 40-date tour package to a United Kingdom booking agent, who onward sold four dates to Dublin-based Irish music promoter. At the time the ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland were at their height, and most nonresident music and sports teams were not traveling to Northern Ireland through fear of becoming involved or injured. Pride played the concert in November 1976, with his album song "Crystal Chandeliers" subsequently being released as a single in the UK and Ireland. He played a part with both sides of the conflict for breaking the effective touring concert ban and further acts were booked into Northern Ireland after his appearance. Pride remained with RCA Records until 1986; ultimately Elvis Presley was the only artist who sold more records than Pride for the RCA label. Pride's lifelong passion for baseball continues; he joins the Texas Rangers for workouts during spring training and is often seen at their games. In 1993, Pride became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
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 five of the 2010 World Series, accompanied both years by the Del Rio High School JROTC Color Guard. He performed the national anthem before game six of the 1980 World Series too. In 2016, Pride was selected as one of 30 artists to perform on Forever Country, which celebrated 50 years of the CMA Awards. In 2017, Pride released his first album in six years, titled Music in My Heart.
Country music legend Charley Pride died on December 11 at age 86, a representative for the singer announced. Pride died in Dallas of complications from Covid-19.