Country Music News For The Country Music Enthusiast!
CHARLIE PRIDE 1938 - 2020
Charley Pride, whose rich baritone voice and impeccable song-sense altered American culture, died Saturday, December 12, 2020, in Dallas, Texas of complications from Covid-19 at age 86.
Born a sharecropper’s son in Sledge, Mississippi, on March 18, 1934, Pride emerged from Southern cotton fields to become country music’s first Black superstar and the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“No person of color had ever done what he has done,” said Darius Rucker in the PBS American Masters film Charley Pride: I’m Just Me.
Pride was a gifted athlete who at first thought baseball would be his path from poverty, labor, and strife. But his musical acumen was more impressive than his pitching arm or his hitting skills, and he emerged as one of the most significant artists at RCA Records, with chart-topping hits including “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” and “Mountain of Love.” He won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award in 1971, its top male vocalist prize in 1971 and 1972, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020.
His final performance came on November 11, 2020, when he sang “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’” during the CMA Awards show at Nashville’s Music City Center with Jimmie Allen, a modern-day hitmaker who counts Pride among his heroes.
Charley Frank Pride was not the first Black artist to make important contributions to country music — DeFord Bailey was a star of the Grand Ole Opry from 1927 through 1941 — but Pride was a trailblazer who emerged during a time of division and rancor.
After a stint in the Army, time working at a Missouri smelting plant, and some unsuccessful attempts to break into big-league baseball, he came to Nashville in 1963 and made demonstration recordings with help from manager Jack Johnson.
Those recordings languished for two years until Johnson met with producer Jack Clement, who offered songs for Pride to learn. On August 16, 1965, Clement produced Pride at RCA Studio B, and the results of that session impressed RCA’s Chet Atkins, who signed Pride to a recording contract.
In 1967, Pride’s recording of Clement’s “Just Between You and Me” broke into country’s Top Ten, and Pride quit his job as a smelter. Iron ore was behind him, and platinum records lay ahead.
Between 1967 and 1987, Pride delivered 52 Top 10 country hits, won Grammy awards, and became RCA Records’ top-selling country artist. His musicality opened minds and superseded prejudice.
“We’re not color blind yet, but we’ve advanced a few paces along the path and I like to think I’ve contributed something to that process,” Pride wrote in his memoir.
Today, Black artists including Allen, Rucker, Mickey Guyton, Rissi Palmer, Rhiannon Giddens, Yola, and others add new chapters to country music’s story. Charley Pride’s impact is evident and important to all of them, and also to every other country performer who builds bridges with melody and sincerity.
Charley Pride escaped the cotton fields, where labor hurt his hands, back, and knees. He transcended and ascended through connection. Through fortitude and artistry, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and a beloved American icon.
Charley Pride was the son of Tessie Stewart Pride and Mack Pride, Sr. He was the husband of Ebby Rozene Cohran Pride. His children are Carlton Kraig Pride, Charles Dion Pride, and Angela Rozene Pride. His grandchildren are Carlton Kraig Pride, Jr., Malachi Pride, Syler Pride, Ebby Pride, and Arrentino Vassar. His two great-grandchildren are Skyler Pride and Carlton Kraig Pride, III. he is preceded in death by brothers Jonas McIntyre, Mack Pride, Jr., Louis Pride, Edward Pride, and Joe L. Pride, and by sister Bessie Chambers. He leaves behind siblings Harmon Pride, Stephen Pride, Catherine Sanders, and Maxine Pride, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to The Pride Scholarship at Jesuit College Preparatory School, St. Philips School and Community Center, The Food Bank, or the charity of your choice.
ARTISTS REFLECT ON PASSING OF
“He opened the door for so many, including me. He took down walls and barriers meant to divide. He became a bridge of music for music lovers who found they had way more in common than they had different. And rules and stereotypes meant to separate were taken down and opened up to the free will of the artist and fan to become one in harmony and song."
-Billy Ray Cyrus
"Like the rest of the world, I am shocked and saddened to learn about the death of Charley Pride. He and I went back to the early days of his career in 1966 when he made his first nationwide appearance as a guest on my syndicated television show. In later years, we toured together, shared music and argued baseball endlessly. I saw firsthand some of his early struggles as the first black performer in country music. My admiration for the way he handled himself during those years knows no bounds. I've lost a hero and a friend."
"It’s such a sad day saying so long to Charley Pride. I’m just so thankful that I got to sing a song with him. That’s where this picture was taken. It’s supposed to be on his next album. I also narrated his 'I’ll Be Me' documentary. I’m so thankful for that and my heart, my love, my soul... everything goes out to Rozene and the entire Pride family because we are the biggest fans of Charley. The world is lost today. He’s one of the greatest singers of all time. We love you Charley."
“We’re heartbroken to hear the news about our friend Charley Pride. We toured many miles together over the years including Ireland where this photo was taken around the mid 1980s. Charley was one of the good guys. He and his music will live in our hearts forever. Rest In Peace, Charley.”
-David Bellamy of The Bellamy Brothers
"Charley Pride was a true gentleman. I remember talking with him backstage about how proud he was standing up for his rights. He likened it to Rosa Parks refusing to go to the back of the bus."
"Charley Pride was truly a groundbreaker in country music. He was an amazing singer and incredible human being. He will be greatly missed. RIP, Charley."
“Charley Pride blazed trails and broke the rules. His legacy will live on in his timeless music and giving spirit for generations to come. RIP Mr. Pride"
“Charley Pride was a fantastic country singer, entertainer, and truly the pride of Country Music. His voice will be missed.”
"Charley Pride was not only a country music artist, he was a legend, a patriarch to what is Country Music. I loved Charley Pride, my condolences to Rozene and the Pride family."
-Marty Raybon of Shenandoah
"Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved Charley Pride. And still to this day anytime I see a road sign to San Antonio I can’t help but sing, ‘Is anybody going to San Antone, or Phoenix Arizona’. What a legacy of great songs he left us. Prayers to Rozene and his family. RIP Charley. You were a good one buddy.
-Mike McGuire of Shenandoah
A true trailblazer in country music, the first to break racial barriers and a legendary singer. So thankful that we were good friends! And to think my brother used to work on his car! Charley Pride will surely be missed by everyone who loves true country music! RIP Charley.
"Charley was a dear friend, who without question, impacted my life. He gave this young kid a chance to tour the world with him even before I had a record out! It would have been impossible for him to be any more gracious. I will always be grateful to Charley for many reasons. He definitely was a pioneer, knocking down doors for so many to follow. We all owe him a debt of gratitude. My love and condolences go out to his sweet wife Rozene and the entire Pride family."
"We lost another great legend today, Charley Pride was a pioneer in country music and he will be greatly missed but never forgotten."
"My friend Charley Pride passed away today. He was a man I very much admired because he took the road less traveled by becoming not just a country singer but a driving force in county music. More than 50 of his songs have been in the top 10 AND his music has hit #1 30 times. I wanted Charley to be recognized by the Kennedy Center because as a black man his life was large and I thought after being a baseball player, a business owner, and the only black man most of us knew who sang country music, he should have gotten The Kennedy Center Honors. I will simply say he was a wonderful man & a great artist. My condolences to his family and the fact this is also another COVID-related death breaks my heart because it didn’t have to be this way. Rest In Peace Charley Pride, RIP. Many thanks to the CMAs for recognizing Charley Pride's achievements this year." - Whoopi Goldberg
‘When I heard that Charley Pride had passed I just went numb. It hurts beyond words when someone you love passes. When Charley opened his theatre, he asked the Oak Ridge Boys to help him. I got to know Charley as a friend. We recorded with him on one of his last recordings. On the Country Music Cruise, I sat with Rozene and sang along with every big hit as Charley sang. I ask for prayers for Rozene and the family. We have lost another legend, folks. There is a big hole left in our industry. I have been singing “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” all day.” - Duane Allen, The Oak Ridge Boys
"There is a Neal McCoy because there was a Charley Pride. No other way to put it. Charley and Rozene have meant the world to Melinda and me and our kids. We are forever indebted to them for their hospitality, their generosity, and their caring and loving ways. Charley is gone now but never forgotten by our family and many other families around this world for the love he has extended through his music and the overall kindness he showed while on this earth. We will see him again, and we will continue to love Rozene and their entire family for years to come." - Neal McCoy
“We have lost a dear long-time friend, hero, PIONEER, and LEGEND. This year keeps getting worse and worse. This will be another loss that will take a long time to process. Rest Easy Charley Pride...we all love you and will miss you terribly.” - Joe Bonsall, The Oak Ridge Boys
“Charley has made it possible for artists like me, Mickey, Darius, Jimmie, Kane... to be in country music. He showed us that a career in country music is possible, that we can be true to ourselves and create the music we love. He has paved a path that we’re able to walk down. He is a true legend and will never be forgotten.” - Reyna Roberts
“Damn Covid. How dare it take Charley Pride away from us. If there was ever any justice in the world, it will come when everyone cares to wear a mask and get the vaccine, so we don’t lose anyone else to Covid. Charley Pride was always such a nice man. What a loss for all of the music industry and the world. Never in my lifetime have I met anyone more wonderful. My heartfelt prayers for his family.” - Sam Moore
“Charley Pride was the Jackie Robinson of country music and his name was perfect. He was proud, brave and a hell of a singer. I worked with him once and he sang the heck out of the old Hank Williams song Kaw-liga. His voice was large and pure. He belongs in centerfield where the monuments are. He was a great one.” - Don McLean
“What an incredible talent Mr. Charley Pride was. Very sad to hear of his passing, God bless, Mr. Pride.” - Andrew Farriss
“We have been friends for a long time. Charley and Rozene would come to our home for parties and get-togethers over the years. He was so down to earth and just a normal guy. He will be so missed.” - B.J. Thomas
“Charley Pride has been a cornerstone of country music and a wonderful part of my life for so long. I loved his music before I came to Nashville and I loved Charley as soon as I met him. I always looked forward to working with Charley and I will always miss his warm smile, kind words, and beautiful heart.” - Crystal Gayle
“Charley Pride was a dear friend and truly one of the sweetest men in the music business. I was privileged to be his opening act when I first came to town. He treated everyone with respect and kindness. I’m in shock and so sad because I lost a good friend, the music business lost an incredible artist and the world lost an amazing citizen.” - Lee Greenwood
“Just when I think 2020 couldn’t get any worse, it does. One of my dearest friends and one of country music’s biggest stars Charley Pride may have left for home today, but my 50 years of wonderful memories with him will never be gone. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Rozene, and their family at this very sad time. R.I.P. my friend.” - T.G. Sheppard
“First time I met Charley Pride was in 1983 at the old RCA Records “Studio A”. He walked up to me and told me I was a Scorpio. He could do things like that. We became and remained friends since that day. He and Rozene were dear friends of ours. The music business has lost one of the all-time greats! Prayers and condolences to his family and everyone that loved him. RIP, my brother.” - T. Graham Brown
“I am speechless and broken-hearted and don’t really know what to say. Country music has lost an icon, but I have lost a dear friend. Heaven must be putting together a band. My heart is with the family.” - Johnny Lee
“I’m so saddened to hear about Charley Pride. He gave me my start in country music concerts as I opened shows for him in Washington state, Canada, and many cities. His band backed me up, we flew on his private plane and it was a thrill of a lifetime, a dream come true. May peace and strength be with his family.” - Janie Fricke
“I was ten years old in 1972 standing on stage in Marceline, Missouri at the Frontier Jamboree when Charley Pride came on stage to sing his new number one song, “Kiss An Angel Good Morning”. I got my photo with Charley. I was awestruck watching a Grand Ole Opry star in person. The last time I saw Charley was when we filmed “Country’s Family Reunion”. He was always so friendly. We will miss his amazing voice and the trailblazer he was. Sending my thoughts and prayers to the family of Charley Pride.” - Rhonda Vincent
“I’m heartbroken to hear about Charley’s passing. I’m so grateful to have had such a precious conversation with him recently. I loved how he always knew what zodiac sign everyone was the second he met them. What a terrible void he has left in not only our hearts but in the music world. What a courageous trailblazer he was. My prayers go out to his family. Rest In Peace.” Kelly Lang
“He was named Pride for a reason. Charley brought honor to country music--breaking through barriers that I can only imagine. His rise to fame is historic. I was honored to play for Charley on the Grand Ole Opry, and I even recorded with him once. It was a thrill for me every time. He was a Christian man who was also fascinated by astrology. After talking with you for a few minutes, he would announce that he could tell what sign you were born under. He pegged me for a Taurus after two minutes of conversation, and darn if he wasn't right. I am lifting Rozene and the entire Pride family up in prayer today. Charley Pride made us all proud, and he will be greatly missed.” - Tim Atwood
"Charley was just a real, solid, kind human being. He'll be a great voice in that heavenly choir." - Lacy J. Dalton
“I am so saddened to hear of the passing of my friend, Charley Pride. Charley please “Say Hello To Heaven” for me.” - David Frizzell
"On behalf of my husband, Dave Rowland of award-winning group Dave & Sugar our heartfelt condolences go out to the Pride family. If not for Charley we would not have gotten a deal at RCA or even been discovered. Charley had a knack for discovering amazing talent and always gave his all to help bring those talents to not just the industry but also the fans." - Terri Rowland
“My heart is so heavy to know that our Dear Charley Pride has left us, even though we know it’s for a better place. Charley was the ultimate gentleman and legend in Country Music! He broke all boundaries in every way! He was always so open and friendly. I specifically remember, of all the people at the BMI Awards, Charley Pride was who my Daddy most wanted to meet! When I took him over to Charley, you would have thought they were long lost friends! That’s just the way Charley made everyone feel. He had a “Mountain Of Love” for everybody and was a huge gift to all who knew him.” - Deborah Allen
“I am so sad to hear of the passing of country music legend, Charley Pride. He is one of the best artists of all time and there will never be another one like him. Not only was he a legendary artist, but one of the kindest people I ever met. Any time we were ever at the same place regardless of how busy he would be, Charley always took the time to say hello, visit a bit and share a funny story. He’s truly the last of a dying breed in my book. Rest easy, sweet Charley.” - Shane Owens
“I am sad to hear about the passing of Charley Pride. I met him at the premiere of his documentary, “I Am Me.” I will never forget how kind he was to my wife. This one hurts. Prayers to the family.” - JD Shelburne
“Trailblazer is an understatement when you say a name like Charley Pride. Charley Pride is an American hero! Because of his courage and talent, the door to country music is now open for all! We hope to make him proud and continue to carry the torch! Rest In Peace, Uncle Charley!” - Danica Hart, Chapel Hart
“I didn’t want to believe the news when I heard Mr. Charley had passed away. I remember watching him perform on the CMA Awards show just last month and still being in awe of his smooth voice that has been a staple in country music for so many years. This world will be a little less bright with him gone. My prayers go out to him and his family during these times.” - Paige King Johnson
"Today I celebrate one of my heroes in Country Music. I remember first meeting Charley Pride at Gilley’s in Houston. He touched me then and inspired me over the years. Rest In Peace, my brother. The world was made better because of you.” - Carl Ray
DENNIS QUAID, CO-PRODUCER OF
'THE CHARLEY PRIDE STORY' REFLECTS ON PASSING OF CHARLEY PRIDE
“Charley Pride was a global icon in music, baseball and business. He broke barriers, unprecedented at the time, and made us all realize that we have more in common than our differences. Charley was a great American and a good Christian. Perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments is his more than 60-year marriage to his lovely, devoted partner in life, his wife Rozene. As one of the producers of the ‘Charley Pride Story,’ I’ll make sure his story is not unsung to the younger generation. While Charley has left this Earth, he is now singing in the Heavenly choir.”
A personal note from Jeremy Westby, publicist for Charley Pride:
“I have thoroughly enjoyed representing Charley Pride for many years. My favorite memories were seeing him perform for and interact with all his fans on the Country Music Cruise, his last performance on The Grand Ole Opry, and then early last year we traveled to Pasadena for the TCAs to promote his American Masters documentary for PBS. Many who are TCA vets said the group is one of the most stoic media gatherings you'd ever experience. To say he had them in the palm of his hand would be a severe understatement. There were many laughs and they were all enthralled to experience his clever, comedic passion, most for the first time. Charley was THE trailblazer for people of color in country music, and his art transcended boundaries, bringing country music to the entire world. His music sold second only to Elvis during his major label tenure on RCA Records. That simply speaks volumes. He will be missed by so many, and I hope that his passing will also help introduce his vast catalog of hits to a new generation of music fans. Please continue praying with me for Charley's family and all who knew him well. Godspeed, my friend.” - Jeremy Westby
FOR MORE ON CHARLIE PRIDE, GO TO HIS WEBSITE: https://www.charleypride.com
THANKS FOR THE MUSIC CHARLIE!
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