Country Music Hall of Famer Charley Pride has died at the age of 86.
CBS News reports:
Charley Pride, country music’s first Black star whose rich baritone on such hits as “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” helped sell millions of records and made him the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, has died. He was 86.
Pride died Saturday in Dallas of complications from, according to Jeremy Westby of the public relations firm 2911 Media.
Charley Pride was featured in our 100 Greatest Men series several years ago:
Over the course of just fourteen years, Charley Pride accumulated 29 #1 country hits, proof positive that his switch from professional baseball to music was the right one.
Pride hailed from Sledge, Mississippi, one of eleven sharecropper children. He was a guitar player early on, but he first made his name in baseball, playing in both the Negro League and on several minor league baseball teams, including the Memphis Red Sox and the Boise Yankees. His career was derailed by a stint in the Army, followed by an arm injury that made his signature pitching an impossibility. He worked construction while unsuccessfully auditioning for baseball teams, then turned his attention to music.
Country music was his style of choice, despite the lack of African-American performers who’d found success within the genre. He auditioned for Red Sovine, who recommended he move to Nashville. Shortly thereafter, he was signed to RCA by Chet Atkins. Pride found success quickly, with his first single, “Just Between You and Me”, reaching the top ten and earning a Grammy nomination. Pride soon entered his greatest period of commercial success, releasing ten gold albums between the years of 1967 and 1972.
Many of his hits during that time went on to become country classics, but none were bigger than his 1971 smash, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’.” That Grammy-winning hit spent five weeks at #1, crossed over to the pop chart, won a Grammy, and sold a million copies. Coupled with its predecessor, “I’m Just Me”, it helped Pride win the CMA Male Vocalist of the Year award twice and Entertainer of the Year once.
Pride continued to dominate the charts throughout the seventies and the first half of the eighties, receiving huge critical acclaim for his album of Hank Williams covers in 1980. One of his final #1 hits, “You’re So Good When You’re Bad”, received renewed airplay and sales when it was featured at length on the television series Designing Women. By the nineties, Pride was a star headliner in Branson, Missouri, and a newly minted Opry member in 1993. He also remained active in baseball, as part owner of the Texas Rangers.
Pride continues to perform today, and is still picking up accolades along the way. He was given the ACM Pioneer Award in 1994, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000, and was inducted into the Cowboy of Color Hall of Fame in 2006.
I’m absolutely heartbroken over this news. Charley Pride was a favorite of my mother’s, and I loved his catalog once I had the chance to really explore it. A once in a generation talent.
For those who want to learn more, I strongly recommend the following two videos from PBS:
- Charley Pride’s story, as told to Ken Burns in the Country Music documentary
- Charley Pride: I’m Just Me, an hourlong documentary included in the American Masters series
Our prayers are with Charley Pride’s family, friends, and fans.
Please share your favorite Charley Pride music and memories in the comments.