Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


PRIDE, Charley

(b 18 March 1938, Sledge MS; d 12 December 2020, Dallas, of Covid-19) The most successful African-American country singer, with more than 50 top ten hits including 29 at no. 1, and ten crossovers to the pop chart '69-74. He picked cotton until he was 14, and listened to country music on the radio. At first he thought baseball would be his way out of sharecropping, playing for the Memphis Red Sox '54. He served in the U.S. Army, tried out for the California Angels and NY Mets '62; played semi-pro in the Pioneer League while working in zinc works near Great Falls, Montana, but he was also singing. He appeared in a a local show '63 with Red Foley and Red Sovine who urged him to go to Nashville. A demo reached Chet Atkins; he signed with RCA '65 and his debut 'Snakes Crawl At Night' with sparse publicity and no photos got airplay; the second release 'Just Between You And Me' made the country top ten '66; his first no. 1 was 'All I Have To Offer You Is Me' '69.

One of the few country stars who has never written a song, he became a hit machine with his superb voice, appearing at the end on TV shows because nobody wanted to follow him: some said he sang Hank Williams better than Hank. He began in straight country but turned smoother, one of RCA's best sellers, 17 LPs crossing over to the pop album chart '68-81, eight in the top 50 US LPs including two compilations. More country no. ones: 'Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone' '70, 'She's Too Good To Be True' '72, 'A Shoulder To Cry On' and 'Amazing Love' '73, 'Then Who Am I' and 'Hope You're Feelin' Me' '75, 'My Eyes Can Only See As Far As You' '76, 'She's Just An Old Love Turned Memory' and 'I'll Be Leaving Alone' '77, 'Someone Loves You Honey' '78, 'Where Do I Put Her Memory' and 'You're My Jamaica' '79 (the last recorded in London).

He realized his childhood dream joining the Opry '67, was CMA Entertainer of the Year '71, Male Vocalist of the Year '71-2. He took Ronnie Milsap, Janie Fricke, others on tours, and helped their careers. He's a good businessman, with interests in cattle, oil, music publishing, banking etc. He went back to traditional country briefly '80 with There's A Little Bit Of Hank In Me, a tribute set including no. 1 hits 'Honky Tonk Blues' and 'You Win Again'; further no. ones were 'Never Been So Loved (In All My Life)', 'Why Baby Why' and 'Night Games' '81-3. He asked for a release from his RCA contract '86, saying they were no longer promoting his records properly in favour of younger acts; a switch to Opryland's 16th Avenue label yielded hit with 'Shouldn't It Be Easier Than This' '87, but the label was short-lived; Pride moved to Honest Entertainment and had youngsters Travis Tritt, Mary Stuart, Joe Diffie etc duetting on My Six Latest And Six Greatest '94. He continues to tour, often with his son Dion on guitar and vocals. Later albums: After All This Time '87 and I'm Gonna Love Her On The Radio '88 on 16th Avenue; Amy's Eyes '90 and Classics With Pride '92 on Ritz. There were many compilations on RCA and three on Honest.

In 1999 he had a tumor on his vocal chords removed at the U. of Arkansas for Medical Science Hospital; returning to that state for a checkup he was invited to the Capitol by State Senator Steve Faris, and sang five songs for the legislators on 11 February 2009. In an interview with Marc Myers in 2018, he said he had never experienced racism in an audience: 'Once I opened my mouth, people didn't care if I was green, purple or yellow.'