Charley Pride was one of the few Black country musicians to have had considerable success in the largely white country music industry and was only the second Black musician to perform at the Grand Ole Opry.
Who Was Charley Pride?
Born in Mississippi in 1934, Charley Pride was one of the few Black country musicians to have enjoyed considerable success in the mostly white industry. During his 20s, he played baseball in the Negro American League but moved over to music in 1966 when he was signed by RCA. Pride was only the second Black musician to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. His hit songs include “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” and “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’.”
Early Life and Baseball Career
Pride was born on March 18, 1934, in Sledge, Mississippi. He was one of 11 children. His parents, who were poor sharecroppers, had named their son “Charl Frank Pride,” but due to an error on his birth certificate, his legal name became Charley Frank Pride.
Pride taught himself to play guitar in his early teens, but his dream was to become a professional baseball player. In 1952, he was selected to play in the Negro American League, pitching for the Memphis Red Sox, Louisville Clippers, Boise Yankees and Birmingham Black Barons. While he traveled from game to game, Pride often sang and played guitar on the team bus.
Country Music Success
On a trip to Nashville, Pride met Jack Johnson, who promised the musician a management contract. A year later, Pride returned to the city to record a demo, featuring the singles “The Snakes Crawl at Night” and “Atlantic Coastal Line.” The recording made it to RCA Records head Chet Atkins, who immediately signed him to the label. Pride officially released “Snakes Crawl at Night” — his first single — in January 1966.
It was his third single, “Just Between You and Me,” that launched Pride to stardom, reaching No. 9 on the U.S. country charts. Pride won a Grammy Award for the song in 1967. Two years later, Pride had his first No. 1 hit with “All I Have to Offer” (1969). The recognition he gained from this early successes led to a long and auspicious career for Pride, making him the first African American superstar in country music. His later hits include “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone” (1970) and “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” (1971), among many others.
Over the next 30 years, Pride recorded 36 No. 1 hits and watched four of his albums go platinum. He has also been listed among the Top 20 best-selling country artists of all time and is second in sales only to Elvis Presley.
Honors and Personal Life
On May 1, 1993, Pride was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry — becoming only the second African American inductee of the stage show. The following year, he published his autobiography, Pride: The Charley Pride Story, and was given the Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music. In July 1999, Pride received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He went on to receive country music’s highest honor on October 4, 2003: induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Pride died on December 12, 2020, in Dallas, Texas due to complications from COVID-19.