Charley Pride celebrates his 50th anniversary as a recording artist this year

A native of Sledge, Mississippi, Charley grew up equally enamored with music and baseball. He pursued a baseball career first, with stints on minor-league teams such as the Fond du Lac Panthers, El Paso Kings, Missoula Timberjacks and Boise Yankees – then a farm team of the New York Yankees. He also played ball for several Negro American League teams including the Louisville Clippers, Birmingham Black Barons and Memphis Red Sox. As a Negro American League All-Star player in 1956, Charley pitched against a group of major league players that included Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Al Smith, Gene Baker and Ernie Banks.

 

 

A fourteen month stint in the US Army briefly derailed his professional athletic career in 1957, but he returned to play with the Memphis Red Sox in 1958 where he again pitched and slugged his way onto the league All-Star team. After relocating to Montana in 1960, Pride found a new home playing for the semi-pro East Helena Smelterites. It was while he was playing ball for the Smelterites that Pride experienced his first major public exposure as a singer – at home games, he often sang a few tunes prior to the first pitch.

 

This exposure led to other singing opportunities around the Helena and Great Falls area. Eventually, through a series of fortuitous encounters with Country music stars and Nashville insiders, Pride’s talent was brought to the attention of Chet Atkins at RCA Victor in Nashville. Pride's debut single "The Snakes Crawl At Night" was released in 1966. Although his initial singles weren't major hits, his third single “Just Between You and Me” caught fire in 1966, breaking into the Top-10 Country charts and earning Charley his first Grammy nomination.

 

Between 1966 and 1987, Pride amassed no fewer than fifty-two (52) Top-10 Country hits, with over thirty climbing to the top spot. His chart-toppers include “All I Have To Offer You Is Me,” “Burgers and Fries,” “I Don’t Think She’s In Love Anymore,” and his signature hit – 1971’s “Kiss An Angel Good Morning,” which sold over a million singles and helped him win the Country Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year” and “Top Male Vocalist” awards for that year. It also helped him land the “Best Male Country Vocal Performance” Grammy Award in 1972, an accolade that joined its place of honor alongside the two previous Grammy Awards that he had won in 1971 related to an earlier Gospel music album.

 

Pride is credited with helping to break color barriers by becoming the first African-American to become a force within the Country Music industry. Pride received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music in 1994 and was honored with an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. He has also been a proud member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1993. Pride first performed on the Opry in 1967 and he was extended an invitation to join it shortly thereafter, although he was unable to commit at the time.

 

Baseball continues to play a role in Pride's life. As part of an investment group spearheaded by Baseball Hall Of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan, Pride became one of the owners of the Texas Rangers major-league baseball team in 2010. Pride and his family have lived in Dallas, TX since 1969 and he has worked out with the Rangers annually during Spring training for decades.

 

As he celebrates his golden anniversary as a recording artist in 2016, Charley Pride will mark the distinction with several projects, which will be announced in the coming months – as well as maintaining a busy road schedule. Pride continues to perform concerts worldwide and has toured the United States, Canada, Ireland, The United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand over the last several years.


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