Charley Pride, Pioneering Black Country Singer, Dead at 86

Rolling Stone – by Joseph Hudak

Charley Pride, the pioneering black country singer known for such hits as “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” has died in Dallas, Texas, from complications related to Covid-19, according to his publicist. He was 86.

Born in Sledge, Mississippi, in 1934, Pride picked cotton, played baseball in the Negro leagues, served in the U.S. Army, and worked in a smelting plant in Montana before moving to Nashville and becoming country music’s first black superstar. He scored 52 Top 10 country hits, including 29 Number Ones, and was the first African-American performer to appear on the Grand Ole Opry stage since Deford Bailey made his debut in the 1920s. Pride became an Opry member in 1993. In 2000, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

After leaving the Army, Pride landed in Helena, Montana, where he continued to play baseball (Jackie Robinson was an early hero) and took a job in a smelting plant. He also began singing in public, where he caught the ear of a local DJ who arranged for Pride to sing for country stars Red Sovine and Red Foley. The pair convinced him to move to Nashville and, in 1964, he signed a management deal with longtime manager Jack D. Johnson. The following year, he had his first Nashville recording session and, a month later, signed with the label RCA.

Pride’s debut single, “The Snakes Crawl at Night,” failed to chart, but his debut album, Country, reached the Top 20. His 1967 album The Pride of Country Music went on to hit Number One and, that same year, he became the first African-American solo singer to appear on the Opry. On April 29th, he made his national TV debut, appearing on Lawrence Welk’s Saturday-night ABC music series.

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3 thoughts on “Charley Pride, Pioneering Black Country Singer, Dead at 86

  1. Heard this song in mid-70s when I moved to Houston 6 months (then back to NY)…I had no idea he was black at the time (since I’m not a country music fan, except for bluegrass and zydecko).

  2. Charlie Pride was born in Mississippi, therefore he was an American, not an African – American. And they just HAD to get in the jab about “Covid 19 related”, yeah whatever liars.

    1. Good one, Bill, which is why I call “African-Americans” blacks…they are Americans, not “Afro-Americans”! Same with Hispanics…they are (assuming they were born here) Americans!

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