Charley Pride

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Charley Pride
Pride performing at Capital Centre on Inauguration Day, January 1981
Background information
Birth nameCharley Frank Pride
BornMarch 18, 1934
SledgeMississippi, U.S.
DiedDecember 12, 2020 (aged 86)
DallasTexas, U.S.
GenresCountrygospel
Occupation(s)Singerguitarist
InstrumentsVocalsguitar
Years active1952–2020
LabelsRCA Records16th AvenueMusic City
Websitecharleypride.com

Charley Frank Pride (March 18, 1934 – December 12, 2020) was an American singer, guitarist, and professional baseball player. His greatest musical success came in the early to mid 1970s, when he was the best-selling performer for RCA Records since Elvis Presley.[1] During the peak years of his recording career (1966–1987), he had 52 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, 30 of which made it to number one. He won the Entertainer of the Year award at the Country Music Association Awards in 1971.

Pride was one of three African-American members of the Grand Ole Opry (the others being DeFord Bailey and Darius Rucker). He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

Contents

Early life[edit]

Pride was born on March 18, 1934, in Sledge, Mississippi, the fourth of eleven children of poor sharecroppers.[2][3][4] His father intended to name him Charl Frank Pride, but owing to a clerical error on his birth certificate, his legal name was Charley Frank Pride.[5] Eight boys and three girls were in the family.[6] His elder brother, Mack Pride, played Negro league baseball before entering the ministry.[7]

Career[edit]

Baseball and military service[edit]

Charley Pride
Pitcher
Batted: SwitchThrew: Right
Negro leagues debut
1953, for the Memphis Red Sox
Last appearance
1958, for the Memphis Red Sox
Teams
Negro leaguesMemphis Red Sox (1953, 54–57, 58)Birmingham Black Barons (1954)Minor leaguesBoise Yankees (1953)Fond du Lac Panthers (1953)Missoula Timberjacks (1960)East Helena Smelterites (1960)
Career highlights and awards
2x Negro league All-Star (1956–1957)All Army Championship (1957)

When Pride was 14, his mother purchased him his first guitar and he taught himself to play.[6] Though he loved music, one of Pride’s lifelong dreams was to become a professional baseball player. In 1952, he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. In 1953, he signed a contract with the Boise Yankees, the Class C farm team of the New York Yankees. During that season, an injury caused him to lose the “mustard” on his fastball, and he was sent to the Yankees’ Class D team in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Later that season, while in the Negro leagues with the Louisville Clippers, two players – Pride and Jesse Mitchell – were traded to the Birmingham Black Barons for a team bus. “Jesse and I may have the distinction of being the only players in history to be traded for a used motor vehicle,” Pride mused in his 1994 autobiography.[8]

Pride pitched for several other minor league teams, his hopes of making it to the big leagues still alive, but was drafted into the United States Army in 1956. After basic training, he was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, where he was a quartermaster and played on the Fort’s baseball team. That team won the “All Army” sports championship. When discharged in 1958, he rejoined the Memphis Red Sox.[9] He tried to return to baseball, though hindered by an injury to his throwing arm.[9]

Pride played three games for the Missoula Timberjacks of the Pioneer League[10] (a farm club of the Cincinnati Reds) in 1960,[11] and had tryouts with the California Angels (1961) and the New York Mets (1962) organizations, but was not picked up by either team.[11]

When he was laid off by the Timberjacks, he moved to work construction in Helena, Montana, in 1960. He was recruited to pitch for the local semipro baseball team, the East Helena Smelterites, and the team manager helped him get a job at the local Asarco lead smelter.[10] The lead smelter kept 18 jobs open specifically for baseball players, and arranged their shifts so they could play as a team.[11] Pride batted .444 his first year.[10]

Pride’s singing ability soon came to the attention of the team manager, who also paid him to sing for 15 minutes before each game, which increased attendance and earned Pride another $10 on top of the $10 he earned for each game. He also played gigs in the local area, both solo and with a band called the Night Hawks,[11] and Asarco asked him to sing at company picnics.[10] His job at the smelter was dangerous and difficult; he once broke his ankle. He routinely unloaded coal from railroad cars, shoveling it into a 2,400 °F furnace while keeping clear of slag, a task which frequently gave him burns. In a 2014 interview, Pride explained, “I would work at the smelter, work the swing shift and then play music,” said Pride. “I’d work 11–7. Drive. Play Friday. Punch in. Drive. PolsonPhilipsburg.”[6]

Between his smelter job and his music, he made a good living in the Helena area. He moved his wife and son to join him and they lived in Helena until 1967, purchasing their first home there, and with their children Dion and Angela being born at the local hospital.[10] The Pride family moved to Great Falls, Montana, in 1967,[6] because Pride’s music career was taking off and he required quicker access to an airport.[10] The family ultimately left Montana and moved to Texas in 1969.[11] In a 1967 interview with the Helena Independent Record, his wife Rozene Pride commented that the family encountered minor racism in Montana, citing an incident where they were refused service in a restaurant and another time when a realtor refused to show them a home, but she felt that the family endured less racism than she saw leveled against local Native American people, whose treatment she compared to that given to black people in the South.[11] Pride has generally spoken with fondness of the near-decade he spent there. “Montana is a very conservative state … I stood out like a neon. But once they let you in, you become a Montanan. When the rumor was that I was leaving. They kept saying, ‘we will let you in, you can’t leave.'”[10]

On June 5, 2008, Pride and his brother Mack “The Knife” Pride and 28 other living former Negro league players were “drafted” by each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams in a recognition of the on-field achievements and historical relevance of 30 mostly forgotten, Negro league stars. Pride was picked by the Texas Rangers, with whom he has had a long affiliation, and the Colorado Rockies took his brother Mack.[12]

Rise to fame[edit]

While he was active in baseball, Pride had been encouraged to join the music business by country stars such as Red Sovine and Red Foley, and was working towards this career. In 1958, in Memphis, Pride visited Sun Studio and recorded some songs.[13]

He performed his music solo at clubs and with a four-piece combo called the Night Hawks during the time he lived in Montana.[10] His break came when Chet Atkins at RCA Victor heard a demonstration tape and got Pride a contract. In 1966, he released his first RCA Victor single, “The Snakes Crawl at Night”.[10] Nashville manager and agent Jack D. Johnson signed Pride. Atkins was the longtime produce

Charley Pride

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to navigationJump to search

Charley Pride
Pride performing at Capital Centre on Inauguration Day, January 1981
Background information
Birth nameCharley Frank Pride
BornMarch 18, 1934
SledgeMississippi, U.S.
DiedDecember 12, 2020 (aged 86)
DallasTexas, U.S.
GenresCountrygospel
Occupation(s)Singerguitarist
InstrumentsVocalsguitar
Years active1952–2020
LabelsRCA Records16th AvenueMusic City
Websitecharleypride.com

Charley Frank Pride (March 18, 1934 – December 12, 2020) was an American singer, guitarist, and professional baseball player. His greatest musical success came in the early to mid 1970s, when he was the best-selling performer for RCA Records since Elvis Presley.[1] During the peak years of his recording career (1966–1987), he had 52 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, 30 of which made it to number one. He won the Entertainer of the Year award at the Country Music Association Awards in 1971.

Pride was one of three African-American members of the Grand Ole Opry (the others being DeFord Bailey and Darius Rucker). He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

Contents

Early life[edit]

Pride was born on March 18, 1934, in Sledge, Mississippi, the fourth of eleven children of poor sharecroppers.[2][3][4] His father intended to name him Charl Frank Pride, but owing to a clerical error on his birth certificate, his legal name was Charley Frank Pride.[5] Eight boys and three girls were in the family.[6] His elder brother, Mack Pride, played Negro league baseball before entering the ministry.[7]

Career[edit]

Baseball and military service[edit]

Charley Pride
Pitcher
Batted: SwitchThrew: Right
Negro leagues debut
1953, for the Memphis Red Sox
Last appearance
1958, for the Memphis Red Sox
Teams
Negro leaguesMemphis Red Sox (1953, 54–57, 58)Birmingham Black Barons (1954)Minor leaguesBoise Yankees (1953)Fond du Lac Panthers (1953)Missoula Timberjacks (1960)East Helena Smelterites (1960)
Career highlights and awards
2x Negro league All-Star (1956–1957)All Army Championship (1957)

When Pride was 14, his mother purchased him his first guitar and he taught himself to play.[6] Though he loved music, one of Pride’s lifelong dreams was to become a professional baseball player. In 1952, he pitched for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. In 1953, he signed a contract with the Boise Yankees, the Class C farm team of the New York Yankees. During that season, an injury caused him to lose the “mustard” on his fastball, and he was sent to the Yankees’ Class D team in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Later that season, while in the Negro leagues with the Louisville Clippers, two players – Pride and Jesse Mitchell – were traded to the Birmingham Black Barons for a team bus. “Jesse and I may have the distinction of being the only players in history to be traded for a used motor vehicle,” Pride mused in his 1994 autobiography.[8]

Pride pitched for several other minor league teams, his hopes of making it to the big leagues still alive, but was drafted into the United States Army in 1956. After basic training, he was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, where he was a quartermaster and played on the Fort’s baseball team. That team won the “All Army” sports championship. When discharged in 1958, he rejoined the Memphis Red Sox.[9] He tried to return to baseball, though hindered by an injury to his throwing arm.[9]

Pride played three games for the Missoula Timberjacks of the Pioneer League[10] (a farm club of the Cincinnati Reds) in 1960,[11] and had tryouts with the California Angels (1961) and the New York Mets (1962) organizations, but was not picked up by either team.[11]

When he was laid off by the Timberjacks, he moved to work construction in Helena, Montana, in 1960. He was recruited to pitch for the local semipro baseball team, the East Helena Smelterites, and the team manager helped him get a job at the local Asarco lead smelter.[10] The lead smelter kept 18 jobs open specifically for baseball players, and arranged their shifts so they could play as a team.[11] Pride batted .444 his first year.[10]

Pride’s singing ability soon came to the attention of the team manager, who also paid him to sing for 15 minutes before each game, which increased attendance and earned Pride another $10 on top of the $10 he earned for each game. He also played gigs in the local area, both solo and with a band called the Night Hawks,[11] and Asarco asked him to sing at company picnics.[10] His job at the smelter was dangerous and difficult; he once broke his ankle. He routinely unloaded coal from railroad cars, shoveling it into a 2,400 °F furnace while keeping clear of slag, a task which frequently gave him burns. In a 2014 interview, Pride explained, “I would work at the smelter, work the swing shift and then play music,” said Pride. “I’d work 11–7. Drive. Play Friday. Punch in. Drive. PolsonPhilipsburg.”[6]

Between his smelter job and his music, he made a good living in the Helena area. He moved his wife and son to join him and they lived in Helena until 1967, purchasing their first home there, and with their children Dion and Angela being born at the local hospital.[10] The Pride family moved to Great Falls, Montana, in 1967,[6] because Pride’s music career was taking off and he required quicker access to an airport.[10] The family ultimately left Montana and moved to Texas in 1969.[11] In a 1967 interview with the Helena Independent Record, his wife Rozene Pride commented that the family encountered minor racism in Montana, citing an incident where they were refused service in a restaurant and another time when a realtor refused to show them a home, but she felt that the family endured less racism than she saw leveled against local Native American people, whose treatment she compared to that given to black people in the South.[11] Pride has generally spoken with fondness of the near-decade he spent there. “Montana is a very conservative state … I stood out like a neon. But once they let you in, you become a Montanan. When the rumor was that I was leaving. They kept saying, ‘we will let you in, you can’t leave.'”[10]

On June 5, 2008, Pride and his brother Mack “The Knife” Pride and 28 other living former Negro league players were “drafted” by each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams in a recognition of the on-field achievements and historical relevance of 30 mostly forgotten, Negro league stars. Pride was picked by the Texas Rangers, with whom he has had a long affiliation, and the Colorado Rockies took his brother Mack.[12]

Rise to fame[edit]

While he was active in baseball, Pride had been encouraged to join the music business by country stars such as Red Sovine and Red Foley, and was working towards this career. In 1958, in Memphis, Pride visited Sun Studio and recorded some songs.[13]

He performed his music solo at clubs and with a four-piece combo called the Night Hawks during the time he lived in Montana.[10] His break came when Chet Atkins at RCA Victor heard a demonstration tape and got Pride a contract. In 1966, he released his first RCA Victor single, “The Snakes Crawl at Night”.[10] Nashville manager and agent Jack D. Johnson signed Pride. Atkins was the longtime produce

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