sunny.png
Friday March 5th, 2021 2:54PM

Charley Pride overcame racial barriers as country music star

By The Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Charley Pride wasn’t country music’s first Black artist, but he reached heights that had not been available to early Black singers and musicians in the genre. And he did it by winning over millions of country music fans.

While Pride’s career path was paved by artists like Opry pioneer DeFord Bailey, the Grammy-winner’s success put him on par with his white peers, including Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell and Merle Haggard, in a way that had never been afforded to Black artists before.

Pride, whose hits include “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” died Saturday in Dallas of complications from COVID-19, according to his publicist. He was 86.

The pride of Sledge, Mississippi, was the son of a sharecropper who initially turned to sports as a way to a better life.

He was a pitcher and outfielder in the Negro American League with the Memphis Red Sox and in the Pioneer League in Montana.

After playing minor league baseball, he ended up in Helena, Montana, where he worked in a zinc smelting plant by day and played country music in nightclubs at night.

Baseball was Pride’s first success, but it was the Grand Ole Opry that his father insisted everyone listen to on their home radio that would prove to be his lasting legacy.

“Everything we listened to was what he had tuned it to, so I got to listening to Grand Ole Opry and all when I was small and I got hooked on it and it just went from there,” Pride told The Associated Press at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville in 2017. “I had no idea that I was preparing myself for this, but I’m glad, especially since I didn’t make it in baseball.”

After a tryout with the New York Mets, Pride visited Nashville and broke into country music when Chet Atkins, head of RCA Records, heard two of his demo tapes and signed him.

His first few singles were sent to radio stations without a publicity photo. After his race became known, a few country radio stations refused to play his music, and some promoters were hesitant to book him.

Until the early 1990s, when Cleve Francis came along, Pride was the only Black country singer signed to a major label. During his career, other Black country artists such as Linda Martell, O.B. McClinton and Stoney Edwards were also charting country songs, as well as Ray Charles and the Pointer Sisters. In 1993, he joined the Grand Ole Opry cast in Nashville.

“They used to ask me how it feels to be the ‘first colored country singer,‘ ” he told The Dallas Morning News in 1992. “Then it was ‘first Negro country singer;’ then ‘first Black country singer.’ Now I’m the `first African-American country singer.′ That’s about the only thing that’s changed. This country is so race-conscious, so ate-up with colors and pigments. I call it ‘skin hangups’ — it’s a disease.”

Still, he remains the only Black country artist to achieve many of those heights, a sign that country music still has a long way to go to breaking down the racial walls, even decades later.

Throughout his career, he sang positive songs instead of sad ones often associated with country music.

“Music is a beautiful way of expressing oneself, and I truly believe music should not be taken as a protest,” he told The Associated Press in 1985. “You can go too far in anything — singing, acting, whatever — and become politicized to the point you cease to be an entertainer.”

He was the first Black artist to win the genre’s highest prize, CMA Award entertainer of the year in 1971, over nominees Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Jerry Reed and Conway Twitty. He was the first Black co-host of the CMA Awards in 1975 with Campbell and earned a lifetime achievement award at the CMA Awards this year. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy in 2017.

Pride released dozens of albums and sold more than 25 million records during a career that began in the mid-1960s. Hits besides “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” in 1971 included “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Burgers and Fries,” “Mountain of Love,” and “Someone Loves You Honey.”

As a trailblazer, he inspired countless other Black country artists, including Darius Rucker, who moved from rock to country.

“My heart is so heavy,” Rucker wrote on Twitter. “He destroyed barriers and did things that no one had ever done. But today Im thinking of my friend. Heaven just got one of the finest people I know.I miss and love u CP!”

Pride joined up with country singer Jimmie Allen to perform “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” at the CMA Awards in November, his last performance.

“Thank you for unapologetically you and being the manifestation of our dreams. Our potential. The realization that WE can be anything we want to be. Even a country singer,” said country singer Rissi Palmer on Twitter. “I’m so angry about this death. This was preventable.”

“I’d like to be remembered as a good person who tried to be a good entertainer and made people happy, was a good American who paid his taxes and made a good living,” Pride told The AP in 1985. “I tried to do my best and contribute my part.”

He is survived by his wife, Rozene, whom he married in 1956; three children, Kraig, Dion and Angela; and several grandchildren.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Baseball , AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Entertainment, AP Online Recordings News, APOnline Celebrity News, AP Sports - Minor League Baseball
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Fury awaits as Joshua KOs Pulev to retain heavyweight belts
Anthony Joshua retained his world heavyweight titles with a ninth-round knockout of Kubrat Pulev
8:39PM ( 17 minutes ago )
No. 20 UNC runs wild, rolls past No. 9 Miami 62-26
Michael Carter and Javonte Williams set an NCAA record by combining for 544 yards rushing, and No. 20 North Carolina embarrassed No. 9 Miami 62-26 in the regular-season finale for both teams
8:28PM ( 27 minutes ago )
The Latest: US leads world with 16 million cases of virus
The U.S. has recorded more than 16 million cases of COVID-19
8:28PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Shibuno passes big test and hangs on to lead in Women's Open
Hinako Shibuno of Japan passed a big survival test Saturday in the U.S. Women's Open
7:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
Chelsea beaten by Everton; Manchester derby stalemate
Everton beat Chelsea 1-0 to end the London club's 17-match unbeaten run in all competitions
6:50PM ( 2 hours ago )
Joshua retains heavyweight belts with 9th-round KO of Pulev
Anthony Joshua retained his world heavyweight titles with a ninth-round knockout of Kubrat Pulev
6:36PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Sports
Charley Pride, country's first Black superstar, dies at 86
Charley Pride, the son of sharecroppers in Mississippi who became one of country music’s biggest stars and the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, has died
4:12PM ( 4 hours ago )
New Phillies boss Dombrowski plans retool, not rebuild
Dave Dombrowski believes the Philadelphia Phillies need to retool, not rebuild
9:50PM ( 23 hours ago )
76ers fan to give memorabilia back to Johnny Bench
The winning bidder on over $1 million worth of memorabilia from a recent auction of Johnny Bench’s personal collection is returning the items to the Hall of Fame catcher, with whom he’s been friends since 1967
6:26PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Online Baseball
Barcelona concert tests use of same-day COVID-19 screening
Five hundred music fans eager for a live show without social distancing volunteer to test the effectiveness of same-day coronavirus screening at a concert in Barcelona
5:45PM ( 3 hours ago )
New Orleans stage and screen actor Carol Sutton dies at 76
Actor Carol Sutton, a fixture on stages in her native New Orleans, has died from complications from COVID-19
3:37PM ( 5 hours ago )
F1 star Hamilton vows to fight to improve human rights
World champion Lewis Hamilton has vowed not to ignore pleas to improve human rights in Bahrain and other countries where Formula One hosts races
3:17PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Performers set for TV special replacing canceled Rose Parade
There won’t be thousands of people watching flower-laden floats roll through the streets of Pasadena on New Year’s Day, but the show will go on
7:23PM ( 2 days ago )
The Who concert memorial fundraiser plays on, virtually
Alumni of a small suburban Cincinnati high school who lost three classmates in the 1979 disaster at a concert by The Who faced obstacles this year to holding their annual memorial scholarship fundraising event, but they were determined that the show would go on
3:36PM ( 2 days ago )
Chris Hillman's musical life from Byrds to Burritos and more
As a founding member of the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers, and one of the architects of country-rock and folk-rock, Chris Hillman has sometimes been called one of rock's well-kept secrets
2:47PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Online Recordings News
The Latest: Greece keeps most restrictions through Christmas
Greek authorities say bookshops and hairdressers will be allowed to reopen beginning Monday but all other retail stores, entertainment venues, restaurants, bars and cafes will remain shut throughout the Christmas period as part of the country’s second lockdown
5:59AM ( 1 day ago )
Time magazine names BTS its Entertainer of the Year
BTS has had more than just a “Dynamite” year — they’ve become such a global phenomenon that Time magazine named the South Korean group its 2020 Entertainer of the Year
11:24PM ( 1 day ago )
Tommy 'Tiny' Lister, who played Deebo in 'Friday,' dies
Tommy “Tiny” Lister, a former wrestler who was known for his Deebo character in the “Friday” films, has died
11:08PM ( 1 day ago )
APOnline Celebrity News
MLB sues insurance providers, cites billions in virus losses
Major League Baseball and all 30 of its teams are suing their insurance providers, citing billions of dollars in losses during the 2020 season played almost entirely without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic
8:57PM ( 1 week ago )
MLB launches wood-bat league for draft-eligible prospects
Major League Baseball is creating a minor league for top eligible prospects leading to the summer draft
3:05PM ( 1 week ago )
'Bad Hombres' film uses baseball to show the game of borders
A new Showtime sports documentary follows a Mexican League baseball team that plays on both sides of the border amid the tension around migration, divisive politics, and cartel violence
10:42AM ( 1 month ago )
AP Sports - Minor League Baseball
Fury awaits as Joshua KOs Pulev to retain heavyweight belts
Anthony Joshua retained his world heavyweight titles with a ninth-round knockout of Kubrat Pulev
8:39PM ( 17 minutes ago )
No. 20 UNC runs wild, rolls past No. 9 Miami 62-26
Michael Carter and Javonte Williams set an NCAA record by combining for 544 yards rushing, and No. 20 North Carolina embarrassed No. 9 Miami 62-26 in the regular-season finale for both teams
8:28PM ( 27 minutes ago )
The Latest: US leads world with 16 million cases of virus
The U.S. has recorded more than 16 million cases of COVID-19
8:28PM ( 28 minutes ago )
The Latest: Duke-Miami women's basketball game postponed
The Atlantic Coast Conference says Sunday’s women’s basketball game between Duke and Miami has been postponed as part of multiple schedule adjustments
8:27PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Army beats Navy 15-0 at Michie Stadium
 Tyhier Tyler scored on a 4-yard run early in the fourth quarter, the Army defense stoned Navy with a brilliant goalline stand in the third, and the Black Knights beat their archrival 15-0 on Saturday at fog-shrouded Michie Stadium
8:26PM ( 29 minutes ago )