Charley Pride, a former professional baseball player who rose to become Country Music’s first African-American superstar died today at the age of 86 due to complications around the COVID-19 virus.
Pride was one of only three African-Americans to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry along with DeFord Bailey and Darius Rucker. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
He’s best known for hits “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin,” “Is Anybody Goin’t to San Antone,” and “Mountain of Love.”
Pride was born in Sledge, Mississippi, in 1934. He would play in both the Negro Leagues and in Minor League Baseball from 1953 through 1960 as a pitcher.
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. The lead smelter kept 18 jobs open specifically for baseball players, and arranged their shifts so they could play as a team. 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 locally both as a solo artist and with a band called the Night Hawks, and Asarco asked him to sing at company picnics.
Pride’s big break came when Chet Atkins at RCA Victor heard a demonstration tape and got Pride a recording contract. In 1966, he released his first RCA Victor single, “The Snakes Crawl at Night”. Eventually, Nashville manager and agent Jack D. Johnson signed Pride. Between 1967 and 1987, Pride delivered 52 Top 10 country hits, won four Grammy awards (including a lifetime achievement award), and became RCA Records’ top-selling country artist.
Pride had performed only a month ago at the 2020 Country Music Association (CMA) Awards on November 11th.
Photo Credit: Public Domain
Video Credit: CMA