I have always looked to do things in my writing forum differently than everyone else, and use an anomalous approach to get my feelings across to you. I cannot write some “same old informational” junk every other website will make about a Legend as special as Mr. Charley Pride. He was a totally different hero to me, and to Country Music in general. Not because he was black or because he faced so much prejudice…he was a hero because he sang with heart and soul, and he didn’t consider himself different from his peers.
Many times he was asked how it felt to be a black Country singer, and his answer was always “I don’t know, I just sing Country and I’m just a Country singer”. See, Mr. Charley sprouted out of RCA Victor during the 1960’s when two things were transpiring that were hurdles to him..the Outlaw movement and segregation.
But even then he faced another hurdle that not many people really know much about, and that is they used Mr. Charley as a pawn in their marketing strategies against rival label Capitol Records after 1971, when Capitol records introduced another black Country artist not many know about…Mr. Stoney Edwards. To top it all off not many know that the band that backed Mr. Stoney Edwards was none other than Asleep At The Wheel.
Now, one of the reasons I say that Mr. Charley was being pawned by the label was that he didn’t record many songs HE wrote, and Mr. Stoney, did. Don’t mistake my words my friends, because that fact alone bred some of Country Music’s BEST writers, like Mr. Jerry Foster and more. That marketing war also spawned the birth and proliferation of Asleep At The Wheel too.
Many of the others of his ilk were already going through the 1970’s garnering their own creative control of their music, which was coined by the media as the Outlaw movement. From my personal studies, I never concluded a judgement on whether it was HIS CHOICE to record songs he didn’t write..and I’ll spend more years trying to learn.
Back then the general public was either enjoying one of three “derivatives” of Country Music, and those were The Outlaw Movement, The Nashville Sound and The Bakersfield Eras. Funny thing was, was that Mr. Charley was NONE OF THEM! He was just self admittedly a regular old Country Singer. I think that fact placed him into the ranks of Mr. Gene Watson and Mr. Moe Bandy ( both of whom are still alive, touring and healthy today). Yeah, I know many of his 1970’s albums like “Pride Of America” were recorded at the Nashville Sound studio, but that doesn’t change the fact his sound was Country.
He faced so many boundaries with segregation and prejudice during his youth, they had to “discretely” place him into package deals to slip him into the most prominent theaters across America. From my studies Mr. Faron young, whom helped Mr. Charley break out into superstardom, was VERY prejudiced against blacks. But Pride earned the respect of many with his raw and honest vocals, and his ardent love of the music itself.
I was exposed to his album “Country Feelin” at age 8. For some reason, it just spoke to me as a person. AGE 8 I was identifying with this “sound” I was hearing, and the song I loved was called “The Man I Used To be” by Mr. Max D Barnes. Mr. max wrote one of Country Music’s saddest songs called “Chiseled in Stone”..ironically Charley Pride’s management team passed on the offer for him to record that song.
As a teenager I swiftly scooped up EVERY Pride record I could find. From 1973 and 1975 his two albums with a band called the Pridesmen are rare finds for vinyl collectors alike. When I moved to Nashville in 1996, to pursue a career in Country Music, pride was one of the first heroes I had that I went out to find. I got to meet him at the Midnite Jamboree, at the Ernest Tubb Record Store.
Mr. Charley Pride was one of the most prominent and active Opry members within it’s ranks celebrating his 25th year in 2018. That statement right there brings me to my last quandary, how is the Opry going to react to this gaping hole 2020 has left in the Opry membership problem?
Mr. Hal Ketchum and Miss Jan Howard were almost weekly Opry appearance mainstays, with Mr. Charlie Daniels recently following suit, playing almost every other week.
Does the Opry plan to refill the “Grand Ladies Of The Opry” anymore? There are a plethora of ladies out there that play the opry on a regular basis, that need to be inducted into membership like Miss Erin Enderlin and Miss Sunny Sweeney and Miss Elizaeth Cook.
Charley Pride was my 2017 Album Of The Year. Without question that album was probably one of pride’s best in the last 20 years of his career. Without question it made my TOP LIST the first few moments of my hearing it.
In closing, the death of Mr. Charley Pride has not only left a hollow gaping hole in this entire genre, but in the hearts of many. His kindness and genuine gentle mannerisms cannot be duplicated or even copied by any of today’s youth. The dignity that he embellished Country Music with cannot be repeated by anybody.
There will never be another hero like him. Ever.