Introduction: I'm Just Me (01:29)
Country legend Charley Pride recalls buying a guitar from Sears, Roebuck and Company when he was 14. Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks and other stars comment on his talent and the significance of his being one of the few black people popularizing country music.
Pride's Early Life (02:32)
Pride was born in 1934. He was one of 11 children born into a rural home of poor cotton pickers in Sledge, Mississippi. His mother, Tessie, was gentle and supportive of his interests, while his father, Mack, was often strict and harsh.
Pride's Exposure to Country (02:53)
Pride’s father would listen to the Grand Ole Opry, thus educating his son about country music. The development of Nashville’s WSM-AM and other high wattage stations was influential to isolated, rural communities of the 1940s.
Barnstorming Baseball (03:34)
In 1947, became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball. Pride saw the game as a way out of Sledge. He pitched and played outfield for the Memphis Red Sox, a team from the Negro League.
Pride Marries (03:13)
Pride used his talents to overcome the harsh realities of Jim Crow. He won 14 games for the Red Sox in 1956, and he met his soon-to-be wife, Rozene Cohran. They were married after Pride was drafted into the United States Army.
First Singing Gigs (03:35)
Pride was stationed at Ft. Carson, Colorado after basic training. He answered an ad to play baseball for the Missoula Timberjacks after he was discharged. He was soon cut, but he got a job at a smelting plant, played for its baseball team, and he performed at bars.
Pride's Big Break (02:19)
People saw Pride as a novelty: a black man from Memphis in Montana singing country in an era of jazz and soul. In 1962, Montana DJ Tiny Stokes arranged for him to audition for well-known country performers Red Foley and Red Sovine.
Signed in Nashville (06:27)
Pride went to Nashville where he witnessed the battle for civil rights and met country star Webb Pierce. Pierce helped him record a demo, and agent Jack Johnson signed him. Producer Cowboy Jack Clement oversaw early recording sessions.
Another Elvis? (04:36)
Clement would help launch some of the most unique artists in country, the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and George Jones. Guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins—a rising executive at RCA’s country music division—became convinced of Pride’s potential.
Accepted by Nashville Big Shots (04:53)
Anticipating that some country DJs might be skeptical of playing a black artist, RCA released “The Snakes Crawl at Night” without the standard promo photo and biography. Willie Nelson famously endorsed Pride, who even won over the feisty Faron Young.
“Country Charley Pride” (04:58)
In concert, some audiences were surprised that Pride was black, but they accepted him after the initial shock. RCA released his first album. Mel Tillis co-wrote “The Snakes Comes Out at Night” and other material on the record.
Pride's Network TV Debut (03:14)
The 1960s would become known as the Golden Age of Country, a time when the genre’s stars would cross into the pop charts. Pride made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry and appeared on “The Lawrence Welk Show” in 1967.
Civil Rights Leader Slain (01:30)
Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968. The Grand Ole Opry canceled its first performance in 43 years. Pride performed without comment and received a standing ovation from the white audience.
Pride's Success and Mental Illness (04:26)
Pride scored a No. 1 Billboard country single with “All I Have to Offer You Is Me” in 1969. He became the bestselling artist on RCA Records other than Elvis Presley. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Pride's Signature Song (03:28)
Pride moved from Montana to Dallas. He was named Entertainer of the Year at the 1971 Country Music Association Awards, and he released his biggest hit, “Kiss and Angel Good Mornin’.”
Pride's Massive Commercial Success (02:43)
Over the span of his more than 50 year career, Pride released 52 top 10 country hits and sold tens of millions of records worldwide. He and Johnson formed the publishing company PiGem, its name derived from their astrological signs.
Pride's Spiritual Album (03:44)
Pride used his interest in astrology to relate to people, and he remained down to earth when encountering fans. He expressed his faith with his gospel-themed “Did You Think to Pray?” He recorded a duet with Dolly Parton.
Pride's World Tour (05:34)
Pride was one of the first country music stars to tour internationally and he became popular overseas. He performed in Northern Ireland at a time when other artists avoided the country. He met road manager John Daines in England.
Revisiting Archives (03:40)
A plane carrying Pride was clipped by a Cessna 172 on Aug. 6, 1980, resulting in the deaths of two people in the other plane. The singer and keyboard player Danny Hutchins go through old singles and memorabilia they have collected over the years.
Pride's Legacy (08:25)
Pride performed for President Barack Obama. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry; he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and he was given a lifetime achievement award from the Grammy’s, among other accolades.
Credits: Charley Pride: I'm Just Me (00:55)
Credits: Charley Pride: I'm Just Me
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