53 Years Ago, Charley Pride Breaks the Country Color Barrier
Back on January 7, 1967, something very important happened in the country music industry. Singer Charley Pride became the first African American to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. The times they were a-changin'...
Born to poor sharecroppers in Mississippi, Pride was one of eleven children. Needless to say, times were hard. Charley taught himself to play the guitar. He unofficially started his music career while playing baseball with the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro American League. Pride entertained his teammates by singing on the team bus between games. He noticed(along with everyone else) that he had a knack for it.
After the season was over, Pride returned to Mississippi, but not before stopping in Nashville where he met his soon-to-be manager, Jack Johnson. Jack liked what he heard and promised Charley that he would soon have a recording contract. Jack followed through with his promise and introduced Pride to a record producer by the name of Cowboy Jack Clement. Thus beginning Charley Pride's assault on the Country Music Charts.
Charley Pride has had an outstanding career in Country Music with singles charting consistently from the mid-1960's thru the mid-1980's, with most of them hitting the Top 10 and many hitting the #1 spot. It appeared that race did not matter to the record-buying country music audience. And, really, isn't that the way it should be?
When I was a child, listening along to Mom's record player, one of my all-time favorite songs was(and still is)Charley Pride's, "Kiss An Angel Good Morning". Now, I didn't know who Charley Pride was and I didn't care. It didn't matter. What mattered was that voice. That voice singing those words. And as I got older and I discovered more about Charley Pride, I realized that this guy is a legend. And, as befitting Country Music Legends, Pride was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
But who's to say any of that would've happened if Charley Pride didn't blow the doors off the Grand Ole Opry on this day back in 1967. Here's to you and your amazing career, Charley!