Member Since 1993
With 36 No. 1 hits and more than 25 million albums sold, Charley Pride has become a true country music legend. The journey, however, was not without its share of challenges.
Born to poor Mississippi sharecroppers, Charley was one of 11 children. At 14, he bought a guitar and taught himself to play. Unofficially starting his music career while playing baseball in the Negro American League with the Memphis Red Sox, Charley sang on the team bus between ballparks. After a tryout with the New York Mets, Charley returned home via Nashville where he was heard by manager Jack Johnson, who promised a recording contract would follow.
A year later, Charley returned to Nashville and was introduced to producer Cowboy Jack Clement, who asked him to cut a couple of new songs, including one that became his debut hit, “Snakes Crawl at Night.” During a public appearance in support of the single at a Detroit show, he stepped on stage to thunderous applause that soon turned to dead silence as the audience realized Charley was African American. Race, however, ultimately didn’t matter.
From 1966 to 1984, the overwhelming majority of his more than 50 singles reached the Top 10, with more than half hitting No. 1, including “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” (a pop-country crossover million-seller), “Mountain of Love,” and “Is Anybody Going to San Antone?” In 1971, he was named CMA Entertainer of the Year.
In 1993, 26 years after he first played the show as a guest, Charley joined the Grand Ole Opry. Remembering his initial dream of baseball stardom, Charley said, “It’s as if I had made it in baseball and they came up to me and took me to Cooperstown and said, ‘This is where your plaque is going to be—beside Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron ...’”
In 2000 Charley joined the ranks of another elite country music group when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
In 2005, Charley and his wife, Rozene, whom he met during his ball-playing days in Memphis, celebrated 50 years of marriage. The couple has two sons, Kraig and Dion, and a daughter, Angela. Currently living in Dallas, Charley spends much of his time at home with his grandchildren. He also keeps up his golf game and works out annually with the Texas Rangers during spring training.