Charley Frank Pride, a country music superstar, legend and trailblazer, passed away on Saturday, December 12, 2020 from complications related to COVID-19 at the age of 86 in Dallas, Texas.
Charley Pride was born to poor sharecroppers in Sledge, Mississippi on March 18, 1934 as the fourth of eleven children. At 14, he taught himself to play guitar on the first one his mother bought him, but he dreamed of playing baseball and thought it would be his way out. In 1952, he went on to pitch for the Memphis Red Sox and later pitched for several other minor league teams up until he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1956. He tried to continue playing baseball, but an injury prevented him from a full return.
Pride was encouraged to join the music scene by country music stars. He created some demo tapes in Nashville with manager Jack Johnson who later met with producer Jack Clement, leading to a Clement produced session at RCA Victor which inspired Chet Atkins to sign Charley Pride to a recording contract. The release of his third single, “Just Between You and Me,” reached number nine on the country charts and he was nominated for a Grammy the next year.
Charley Pride had 52 top-10 country music hits, became one of three African-American members of the Grand Ole Opry, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000, and became RCA’s top-selling country artist.
His most recent award acceptance was on November 11, 2020 in Nashville at the 54th Annual CMA Awards where he received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award and gave his final performance. Due to the timing and nature of his passing, The Country Music Association outlined it’s COVID-19 procedures during the event and released a statement saying that “Charley was tested” prior to the show, on show day and after leaving Nashville “with all tests coming back negative.” They also declined to comment further out of respect for the family.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to The Pride Scholarship at Jesuit College Preparatory School, St. Philips School and Community Center, The Food Bank, or the charity of your choice.