The Austin City Limits staff was disheartened to learn over the weekend of the death of trailblazing country music superstar Charley Pride at 86. He died due to complications from the novel coronavirus.
The Mississippi native, son of a sharecropper, was the first Black singer inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000, and one of only three Black members of the Grand Ole Opry. (The others are pioneer DeFord Bailey and current star Darius Rucker.) After a successful run as a pitcher and outfielder in minor league baseball, Pride was signed to RCA Records after company president Chet Atkins heard his demo tapes and signed him. Pride first hit with the 1966 top 10 country hit “Just Between You and Me,” which inaugurated a string of bestselling smashes (“Kiss An Angel Good Morning,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Don’t Fight the Feelings of Love,” so many more). Nearly a half-century on, it’s hard to believe that when his first few singles were sent to country radio, no photos were issued, and even harder to believe that some radio stations refused to play his records once his identity became known. Pride broke down barriers and was elevated to the level of stardom his talent deserved. When his career was in full flight, he could lay claim to 30 No. 1 hits on the country charts, and sold more than 25 millions records as RCA’s best-selling country artist. His final performance was on November 11 at the annual CMA Awards show where he received the well-deserved Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
Celebrated for his remarkable voice and as a gifted entertainer, Pride made his only appearance on Austin City Limits during Season 6 in 1981. Here he is singing one of hits from that year, the beautiful “Roll On Mississippi.”
Our hearts go out to his beloved wife Rozene and family.