Charley Frank Pride was born in Sledge, Mississippi on March 18, 1938. His parents were Mack Pride and Tessie B. Stewart. As a child he grew up picking cotton on a small farm outside town. Life wasn’t easy and he was part of a big family. He remembered being told “You’re so skinny, you ain’t going to be nothing.” That only drove Pride to do more. ‘It’s a challenge when people tell you that you can’t do something, but what is it that isn’t attainable? It started to build in me, but I was given incentive by my Dad, Mack Pride Sr., who always says ‘if you’re going to do it, get it done.’ So I had to prove I was something after hearing people keep saying that.”
On December 28, 1956, he married Rozene Cohran and they have three children named Dion, Angela, and Kraig. Growing up Charley Pride listened to country music and the Grand Ole Opry with his father. At 14, he purchased his first guitar from the Sear’s and Roebuck catalogue and taught himself how to play listening to songs from the radio.
At the age of 16, Pride began to be recognized as a talented baseball player. In 1954 Charley signed with the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League. As a pitcher, he earned a position on the Negro American League All-Star Team and played against legends Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. He also continued to play and sing even though he was doing well with baseball.
In late 1956 Charley Pride was drafted by the U.S. Military and reported to Fort Chaffee. While there, he met his wife whom he married. Upon being discharged in early 1958, he rejoined the Memphis Red Sox. In 1960, Pride moved to Montana to play for the Missoula Timber jacks in the Pioneer League and worked as a smelter in a mining company. While doing this, he performed in nightclubs and bars around the Helena, Montana area. After failing to make the New York Mets, which were having try outs in Florida, he stopped in Nashville, Tennessee where he drew the attention of several producers. Chet Atkins signed him to RCA Records in1966. Charley Pride quickly became Country Music’s first African American superstar. Between 1967 and 1987, he had over 50 Top-10 Country hits and sold millions of records. In 1971, Pride won two Grammy Awards. Other honors included Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award and Top Male Vocalist awards of 1971 and 1972. After years with RCA Charley Pride left them for Opryland Music Group in the late 1980s.
In 1993, he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Seven years later in 2000, Pride was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Charley Pride has even performed for presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama in the White House.
Charley Pride was awarded a marker on the Mississippi Country Music Trail at Sledge in 2011. A portion of Highway 3 was also renamed after him as Quitman County and Mississippi remembered one of their music legends.
Some of his biggest hits include ‘Mississippi Cotton Pickn’ Delta Town,’ ‘Roll on Mississippi, ‘Mountain of Love,’ and ‘Kiss an Angel Good Morning.”
Charley Pride continues to tour around the country performing. Check for dates and more information at the website below:
“The Daily Oklahoman” Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Saturday, March 26, 1988 – Page 16.
“Asheville Citizen-Time” Asheville, NC. Sunday, March 29, 1970 – Page 53