Fans of classic country will be thrilled that one of the ‘legends’ is making a Red Deer stop May 23rd. Celebrating over 50 years in country music, Charley Pride plays the Centrium with showtime at 2 p.m.
The Country Music Hall of Famer and Grammy winner has a catalogue of chart-topping songs including Kiss An Angel Good Morning, Mountain of Love, Crystal Chandelier and Kaw-Liga to mention a few of his more than 36 number one hits.
This past month, Pride was honoured with the release of Neal McCoy’s Pride: A Tribute to Charley Pride: Deluxe Edition.
The project is a 13-cut CD that pays tribute to McCoy’s mentor. In the early 80s, Pride gave McCoy the opportunity to open his shows, earning the young singer his own record deal and subsequently a series of hit singles.
As Pride told McCoy all those years ago, “If you put on a great show and be nice to people, you’ll last a long time in this business.
“I like the good job he did on them,” explains Pride of McCoy’s CD. “He’s a very fine young man; he’s very talented,” he adds, pointing out that McCoy actually opened for Pride for some six years of touring.
These days, Pride is excited about hitting the road again, and delights in putting together a show that reflects his storied career. His latest CD, Choices, was released in 2011.
It marked his first new studio album since 2006’s Pride & Joy: A Gospel Music Collection. He’s currently lining up tunes for his next project, which will include collaboration with Randy Jackson of American Idol fame. “He wants to do an album, and I’d like to as well – we’d also like it to coincide it with the movie that we are trying to get done.”
Production on a biopic of Pride was initially announced back in the mid-2000s, and was set to be a done deal by 2008 with the title role going to Terrence Howard. But Howard eventually moved onto other things, and then there were talks with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to play Pride. “I met Howard and everything was set to go, but there was a writers’ strike in Hollywood,” he recalls. The project has essentially been stuck in production limbo since.
Pride would love to see it move forward, noting other similar films about singers tend to find audiences and garner plenty of critical acclaim – Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles received all kinds of accolades in Walk the Line and Ray respectively, as did Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in Coalminer’s Daughter.
“Lots of them have gotten Academy Awards out of it,” he laughs. But aside from the stalled project, Pride remains brightly optimistic, as he seems to about much of life.
“We’re trying to recoup everything and get things going again – and do whatever it takes to get the movie done.”
But at the end of the day, it’s mainly about the music.
And Pride, 77, couldn’t be happier about how things are going in that department – he’s about to head over to Britain for a string of shows before coming to Canada. “My fans say my voice sounds better than it ever did,” he says with unmistakable gratitude. He recalls hearing Billy Daniels sing That Old Black Magic when he was 65. “I remember thinking, wow that voice is just booming. I thought if when I’m 65 and my voice is like that, I’ll be a blessed man.
“Here I am, some years later, and people are saying my voice is better than it used to be,” he chuckles, adding that he quit smoking and drinking years ago which has likely helped.
He remembers being in Hawaii having a smoke and it felt like something was sawing on his throat. “I thought, why am I doing this – this is the way I make my living.”
Pride’s longevity as an artist speaks to his ability to connect to his audiences. His shows have a laid-back, relaxed feel. And he’s never wavered from what he does best – classic, traditional country.
Born to poor sharecroppers, one of 11 kids in Sledge, Mississippi, Pride has been described as ‘a timeless everyman.’ He’s had a continual presence in music for decades, and to date, he’s sold some 70 million records. Pride also released his autobiography, Pride: The Charley Pride Story in 1994.
Interestingly, music wasn’t what he initially had his sights set on for a career. Baseball was an early passion, but his natural gift as a singer would surface from time to time during those years as well.
He unofficially launched his music career in the late 1950s as a ballplayer singing and playing guitar on the team bus between ballparks. After a tryout with the New York Mets, Pride decided to return to his Montana home via Nashville. It proved a key moment in his life’s direction, as it was there he met Jack Johnson. Upon hearing the singer perform, Johnson promised a management contract.
A year later, Pride returned to Nashville and was introduced to producer Jack Clement.
When Clement heard Pride’s renditions of a handful of songs, he asked Pride to cut two songs in two hours. Pride agreed and The Snakes Crawl at Night and Atlantic Coastal Line were recorded.
Three months later, Pride’s demo landed in the hands of RCA Records head Chet Atkins who signed him to the label. Pride’s first single hit the airwaves in early 1966. Before long, The Snakes Crawl at Night was climbing the charts with Before I Met You close behind.
Meanwhile, dozens of his chart toppers now stand as modern classics. Kiss An Angel Good Morning went on to be a million-selling crossover single and helped Pride land Country Music Association Awards as Entertainer of the Year in 1971 and Top Male Vocalist in 1971 and 1972. Besides being a five-week country No. 1 in late 1971 and early 1972, the song was also his only pop Top 40 hit, hitting No. 21, and reaching the Top Ten of the Adult Contemporary charts as well, according to Wikipedia.
He laughs, recalling various folks asking him if he was ever going to ‘cross over’ to the pop side. Pride is proud to be primarily a traditional country singer, and points out that the concept of crossing over wasn’t on his radar with his success on the pop charts as it was, referring to Kiss an Angel Good Morning.
Through it all, Pride has kept a level head about his success. And there’s always that sense of gratitude that shines through at every turn. When discussing his life, he reflects on times when things haven’t gone his way. But his perspective has remained decidedly positive.
“I could go on about things – there were times I could have cried and moaned. But I said well, it’s not going to put me in the soup line.”
For tickets, call 1-855-985-5000 or visit www.ticketmaster.ca.