Pride and Prejudice
Charley Pride: "No plans to retire."
By David Hennessy
Since he first hit the airwaves in 1966, the music of country singer Charley Pride has transcended race and the generations with his baritone voice, making him one of the most enduringly popular stars of the genre. A Grammy Award winner, Charley has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and had the honour of being the first African-American to become a member of Grand Ole Opry.
His hits include such familiar favourites as Kiss An Angel Good Morning, Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone?, I'm So Afraid of Losing You Again, Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town, Someone Loves You Honey, When I Stop Leaving I'll be Gone, Burgers and Fries, and You're So Good When You're Bad, to name just a few. On the label RCA, his sales are second only to the king, Elvis Presley.
Pride has been touring Ireland and the UK since the sixties and although his latest tour had been billed as his farewell, he told The Irish World he has no intention of stopping just yet: “No, I think that’s been embellished a long way. I don’t believe in final tours and that sort of thing. I’m going to carry on singing, I think I’m singing better now than I’ve ever been. I’ve no intention of giving up the road just yet.”
Charley spent two years in the army before launching a career in baseball. Injuries curtailed his sporting career but Charley would play guitar on the team bus as well as join various bands as the team toured the country. Now he is approaching 50 years in showbusiness, The Irish World asks can he believe the wild journey it has been? “If I choose to sit and ponder on it… It’s like people who say: ‘What’s the biggest thing, the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you?’ And there’s been so many, I might still be doing that. So many good things have happened to me like my Grammys, The Hollywood Walk of Fame, Grand Ole Opry Sound Member, Country Music Hall of Fame, it just keeps going and second only to Elvis Presley, I sold most records on RCA, it’s wonderful but I don’t sit and dwell on all that too much, I just do what I can do. It’s really strange, Merle (Haggard) got (Country Music Association) Entertainer of the Year and I said: ‘If I keep singing and that’s all (because I’d been nominated two or three times), maybe I’ll get it too’. But I’m not singing really to get Entertainer of the Year, it’s just if I keep doing what I’m doing and do a good job of it, it will happen so it’s that kind of thing.”
Charley has been impressed with many Irish country singers over the years but one in particular: “I’ve met a lot of them: Dominic Kirwan, Philomena Begley and Daniel O’Donnell, he’s really my buddy. There’s a place out in North Dakota where they write out who they want back there the most and I had it for a long time until Daniel O’Donnell came over there. He beat me up and I’m chicken now so it’s that kind of thing. We did a show together. It was wonderful, really wonderful.”
Fans who catch Charley on his current tour can expect a mixture of old and new material: “The way we structure our show is that the fans go away feeling as if they’ve heard everything I’ve ever done. Don’t ask me how we do it, that’s just the way it comes out so we’ll be doing the older songs and some from my new CD, Choices. They’ll be happy.”
Charley explains why his latest record Choices came almost eight years after his predecessor: “I didn’t realise it had been five years between what we call our regular releases so I was getting ready to release the album that I got out now called Choices when my wife said to me: ‘You got some good songs, why don’t you go back and maybe you can find something even better than you had so I went back to the well. We hope it won’t take another five years next time.”
The Irish World recently interviewed Lisa McHugh, the country singer who found fame on TG4’s Glor Tire. Would Charley consider a television talent show if he was starting out now: “I probably would try to do something like that, yes. When I was in the army, we had a contest and there was three of us: a group, me and another singer and the group won the contest but the officers had a dance after the contest was over and picked me to sing to the men. I’ve never forgotten that. I wonder where the group that won it are. They might be doing alright too. They didn’t have to go to basic training the next day.”
For the full interview, buy this week’s Irish World