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Charley Pride

Charley Frank Pride was the fourth of eleven children born to sharecroppers Tessie and Fowler McArthur Pride in Sledge, Mississippi on March 18, 1938. Pride’s father named him Charl, but the midwife wrote Charley on his birth certificate and the name stuck. It was from the family’s Philco radio that Pride learned to love country music. He picked cotton alongside his parents as a young boy and saved enough money to buy a Silverstone guitar from Sears and Roebuck. Though Pride loved to sing, it was baseball that lured him first. Pride ended his schooling at the eleventh grade when his parents gave their permission for him to leave home to play baseball in 1953.

By 1954, Pride was signed with the Memphis Red Socks, a Negro League baseball team. He went on to play for a number of teams including the Louisville Clippers and the Birmingham Black Barons. Two years later, he was drafted and married his sweetheart, Rozene, while in the U.S. Army. They settled in Montana where Pride found steady work and also played semi-pro baseball. However, he never quite made the grade for the major leagues. After a final tryout for the New York Mets, Pride returned home to Nashville, Tennessee. He met Jack Johnson who heard his music and sent him home with the promise that he would land him a management contract. A year later, Pride returned to Nashville where he was introduced to Jack Clements, who had him record two songs that landed in the hands of RCA Records executive Chet Atkins. Pride was signed to his record label.

Pride’s first single record hit the airwaves in 1966. He had his first number one hit, “All I Have To Offer You (Is Me)”, on the Cash Box Country Singles Chart in 1969. Over three decades, Pride has remained one of the top twenty best-selling country artists of all-time. His incredible legacy includes: thirty-one gold and four platinum albums; one which has reached quadruple platinum (The Best of Charley Pride). Pride is second in sales for RCA Records only to Elvis Presley.

In 1994, Pride published his autobiography, Pride: The Charley Pride Story.
On May 1, 1993, Pride accepted the invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. This made him the first African American inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. In 1994, Pride received the Academy of Country Music’s Pioneer Award; The Trumpet Award for Outstanding African American Achievement in 1996 and was the headliner for a special Christmas performance at the White House for former President Clinton and Mrs. Clinton.

Pride lives in Dallas with Rozene, his wife of 50 years. They have raised two sons and a daughter.

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Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category
First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season

Christmas, Summer


Kleberg Foundation



Favorite Quote

I'm Just A Guy.

Bio Photo
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Interview Description
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Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Mexican Food

Short Description

Country singer Charley Pride (1938 - ) had thirty-one gold and four platinum albums, including one which reached quadruple platinum status. Pride was second in sales for RCA Records only to Elvis Presley, and was the first African American inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.


Memphis Red Sox

RCA Records

Texas First Bank

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charley Pride's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charley Pride lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charley Pride describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charley Pride remembers lessons from his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charley Pride describes his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charley Pride talks about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charley Pride describes his chores

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charley Pride lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charley Pride remembers his early interest in music

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Charley Pride remembers meeting Vicki Vola

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charley Pride remembers meeting Vicky Vola and Elvis Presley

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charley Pride describes his exposure to country music in Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charley Pride recalls his decision to sing country music

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charley Pride remembers a lesson from his father

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charley Pride talks about playing baseball as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charley Pride recalls his start as a professional baseball player

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charley Pride describes his baseball career

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charley Pride recalls securing a release from his baseball contract, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charley Pride recalls securing a release from his baseball contract, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charley Pride remembers his audition for the Sun Record Company

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charley Pride talks about playing baseball in Montana

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charley Pride recalls his move to Helena, Montana

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charley Pride remembers singing at nightclubs in Helena, Montana

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charley Pride recalls trying out for the New York Mets

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charley Pride remembers signing a contract with RCA Records

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charley Pride talks about racism in the country music industry

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charley Pride recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charley Pride recalls his experiences of discrimination during performances

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charley Pride remember a concert at an officer's club in Germany

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charley Pride talks about his first hit song

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charley Pride talks about his success as a country music singer

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charley Pride remembers meeting Faron Young

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charley Pride talks about Faron Young

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charley Pride describes his business ventures, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charley Pride describes his business ventures, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charley Pride reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charley Pride reflects upon the music industry

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charley Pride talks about his favorite musical artists

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Charley Pride describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Charley Pride talks about his plans for the future

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Charley Pride reflects upon his career

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Charley Pride narrates his photographs







Charley Pride recalls his decision to sing country music
Charley Pride recalls his start as a professional baseball player
It was really the type of music that you enjoyed?$$That's right.$$So that's why you stuck with country music (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) That's right. I stuck with it because I've always been a character. I've always been an individual. I, I, I never wanted anyone to tell me what you can't do. I don't like the word period anyway, can't. I don't like can't, hate, jealousy. So certain words I don't like. So, so don't come tell me, "You can't do that." That's what I was told. And I'd go (yodels). "You can't do that." I said, "Why not?" "That's not your music." I said, "Why not?" Things like that. "You can't do that." I said, "Now, there you go. Telling me what I can't do."$$What age were you when you got to that point to realize that you were singing (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) As soon as my dad [Mack Pride, Sr.] pushed me off his knee. Soon as my dad pushed me off his knee because he was--that's the one thing I give him credit for giving me the grit to be and believe in yourself and be good at whatever you do and don't let nobody put you down or--see, for example, if someone call you a name or something or say--like for example, I've called--been called names. I've been called just like anybody else, but I reached a point, I said, "Well, wait a minute. Why is this person trying to put me down?" So, I go to the mirror and I look and I say, "Well, I ain't the best looking, but I ain't the ugliest either." If you're gonna go that route, you know, about who, who's handsome, who's (unclear), who's this. I said, "Well, somebody told me I sing pretty good." So, I'm looking at--I started looking at my attributes. Pretty good ballplayer I was, too. So, I said, "What's this person? Maybe they might be a little jealous of me or something." Time to put my (unclear). I'm not putting him down or him or her or whatever. So, that's the attitude I took from very small. So once I--once I listen to the songs that I listen to and found out I could sing 'em just like anybody else. Now, I can--see, I--they say well--people would come up and say, "Well, why country music? A voice like yours, you could sing anything you want to sing." I said, "Well, I don't know whether that's so, but I can sing anything I want to sing, but I'll tell you this. I believe that I can do justice to the basic three things--the basic three musics of America." I said, "I think the three basic music in America is country, gospel and the blues. Not necessarily in that order, but they've all borrowed from one another. So, maybe it's possible that you might be just looking at the epitome of American music and listening to it, too." His voice as my voice you hear. "Well, yeah. Yeah, well." I said, "Well, I think being in the business, I should have my opinion, too, shouldn't I?" "Well, but it's just that I--." "Well."$$So, you're six, seven and you're singing--$$Um-hm.$$--and listening to gospel music?$$Um-hm.$So, now you're finished with school at sixteen and decide (simultaneous)--?$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, I, I did, but I went back and they let me come back. (Laughter) I was tenth grade and they let me come back to finish the fif- the eleventh. I finished eleventh grade.$$Okay. Okay.$$I had signed with the Yank- Yankees [New York Yankees]. My mother [Tessie Stewart Pride] and father [Mack Pride, Sr.] had to sign 'cause I was too young. I signed with the Yankees in '53 [1953] and I hurt my arm and all of that's--.$$Well, tell us about it.$$Well, they sent me to Rio Vista, California. I was going to--I just wanted--looked too good at first and I'd pulled something in the back of my shoulder and I--they sent me to Boise, Idaho. I got four hundred dollars bonus and what I did, I got the four hundred dollar bonus. I bought me a forty dollar suit and a forty dollar ring, and gave all the rest to my mom and dad 'cause I didn't--you know, I'm single. I mean, I remember doing that, you know. And so I finished spring training in Rio Vista out from Sacramento [California] and then they sent me to Boise, Idaho. I stayed there, and you see, that's, that's when they had--that's when the, the teams had from--they had from D [Class D] all the way up to Triple A clubs, which they don't quite have that way now. So this was class C [Class C] that I--that I was sent to in Boise. Then my arm, like I told you, I hurt it in Lodi, California in spring training when I went to Rio Vista.$$What year is this?$$Nineteen fifty-three [1953].$$Fifty-three [1953]. Okay.$$Yeah. And I was about three years old then [sic.]. Well, I may--I might have been a little older. See, baseball players are not never the age they are. Well back then, you played under those rules. So anyway--so they send me down to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and I didn't do to well. So they sent me back home. Back to Sledge [Mississippi], and I get back to Sledge and I still want to play baseball. Ah, the Negro League (snaps fingers), ah.$$So what year did you start playing in the Negro League?$$Nineteen fifty-three [1953].$$Fifty-three [1953].$$So, I come back to them, see. What I did--well, I'm gonna back up. First of all, I came up to join the Red Sox [Memphis Red Sox] and I didn't make it and the team took us to--this is--I, I, I jumped to--I jumped ahead.$$Right. That's okay.$$I jumped ahead. When I first went to Memphis [Tennessee], I went to try out with the Red Sox and I didn't make it with them, but a guy took a team to, to Iowa in Iowa State. In fact--in fact, it was Andy Williams' hometown of Wall Lake, Iowa. All, all black team. We were all colored then. We were colored then 'cause see, the reason why I say it like that, Denise [Denise Gines], is that even now, especially our people, you know them--and I think this can sum up whatever reason I like to put this in because I get asked so much in all these years. Says, "How does it feel to be the Jackie Robinson of country music" or "How does it feel to be the first colored country singer?" "How does it feel to be first Negro country singer?" "How does it feel to be the first black country singer?" "How does it feel to be the first Afro-American country singer?" I say, "Well, I feel the same way when I was colored. I don't feel no different." So, so when went up there to Iowa, it was an all colored team that went there to play in that league. Now, we (unclear) percentage and it was beautiful. In that Iowa--when we got to Iowa, the day--all day long the sun shining beautifully, but it seemed like every night (makes sound) she just rained. So if we don't play, we don't get no money to eat. And that's where--and this is all in my, I have an autobiography ['Pride: The Charley Pride Story,' Charley Pride and Jim Henderson]. It's all in my autobiography about how I pull up weeds and eating the bottom of weeds and the roots.$$That's how you (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, I'll tell it. It was a guy--in fact, the guy [Jim Henderson] that helped write my book, he, he looked up. It's in my book. I forget the name of the fellow that he called--he's a popcorn king and earned a lot of money. He took the team over and then start giving us money to eat 'til the rain stopped. (Laughter) Now, so once we--once we--the rain stopped and we started playing, we didn't win. So what they did--when I say they, the team and fellow and all--they went back to Memphis and raided the Memphis Red Sox pitching staff where I--where I had gone to try to make and didn't make--didn't make it before this guy took up there. So what happens, when they come raided the team, they needed pitchers. So I come back, now I join them. I got a job and I stayed in that league until I went to--you know, with all of my experience and everything 'til I got--I got all the way. I got--I made it all the way to the Los Angeles Angels, so.