Pride and prejudice

Karla Hayward
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Charley Pride talks about music, fate and stereotypes

He may be blessed (or perhaps cursed) with being called "The Pride of Country Music," but Charley Pride is no arrogant celebrity. He remains humble and modest in an "aw-shucks" sort of way, even after a lifetime of accolades and awards.

One of the most successful country artists of all time, Pride's had more than 35 No. 1 hits. It's often said that he is second only to Elvis Presley in sales on RCA Records worldwide. He's the familiar voice behind songs like "Kiss an Angel Good Morning," "Someone Loves You Honey" and "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger."

Country legend Charley Pride plays Mile One Centre Saturday night. Submitted photo

He may be blessed (or perhaps cursed) with being called "The Pride of Country Music," but Charley Pride is no arrogant celebrity. He remains humble and modest in an "aw-shucks" sort of way, even after a lifetime of accolades and awards.

One of the most successful country artists of all time, Pride's had more than 35 No. 1 hits. It's often said that he is second only to Elvis Presley in sales on RCA Records worldwide. He's the familiar voice behind songs like "Kiss an Angel Good Morning," "Someone Loves You Honey" and "Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger."

Pride began making music almost without thought. "I just listened to the radio and I ordered me a guitar from Sears Roebuck and started messing around with it. We all sang and I just got hooked on it and started singing," he says.

Strangely, a career in music wasn't what he was after. Pride wanted to be a professional baseball player. Fate, very obviously, had other plans for him. Nowadays, he makes due with watching his beloved game whenever he can in between shows; especially his favourite Texas Rangers. In fact, he says, "I've been going to spring training now with the Rangers for 34 years."

Pride is asked all too often about his experience as the lone black face on the country scene in years past.

"I don't get mad or tired. I understand why it's done. What I've done is I've found 900 different ways to explain it. For example, when people say, 'Charley, how's it feel to be the first black country singer,' or 'Charley, how's it feel to be the first African American country singer,' I say, it feels just like it did when I was coloured. That's the quickest way to get into saying that I'm Charley Pride the American."

He jokes that he brushes off any remaining stereotypes by "just being myself, by being the genuine article - a traditional country music singer who was born with a permanent tan."

Pride and his wife are deeply involved in their community. They frequently give to charity, most recently providing scholarships to students after hurricane Katrina.

"We don't advertise it that way, but the list we have is mighty long. We've been putting kids through college for years. My wife's a big believer in education."

At 69, Pride has no intention of giving up the tour-life or even slowing down.

"My wife, she gives the best answer to that question. 'You've heard of George Burns and Bob Hope,' she says. 'Put my husband in that category - people like them, they don't retire they just die.'"

In fact, many say his voice has only improved with age.

"I guess so! My fans, a lot of them tell me that. I'm more confident than I was in the beginning. The voice was always there, but I've learned to use it better."

As a special guest for his Newfoundland show, Pride's son Dion will be the opening act. He promises an awesome show for everyone who buys a ticket.

"The best show that they've probably ever seen. My fans will leave feeling that they've heard everything I've ever done. Don't ask me how we do it, but that's what we try to do. They will be thoroughly entertained and they will leave happy."

Pride performs at Mile One Centre, Saturday at 7 p.m.

Tickets are available by phone at 576-7657 or www.mileonecentre.com

telyarts@yahoo.com

Organizations: Texas Rangers, RCA Records, Good Morning

Geographic location: Country Music, Newfoundland

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