He’s been here so many times, it’s a wonder he’s doesn’t have a street named after him by now.
Country legend Charley Pride is coming back to St. John’s to perform at Mile One Centre Thursday, May 12.
“I like playing there,” Pride said in a phone interview. “I try to give the fans the best I can give them and they seem like they like it, and I guess that’s why they keep coming back.”
Pride, who lives in Texas, is touring in support of his latest album, “Choices,” and choices are exactly what fans will get on the diverse CD.
Pride had an album all ready to go about a year ago, but pulled it back at the last minute.
“We said, ‘Why don’t we try to find some even better songs?’ I went back to the well, you might say, with songwriters that I’d been working with a lot — people like Ted Harris, who wrote ‘Crystal Chandelier’ and Ben Peters, who wrote ‘Kiss an Angel Good Morning,’” Pride explained. “We already felt we had good songs, but we combined them with new ones until we thought we had a good CD.
“We ended up with enough to do two CDs, so there were some hard choices.”
The album features 13 new recordings, written by people like Harris, Peters and Richie McDonald, formerly of Lonestar. The CD’s first track, “America the Great,” was co-penned by Canadian Larry Mercey.
If you were a Charley Pride fan when he started his career, more than 40 years ago, you’ll likely still be one, since he doesn’t stray from his traditional style on the CD, with even his voice remaining relatively unchanged from years ago.
“I’m a traditional country singer and I’m in the business of selling lyrics, feelings and emotions and I’ve been trying to do that for over 40 years,” Pride said, joking that he’s only “plenty-nine” years old.
“If you don’t like plenty-nine, how about 29? How about 49? Sixty-nine? I ain’t giving you any more nines,” the 73-year-old said with a laugh.
Pride has had 36 No. 1 singles since the mid-60s, and has gone gold with 31 and platinum with four albums. He’s won multiple Grammies, Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year and Top Male Vocalist awards, his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Pride is also the first and only African-American member of the Grand Ole Opry.
A movie about Pride’s life has been in the works for a couple of years, first set to be produced by Paramount Pictures with “Hustle and Flow” actor and Oscar nominee Terrance Howard cast as the singer.
However, it was announced earlier this week that former WWE wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will play Pride in the film, which will reportedly now be produced by Sony ATV Music Publishing and a group of people including Pride’s manager and “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson. No release date has been set for the film.
“Terrence is no doubt a more in-depth actor academically, but Dwayne is such a force on screen,” Pride reportedly told Variety magazine.
He actually began his career not in music but in sports, as a baseball player with the Negro America League’s Memphis Red Sox in the late 1950s.
His music life started after a tryout with the New York Mets, when a two-song demo Pride had recorded made its way to RCA Records head Chet Atkins.
“When I saw Jackie Robinson going to the majors, I said, ‘My goodness, here’s a way for me to get out of these cotton fields,’” Pride said.
“Back then, we had about 16 clubs in the major leagues, and now they’ve got about 30. If you weren’t in the majors by the time you were 18 to 25, they just marked you off. Back then, you had to hit at least .260 or better to go to the majors. I’m not using that as an excuse, but that slowed me down and stopped me from being what I wanted to be.
“After a while, I said, ‘Maybe if I just keep working hard, I can go buy my own club and put myself on the roster.”
That’s what Pride eventually did, recently becoming a part-owner of Major League Baseball’s Texas Rangers. Though he considers himself “too far up the hill” to join the roster, he did participate in spring training with the team in Arizona.
“I was out there from Feb. 15 to March 15, and I’ve never felt better. It’s been a long time that I’ve felt as good as in spring training, even though I’m older,” Pride said.
“It was just about being out there, working and being around those young fellows, watching them do what I used to do and doing some of the things that I can still do at this age.”
Tickets for Pride’s Thursday night show at Mile One are $55.50 and $62.50, including tax, plus surcharge, and are available at the Mile One Centre box office, by calling 576-7657 or 1-800-361-4595, or online at www.admission.com.
Pride said fans who’ve seen him perform live in the past can expect an even better show this time around.
“It’s possible, and it will be. You never stop learning,” he said, adding he’ll be doing his signature tunes, past hits and songs from the new CD.