Charley Pride has no intentions of riding off into the sunset any time soon.
As long as fans continue to come out and he can keep putting on a good show, the 76-year-old country music icon has no plans of slowing down.
“They keep coming to see me and I figure we have a love affair. I love them and they love me,” Pride said in a telephone interview from Dallas. “As long as I’m healthy and I’m not cheating the people out of any enjoyment I’m going to keep on singing for them.”
It is that love affair that brings Pride to the stage at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium on May 28 during a stop on his current cross-Canada tour. Throughout his career, Pride has performed in all 10 Canadian provinces, making his first trip north of the 49th parallel in 1968.
He says he is “very blessed” to still be alive and able to perform, and looks at departed fellow stars such as Waylon Jennings, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, and George Jones as motivation to continue his career and spurn any thoughts of retirement.
Even with all of his musical success, including being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and being made a member of the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, when he was younger he thought his claim to fame would be on the baseball diamond.
Born in 1938, Pride became enamoured with the sport, thanks in large part to one of the most inspirational figures of the 20th century. Like many other African-American youths at the time, he saw Jackie Robinson break the colour barrier and was inspired follow that path.
Pride pitched his way through the Negro leagues and earned a professional contract with the New York Yankees organization before injuries and the Army derailed his major league dreams.
That’s when it came time to embark on his singing journey. When he first started chasing his music dreams, the Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry were not even considerations. Pride says he was happy to just start with a recording contract.
He found success, building a career that counts 29 No. 1 singles on the Billboard country charts.
When asked about how some of his hits, such as “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” have become timeless classics, Pride recalls a conversation with late producer and artist Jack Clement.
He remembers Clement telling him that people would be listening to those hits 50 years later, a prediction that is holding true.
The advice on how to create those legacy hits still holds water, as proven through the more than 70 million records Pride has sold worldwide.
“You don’t go and take those big records and signature singles and throw a bunch of hoopyloos around the songs. You’d like for all of them to be singles but that’s something that’s pretty unreasonable to ask,” Pride said.
“If you have an A song, you try to make it AA. If it’s AA, you make it AAA. If it’s AAA you make it a No. 1 and that sort of thing to put on that album. The best song you can find to put around those signature songs.”
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