Charley Pride , in full Charley Frank Pride (born March 18, 1938, Sledge, Mississippi, U.S.), American country music singer who broke new ground in the 1960s by becoming the most successful African American star that the field had known to date and a significant next-generation standard bearer for the hard-core honky-tonk country music sound.
The son of poor, cotton-picking, sharecropping parents and one of 11 children, Pride was attracted in his youth both by Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts featuring the “King of Country Music” Roy Acuff and honky-tonk artists Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb and by baseball. He received his first guitar at age 14 but initially pursued a career as a pitcher and outfielder in the Negro American League—all the while singing country songs for teammates on bus trips. In 1960 he moved to west-central Montana, where he played minor-league and semiprofessional baseball and performed music in local nightclubs. After a disc jockey in Helena, Montana, introduced Pride to country stars Red Sovine and Red Foley, Pride pursued a publishing and recording contract in Nashville, inspired and encouraged by those two musicians (especially Sovine).
For as long as the genre had existed, there had been some African Americans who performed country songs; harmonica virtuoso DeFord Bailey, for instance, had been a feature of the Grand Ole Opry as early as the late 1920s and blues-oriented songsters such as Leadbelly and Mississippi John Hurt also sang country or country-flavoured repertoire. When Pride relocated to Nashville in the mid-1960s, however, there had never been an African American singing star in the field, and the music industry was far from certain there could ever be one. Some within the industry resisted the concept. After more than a year of fruitless efforts to establish himself as a country music singer, Pride finally received a recording contract—with RCA Victor—in 1965, with the backing of producer Jack Clement, who had worked with country music legend Johnny Cash and rockabilly