DALLAS, TX (CelebrityAccess) — Charley Pride, the trailblazing recording artist and Country Music Hall of Famer, died on Saturday in Dallas. He was 86.
A statement posted to his website said that he died from complications of COVID-19.
The son of Mississippi sharecroppers, Pride shattered barriers in country music, selling millions of records over the course of a career that spanned 60 years and becoming the first black artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Although Pride taught himself to play guitar at age 14, learning on an instrument his mother gave him as a gift, music wasn’t Pride’s first career choice. Instead, he tried to follow his older brother into professional baseball, signing as a pitcher for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League when he was 18.
He went on to play for a series of Negro and Minor league teams but his career aspirations were sidelined, first by a 14-month stint in the U.S. Army after he was drafted in 1956, and then by an injury to his arm that impacted his pitching.
After he was laid off by the Missoula Timberjacks in 1960, Pride worked a series of jobs, including construction and a lead smelter in Helene, Montana while keeping his music prospects alive as a sideline.
In 1965, RCA Victor’s Chet Atkins signed Pride to a recording contract after hearing a demo and released his first charting single “Just Between You and Me” the following year.
Pride went on to record more than 30 #1 country hits, including, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” “Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town,” and “Missin’ You,” and 52 top ten singles, cementing his place as RCA Records best selling country artist.
While he found success as a recording artist, Pride battled manic depression and in 1989, he entered a psychiatric facility to seek treatment for his illness.
“Manic depression can be a nightmare. I was probably hesitant to accept the fact that I was afflicted by it because it smacked of mental disease or emotional disorder or something just as horrible. It is neither of those. It is a medical condition like diabetes or any other malady over which the mind has no control,” he wrote in his 1994 autobiography Pride: The Charley Pride Story.
Pride boasted an impressive collection of industry accolades, including Grammy Awards, 4 CMA Awards, including Entertainer of the Year in 1971, 3 ACM Awards, and he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to The Pride Scholarship at Jesuit College Preparatory School, St. Philips School and Community Center, The Food Bank, or the charity of your choice.