Charley Pride Is Still Making Wise ‘Choices’ With a New Album and the Texas Rangers
It has been over 40 years since Charley Pride broke onto the country music scene, where he would set bars and break records as the first African American country music singer to ever be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. His career record, 'Kiss an Angel Good Mornin,'' remained at No. 1 for five weeks and scored Pride countless accolades, including the CMA's prestigious Entertainer of the Year award in 1971. That same year, he also picked up a CMA for Top Male Vocalist, which he won again the following year.
Earlier this year, Pride released his latest album, titled 'Choices.' The new music is the first studio album from Pride in five years. Taste of Country recently sat down with the singing legend to discuss the new music, newcomers in the country music industry and why he's rooting extra hard these days for Major League Baseball team the Texas Rangers.
Why did you feel that now was the time to get back into the studio to work on new music after five years?
The thing is that we really didn’t want to wait that long, it just happened that way. When I was with RCA, we used to put an album out every six months [laughs]! We used to go in with a 16-track and do it in one or two takes and you got it. What you hear on all my older stuff that I sold, some of those were done in one take. That’s the way we were doing it then. What happened here was that we had gotten another one ready. I have a group of people that I run songs by. They’ll like this song or that song. I let them hear it to see if this one’s good enough. It started with my wife. She thought that I could get some better songs. Once we went in and finished all the 13 songs that are on the ‘Choices’ album, it took about a year and a half the way we were doing it. I didn’t even realize it’s been that long. We were just trying to get the best songs we could get after we already went in. We thought we could do better "choices" … I guess that’s why they called it ‘Choices’ [laughs].
We noticed a few familiar names of songwriters you've worked with in the past on this new album.
That’s the thing. You try to go and find the best writers. I’m doing the same thing I was doing 40 years ago: looking for good writers and good songs. I sell feelings and emotions. I listen to the songs and the lyrics, and I think about what I can sell the best. It’s a philosophy of trying to get the best material and do the best of what you’ve been doing for all these years.
One of the co-writers on ‘I Miss My Home’ is your youngest son, Dion. Do your three children have the music bug?
I never tried to push them, but they all sing. I’ve had my daughter come onstage and do some songs. In fact, she did ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’ at my wife and my 50th anniversary. Some people didn’t even know that she sang. She just knocked them out. My youngest son is getting the bug now. My oldest son sings reggae, and I didn’t even know that he liked reggae.
And Dion is opening shows for you on the road now?
Yeah, he is. My son is very talented. People always ask, "Why isn’t there any more of y’all in this business?" They bring up Darius Rucker, and I say, "Yes, I’ve met him and he’s a very nice fellow, and he’s fine singer and a nice guy." But the thing is, I’m traditional. He came from Hootie and the Blowfish. He’s getting the airplay now that I still think I should be getting. Nothing against him -- it’s the industry. When people ask why isn’t there any more, I say maybe they don’t want any more. I’ve got my brother and my son who are fantastic singers. I say go ask the industry why they don’t want any more in there.
Talk about the first single from the album, 'Except for You.'
'Except for You' was written by the guy who wrote my biggest single, 'Kiss an Angel Good Mornin.'' I just love the song. It’s very beautiful and it says what I like for it to say. I’ll always think I could’ve done a better job on the song, but that’s the one that I wanted it [for the first single]. I like songs that say what I would like to project to my fans and sing all the best I can.
What has the fan feedback been on the new music so far?
The first time I did these songs, I did ‘America the Great.’ I didn’t realize we were going to get that kind of response. It was a standing ovation from 12,000 people at a festival outside of Tampa. I didn’t realize I’d get that reaction. I said, "Here’s a song that’s the first cut on the album, and you might want to pick one up here." We didn’t take but 120-130 CDs with us. I said, "If you like it, we do have about 100 of them there." They went like hotcakes!
You reconnected with Clint Black during that festival, as well.
I didn’t even realize that Clint Black was watching the show. He came up after I got finished with the show and told me how he liked the show and everything. When he started his career, I remember Neal McCoy was opening my show. I met him in Atlanta. We were all doing interviews like we’re doing now, but with radio stations, and there he was. I asked him, do you remember where we first met? He did remember. He said, "Yeah, you had Neal McCoy with you." I said, "That’s correct!" A lot of artists don’t remember much, but I usually remember the very first time I meet somebody, especially one of my peers and fellow singers.
Do you keep up with current country music and the newer artists on the rise at all?
I am going to be honest with you. I mostly listen to Sirius radio that plays the people I started out with like Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves, Waylon Jennings and all of those guys. They play my music and the others that came up with me. They play me sometimes on various stations, but not that much. Not only do I listen to hear myself and feel good about hearing myself on the radio, but they play all of us from the '60s through the '80s. That covers me and all the rest of my peers. I listen to the other stations, but some of them I don’t listen to enough to distinguish who it is. The ones who are doing well like Jason Aldean, I can distinguish who they are, but it's hard for me to do it because I don’t listen as much as I do with Sirius radio.
What new artists in country music today do you think has the potential to have a long and promising career like you certainly have had?
I’m sure there’s a number of them. I did a show with a kid named Chris Young when he was just starting out. He got a very good response. We were on a cruise together. He was the youngest on it. It was Jeannie Seely, myself, Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelius … we were all on that cruise together. I watched his performance, and he did a fine job.
Tell us about your involvement with the Texas Rangers.
[Last year] I was in the Ireland and Dublin area, and I got this phone call from my booking agent and my friend who I’ve been friends with for about 30 years. He said, "You got a call from Nolan Ryan … he’s trying to put together a group to buy the Texas Rangers. Would you be interested in being in that group?" [laughs]. I said, "I do believe I would be!" It all started that way. Of course we went through a lot of bidders, but yes, I’m a part of it now. Who would have ever thought we would be in the World Series?
Watch Charley Pride Perform 'Kiss an Angel Good Mornin''