John Harrold pays tribute to country music star, Charley Pride, who passed away in December
The announcement on Saturday, December 12th, 2020, of the death of Charley Pride at the age of 86 was received with great sadness in the country music community in Ireland. He had been admitted to hospital in Dallas, Texas, in late November with Covid-19 type symptoms. Despite the incredible efforts, skill and care of his medical team over several weeks, he was unable to overcome the virus.
There was an outpouring of sadness across social media platforms from both his legion of Irish fans and the many Irish artists who had the privilege of working with him. This replicated the reaction in America to the sad news.
Charley Pride first came to Ireland at the height of the Troubles, playing concerts in Dublin and Belfast at a time when few, if any, international stars were performing in Belfast.
Charley’s voice and style immediately won him a legion of fans on both sides of the border (and on both sides of the divide in the North) and he became a regular visitor to stages both north and south. He released Crystal Chandeliers to coincide with the tour and this went on to become his biggest hit in Ireland.
Charley was born in Sledge, Mississippi, on March 18th, 1934, one of eleven children of Mack and Tessie Pride. His parents were sharecroppers and Charley picked cotton in the fields as a child.
Country music was part of life in the Pride household. Charley grew up listening to the music of Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams and their contemporaries. He saved up the money from his work in the cotton fields to buy his first guitar at the age of fourteen, a $10 model from a mail-order catalogue.
Listening to country radio, he taught himself to play the guitar. But Charley had his eye on a sports career and, at the age of sixteen, he signed to the Memphis Red Sox to play baseball on the Negro American League.
After a spell in the U.S. Army, Charley returned to his first love – baseball – rejoining the Red Sox as a pitcher. Over the next few years, he played for several teams. Charley moved to Montana where he found work in a smelter while still playing semi-pro baseball. He sang at local venues and gradually music began to take over as his priority.