It has been an incredible career for Charley Pride. He could do an entire show without including every one of his 39 No. 1 country hits, and he was the best-selling artist on RCA since Elvis Presley. Now 76, he still performs often to huge, appreciative audiences. We caught up with him at the Texas Rangers’ spring training camp in Surprise, Ariz. He became a part owner of the team nearly 50 years after he placed his own dreams of becoming a Major League pitcher on hold to pursue music. Naturally, we started with baseball.
Q: So, Charley, what do you think of the Rangers’ chances in 2014?
Charley: I was talking to third base coach Gary Pettis. I said, ‘If everything falls into place, chances are we can get the job done.’ Gary said, ‘But everything ain’t gonna fall into place. That’s how it goes.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. We got us a real good team. If we catch us a few good breaks, we can get it done and go all the way.’ All the guys, our major leaguers and minor leaguers, they all want me to sing to ’em like little kids. I’m happy to do it.
How did you come to be part of the Rangers’ ownership?
Three or four years back, I was in Ireland, and I heard that (then team president) Nolan Ryan was trying to get ’hold of me. He said he was trying to get a group together to buy the Rangers. In the ownership group, we have two billionaires ... and the rest of us little fellas.
As a former pitcher, what’s it like to sit down with Nolan Ryan?
I feel like I’m sitting beside a king. But he’s a nice guy. I love him. I was sorry when he left the Rangers’ organization last year.
Have you performed on cruises before?
I have. My wife, Rozelle, loves them. I can’t swim, and I look at all that water and I get a little nervous sometimes, but I love meeting the fans one-on-one. I don’t get a chance to do that very often.
How did you find out you were being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame?
It was a big surprise! The Hall of Fame had just moved from Music Row to downtown. They asked me to come do a little spiel on the old Hall of Fame. Bud Wendell, who had headed up the Opry for years, was there because he was chairman of the Hall of Fame. He was announcing that Faron Young was being inducted. I was just standing beside Brenda Lee, and I said, ‘Brenda, they didn’t give me a little cheat sheet with some ideas of what to say.’ She said, ‘Oh, you can do it. Just say a few words about how great the new building is.’ Then she stands up and says, ‘He bought his first guitar when he was 14. He was born in Sledge, Mississippi ... ’ And then it dawned it me: I was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. My booking agent, my wife, my kids, my grandkids, they all knew. I never could have kept something like that to myself. Man, I just started crying.
One of our partners on the cruise is the Grand Ole Opry. Can you say a few words about what the Opry means to you?
Back when I started, we used to do package shows. Me and a whole bunch of Artists. No one does that any more. It’s just me and maybe an opening act. The Opry is like those old package shows I used to enjoy so much. I get a chance to visit with everyone. Sing a little cowboy music with Riders in the Sky, sing a little bluegrass backstage with Del McCoury. I’ve only been a member since 1993. People say they didn’t invite me because of my skin color, but I had an open invitation since I first appeared on Jan. 1, 1967, when Ernest Tubb introduced me. It’s just that back then, you had to commit to appear on 26 Saturdays a year, and Saturday was always our best night on the road. It was my wife who said the time was right, and now I appear every chance I get.
Can the fans expect a new album from you by the time we see you in 2015?
Right now, I’m scouring Nashville for songs. I got someone looking on my behalf. I produced my last three albums, and I thought I done a pretty good job, but this time they want to get someone else to produce me. Hey, maybe it’s time to try someone else! -- March 31, 2014, Story by Colin Escott
See Charley Pride perform on The Country Music Cruise 2015! To book the cruise or for more information, call 888.816.7973 or 585.653.8746
Passionate about music and passionate about cruising. Put 'em together and I'm in heaven -- you can catch up with me on a themed cruise and, especially, on an Entertainment Cruise!