If you were to ask country music fans who they believed to be the Top 20 bestselling country artists of all time, the list would likely contain a mix of new and old artists. While Garth Brooks hold the title of the best-selling country artist of the Soundscan era (post-1991), a consistent entry on those lists would be the legendary Charley Pride.
In terms of total album sales for the former RCA record label, only Elvis Presley has sold more records than Pride. Pride has a remarkable 36 No. 1 hits and has sold more than 70 million albums worldwide in the time since his 1966 debut single “The Snakes Crawl At Night.” Though the song didn’t immediately propel Pride to stardom, it was his song “Just Between You And Me” that would start his ascent toward bonafide country superstardom.
In fact, out of the 54 singles that Pride released between 1966 and 1984, only three failed to crack the Top Ten. Pride became an inductee of the Grand Ole Opry in 1993 and was subsequently inducted into the prestigious Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
Not bad for a guy who didn’t initially set out to be a country music artist. Baseball was Pride’s game. Before venturing into music, Pride dreamed of a career in the major leagues. A member of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Pride played for the Memphis Red Sox and the Birmingham Black Barons in the years between 1953 and 1958.
After an injury permanently sidelined his athletic aspirations, Pride turned to music after reportedly singing for Red Foley and Red Sovine at one of the latter’s concerts.
The rest, as they say, is history.
At 75 years of age, Pride is still a major player in the country music game. He maintains a tour schedule of approximately 45 shows a year. His show at Casino New Brunswick this week is one of a dozen that Pride is performing in Canada.
“I have been coming to perform in Canada since 1968,” Charley tells the Times & Transcript. “I’m so very lucky to have acquired so many great Canadian fans over the years. I’ve got a great thing going — they like my singing and I like to sing for them.”
It is not just North American fans that are fortunate enough to play host to Charley Pride. Charley says that the past year has seen him travel to England, Scotland, Ireland while also going Down Under to Australia and New Zealand.
“I have been playing Australia and New Zealand since 1972. When I first travelled there, I did a tour called ‘Travelling with Charley Pride’ and ended up selling more than a quarter million records to a population of perhaps 13 million people. By the time I left, some people were saying that every household in Australia most likely had a Charley Pride record in it.
“Having the opportunity to travel abroad, through the United States and Canada, I feel like we have won the lottery,” Charley says.
In light of the box office success of Walk The Line and Ray, biopics of Johnny Cash and Ray Charles, respectively, it should be little surprise that Charley’s story is destined for the silver screen as well. In 2011, it had been announced that a film chronicling his life was underway, set to star popular actor Dwayne Johnson in the role of Pride.
Charley says that a corporate restructure of Paramount Pictures has placed the film on the backburner for the time being, although he is optimistic that the wheels will start turning on the project again before too long.
“The movie was originally set to star Terrence Howard, however, after the writers’ strike of 2007-2008, everything went kaput so to speak,” Charley says. “Paramount was restructured and the new head of the studio just didn’t have his mind on this type of movie as being a recipe for success.
“We’re still trying to get the movie off the ground. We’ve got a lot to say; I think it will be wonderful once we can get the wheels turning and have the script completed. There are so many potential scenes that could be used in the film. I would have loved to have baseball pan out for me. I had no idea that I would make a career out of country music. I was more intent on breaking baseball records but people always told me I could sing well. I always thought it would have been quite an accomplishment to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and be in the Country Music Hall of Fame, as well.”
Article published in the May 8, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript
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