Remembering Charley Pride

July 14, 2022   ·   0 Comments

I was watching the six o’clock news on December 12, 2020 and was deeply saddened when they announced that Charley Pride had passed away at the age of 86 from Covid-19 complications. 

My parents worshipped Charley Pride. He was special. He was very down to earth and came from a very humble background. He was also gifted athletically, having played professional baseball in the old American Negro Leagues before finally deciding he wanted to be a country singer. He was a class act all around.

Every time Charley Pride came out with a new album, my Dad bought it the moment he saw it on the shelves of our local stores. He brought it home immediately and he and Mom listened to it right away.

The moment Dad got home and brought the new album through our door, all activity stopped in our house. Mom would come in and sit on the couch, and Dad would turn on our Admiral floor console stereo and get the record set up to play. When it was ready, he closed the lid on the stereo and went over and sat on the couch with Mom and waited for the songs to begin. 

And then they held hands together on the couch and listened to the album, both sides, all the way through to the very end. 

While this was happening, I would be about ten years old at the time and silently playing on the floor around the stereo with my toys. I knew I had to be quiet while Charley Pride sang. It was a special moment for my parents. When the album was completely finished Dad shut the stereo off and our home returned to its normal activity. And every time Charley Pride brought out a new album, my parents would pick it up as soon as they saw it, bring it home, and immediately listen to it. 

Fast forward to the early 1990’s, and Charley Pride was performing one night only on a Saturday in June at an arena in a small town in central Ontario. My parents had bought me a ticket as a birthday gift. 

My brother was working weekend day shifts in the city at the same place I worked at and when he got off work at 7:30 p.m. we drove north from my house with the intent to meet our parents and sit together at the arena. But we got there just in time to miss the warmup band and see the beginning of Charley Pride’s show so we quickly found a spot to watch the concert from and just settled in. 

And Charley did not disappoint. He then began singing one hit after another, including ‘Kiss an Angel Good morning’, ‘Kaw-Liga’, and many others. His baritone voice sounded just like it did on the records he made twenty years ago!           

And then he sang one of his signature songs and a personal favourite of mine: ‘Crystal Chandelier’. 

As he stood in the spotlight singing that song to the darkness of the rest of the arena suddenly I was ten years old again, playing silently on the floor with my toys while my parents were sitting on the couch holding hands as they listened to Charley Pride’s baritone voice booming out of our old Admiral console stereo. Tears came to my eyes as he sang that song to the enraptured crowd. I hadn’t expected it to be such a powerful memory. But it was. Sometimes what become the most powerful memories of your life are the ones you don’t even realize are happening at the time they occur. 

As a kid I didn’t realize it, but I understand it now: listening to those albums together was a special bonding moment for my Mom and Dad. It made their marriage stronger and consequently made for some wonderful family memories.    

I’ve always had a soft spot for Charley Pride and I always will. He will always have a special place in the hearts of our family.

Rest in peace, Charley. 

You will be missed.       

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