‘Best show on the road,’ and that’s not bragging, says country star Pride




From minor pro baseball player to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Charley Pride has had a fulfilling career. He brings his show to Medicine Hat tonight for the first time in 29 years. The Canalta Centre performance starts at 7 p.m. --SUBMITTED PHOTO

Stan Ashbee

For the Medicine Hat News

Country music Grammy Award-winner and Country Music Hall of Famer Charley Pride returns to Medicine Hat for the first time in 29 years with his six-piece band the Pridesmen tonight at 7 p.m. at Canalta Centre. Pride’s hits include “Kiss An Angel Good Morning,” “Mountain of Love” and “Kaw-Liga.”

Celebrating more than 50 years in country music, Pride has had more than 36 No. 1 hits. The legendary performer played baseball in the Negro and minor leagues and semi-pro before rising to music superstardom. He was a pitcher and outfielder for the Memphis Red Sox and he pitched against major league all-stars Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Being exposed to blues, gospel and country music growing up, Pride’s love of country music was fostered by his father, a sharecropper on a cotton farm in Mississippi, who tuned into the Grand Ole Opry radio broadcasts. In 1993, Pride was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, 26 years after he had first played there as a guest. He was 14 years when he purchased his first Sears Roebuck Silvertone guitar from a catalogue and learned to play by listening to songs on the radio, becoming country music’s first African-American superstar.

“The two guys that brought me up the first time I ever went to Canada were Bill Anderson and Faron Young and I’ve been coming ever since,” said Pride. Anderson and Young are also considered superstars of country music.

Pride said Canadian fans can expect the best show on the road with his current tour. “That’s not bragging — it will be the best show.” And many fans he has talked to on the road tend to say the same thing about his live performance. “The old adage is, ‘seeing is believing.’ And, I guess you have to hear it too,” he joked, adding fans have shared stories over the years of seeing the legend back in the day when Pride was touring around the same time as Elvis Presley and many fans have said Pride’s even better now than he was then.

“When I hear people talking about how good I still am and ‘you still got it’ and all that — as long as I keep hearing that, I’m definitely going to be playing another two to five years and it might be another 10,” he said.

The live country music scene is still vibrant, says Pride, as fans keep coming out to his shows. He noted his buddy Willie Nelson works all time out on the road, too.

“I gauge it by him and myself and different ones. Garth Brooks just sold out four shows in Dallas,” he said. It’s a testament to the live country music scene in 2015, Pride said.

Hollywood is currently in the process of getting a biopic film off the ground about Pride’s life. According to Pride, things fell through years ago for a movie version of the performer’s life, getting put on hold during a writer’s strike. Back then, stars such as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson were in negotiations to play the country troubadour. Terrence Howard, star of the hit TV show “Empire” is presently the frontrunner for the role.

“Most every movie that’s been done about a country artist — there’s been an Oscar that’s come from it,” said Pride, adding the movie would be similar to the life stories of Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles.

“I just mailed a contract back to the guy that’s kind of going to be involved with it. His name is Randy Jackson, he used to be on ‘American Idol,'” Pride noted, adding he’s looking forward to seeing the finished product someday soon.

A few years ago, Pride donated items from his life to become a part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Pride’s collection will be alongside those of Louis Armstrong, James Brown and Michael Jackson.

Pride said nowadays he’s still learning. “And, I’m still learning how to sing a little bit better.”

If fans come out tonight, Pride said, they are going to see a great show.

“Probably the best on the road — and that’s not bragging,” he joked.

Tickets, $55-$75 plus service charges, are available online at http://www.ticketmaster.ca, by phone at 1-855-985-5000 or at the Canalta Centre box office.