Blacks in Country Music

Who was the first black singer with the Grand Ole Opry?

In 1967 Charley Pride (1939–), singer and guitarist, became the first black singer with the Grand Ole Opry. His interest at first was in baseball, and at age sixteen he left his home state of Mississippi to seek employment with the now-defunct Negro American Baseball League. He was a pitcher-outfielder with the Memphis Red Sox, later played with the Birmingham Black Barons, and in 1961 played in the majors with the Los Angeles Angels. Opry star Red Foley heard Pride sing country music in 1963 and encouraged him to go to Nashville, where he charmed RCA Records and entered the country music field. The white audience at his first major concert in 1967 did not know his race until he appeared on stage. His recording “Just Between Me and You” launched him into super-stardom and made him a number-one country music attraction. In 1971 Pride was the first black named Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year in the field of country music.

Pride became the first black American voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, located in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2000. He and singer Faron Young were the seventy-third and seventy-fourth members to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Thirty-fourth Annual Country Music Association Awards. Their selection was the result of the votes of about 350 CMA members. During Pride’s extraordinary career, he had twenty-nine country hits, representing the first major success by a black American in commercial country music. During the awards program Pride performed “Kiss An Angel Good Morning,” “Crystal Chandelier,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” and “KawLiga.” Pride was honored again, on May 14, 2001, when the Country Music Hall of Fame held its first official event at its new facility in Nashville; he received a medallion commemorating his induction into the hall in the previous year.

Charley Pride was the first black country singer to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.


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