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CMT Honors Charley Pride With All-Star Performances & A Look Back At His Extraordinary Story

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 25, 2021

A grateful Charley Pride once said that while most entertainers are lucky enough to have one signature song, he was fortunate to have many. The man who gave us “Just Between You and Me,” “All I Have to Offer You is Me,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Wonder Could I Live There Anymore?” and Kiss an Angel Good Morning,” had 52 Top 10 hits during a career that spanned more than five decades.

He was still performing in his mid-80s, until the pandemic forced an end to live shows last year. He passed away on December 12th from complications due to COVID-19.

While Charley was a country music legend, his legacy stretches beyond his contributions to music. His story is one of hard work, grit, and overcoming insurmountable odds – first to play professional baseball, then break racial barriers to become one of the greatest singers in country music. CMT shares that story, much of it in his own words through old film clips and archived interviews, in its new CMT Giants TV special.

“I feel like it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen on my father,” says Dion Pride.

Dion, and his mother, Charley’s widow, Rozene, worked closely with CMT for the show. They both shared their memories, and Dion, an artist in his own right, performed one of his dad’s songs.  

“We wanted to make sure this was done in a way we felt would represent my father and what he stood for,” Dion says. “CMT did a magnificent job.”

Fellow artists came together to honor both the man and the music. George Strait, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Gladys Knight, Luke Combs, Darius Rucker, Wynonna, and many others, gathered in Nashville to share warm recollections of Pride, then each perform one of his songs.

“The artists got to pick the song they wanted to sing,” explains Margaret Comeaux, Executive Producer and Vice President, Production at CMT. “When you look at a catalogue as massive as his, it’s hard to choose. These artists all had their own friendships with Charley and their own emotions, so the easiest thing was to let them speak from their heart and sing those words.”

The performances were shot in April at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater. While it’s an outdoor venue, live audiences hadn’t returned yet, so the stage was created to reflect a set, with Charley’s name front and center in a style reflective of the 1970s when he was at the peak of his career. Dion, was physically present, while Rozene watched every performance from her home in Texas via Zoom. Producers wanted to make sure Pride’s family was intimately involved.

“We had meetings with Rozene from the beginning where she talked about the things and people we needed to include,” says Comeaux. “And during the taping, one of our producers, Ellie Chandler, was on the phone with her the entire time. Ellie would tell her what was going on and who was coming up, and each one of the artists, before they walked on stage, walked over and talked to Rozene via Zoom.”

While the show highlights Charley’s music, it also shares his story, much of it from Charley himself. Producers went through hours and hours of archival footage, choosing the best clips to document his journey from growing up on a cotton farm in Mississippi, to deciding to pursue baseball and become a player for the Negro League, to eventually becoming a successful country singer in a genre that, at the time, had no other African-American singers. He was a trailblazer, but the road wasn’t easy. Still, despite some of the many challenges he faced, Charley never let the obstacles in front of him, or anything else, hold him back.

“With my dad, every day I got to see a walking, talking, living, breathing example of transcending race, creed, culture, all of that,” says Dion. “He did it with humility and class and that was my blueprint. I never had to go past my front door for a role model because my dad was an example of – if you put your nose to the grindstone, work hard, and treat people right, good things can happen.”

He hopes when people remember his father, they remember those things, along with the music.

CMT Giants: Charley Pride premieres tonight at 9pm EST/8pm Central.

“It’s an important story to tell and share over and over,” Comeaux says. “To be reminded that this man faced these odds and triumphed over that by sheer will. I know it’s a cliched phrase, but he was such a gentle giant. We can all learn so much from that.”

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