Charley Pride will receive the Country Music Association's 2020 Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award on Wednesday, and fans could not be more pleased. Pride has had a long and illustrious career in the music industry and has inspired many of today's top artists. Here is what you need to know about Pride before he is honored at the 2020 CMA Awards on Wednesday night.
Now 86 years old, Pride was born in Mississippi in 1934. He was one of 11 children in a family of sharecroppers, struggling to escape poverty. Pride himself learned to play guitar at the age of 14 and began his music career in earnest in 1952. He would go on to be an acclaimed singer, and a businessman in the industry as well. Over the course of his career, Pride had 52 songs in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, 30 of which reached number one.
Though he is best known as a musician, Pride long harbored dreams of being a professional baseball player, which is how he met his wife. In 1952, he was a pitcher for the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League, and it was during that season that he met Rozene Cohran. Pride and Cohran married in 1956, at which time Pride was on leave from basic training in the U.S. Army.
After bouncing around the baseball world for several years, Pride left the sport behind when he was drafted into the army. He was discharged in 1958, though an injury left him unable to return to minor league baseball. Instead, he worked construction and other odd jobs while he began taking his music career more seriously.
Pride was encouraged to pursue music by country stars like Red Sovine and Red Foley and began heeding their advice after leaving the army. He played in clubs in Montana, where he moved to accept a construction job, and soon found recognition for his single "The Snakes Crawl at Night." Now getting attention in the Nashville music scene, Pride's next hits included "Before I Met You" and "Just Between You and Me."
As he rose steadily to fame, Pride and Cohran had three children — sons Kraig and Dion, and daughter Angela. The whole family resides in Texas, and Kraig now goes by the name Carlton, performing music with his own band, Carlton Pride and Zion. The group works on a mix of reggae, funk and soul music.
There is no doubt that Pride deserves the lifetime achievement award he is getting this weekend, from his years working steadily in the industry in spite of the ups and downs of discrimination and segregation. More details on Pride's story are available in his auto-biography Pride: The Charley Pride Story. To see him accept his award, tune in to the 2020 CMAs at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.