Black History Month — Moon Mullins Salutes Black Country Singers [Video]
We begin with the most successful black country singer ever: Charley Pride.
Even though Wikipedia says it was 1966, my recollection is Charley Pride’s first single, The Snakes Crawl at Night was a 1965 release. At that timke, I was a d.j. at KLLL, Lubbock, Texas. I moved to Kansas City in March of 1966 and I remember clearly playing the RCA Victor tune at KLLL and not knowing Charley was black.
At the beginning, RCA kept Charley’s race a secret, apparently fearing a racial backlash.
I can’t speak for radio folks everywhere but at KLLL, owner-GM Sky Corbin didn’t care what he looked like, only what he sounded like. And, he sounded COUNTRY and Great!
Pride, who was “Country” Charley Pride at first has an extensive biography that you can look up — all the way from playing professional baseball to being part owner of today’s Texas Rangers — with a little music career in between.
Charley has been one of the most successful country artists of all time let alone a black country artist.
What is kind of funny to me was when he appeared on an internationally syndicated radio show I hosted out of Nashville in the early 90’s. Rozene, his wife since 1956, brought him to the studio. And, I don’t know what it was but Charley didn’t act sober. In fact, he seemed downright drunk to me. I was quite worried as they came into sit down and get ready for the live broadcast.
“Charley”, Rozine said to her husband, “It’s time to straighten up and fly right”.
Immediately, he became clear headed and totally lucid. We had a great 90 minutes on the air and as soon as the show ended he went right back into whatever funk he was in. In his biography, Charley admitted to suffering from manic depression, so maybe he had a reaction to medicine. Whatever it was, Rozine was a stronger influence.