Johnny Cash is an icon. In his nearly fifty years in the music business, he broke many barriers. Without him, we wouldn’t have The Highwaymen. In fact, Cash is largely responsible for the rise of Kris Kristofferson. Most people know that, though. The Man in Black left this world in 2003 but his influence hasn’t faded. He continues to inspire and enthrall those who love country music as well as those who don’t.
Most country music fans know about the big things that Johnny Cash did. However, did you know that he was largely responsible for the rise of Charley Pride? That’s right, the Cash had a hand in Charley Pride’s career.
Johnny Cash Convinces Charley Pride to be a Country Singer
Johnny Cash mentioned his early interaction with Charley Pride in a 1971 interview. Cash was wandering around Chicago and ran into Pride and they spoke. In that conversation, he all but convinced Charley to pursue a career in country music. Cash told him that if he felt the music in his heart, that’s all that mattered. If he had that, he could make it in the country music business despite his race. About that, he said, “If people know it comes from the heart, no matter how prejudiced they are, they’ll invite you home to a chicken dinner.”
Charley Pride ended up being one of the most ground-breaking artists in country music history. He was the first Black country singer to step on stage at the Grand Ole Opry. He was the second Black man to play the Opry. The first was blues legend, DeFord Bailey. Today, Pride is looked back on as an icon and a hero to young Black country artists. For instance, Jimmie Allen and Darius Rucker both cite Pride as a big inspiration for their current careers.
We can’t say that Johnny Cash was solely responsible for Charley Pride’s career. He wasn’t as instrumental in Pride’s success as he was in, say, Kristofferson’s. However, that piece of advice had to mean something. When a legend gives you advice, you definitely listen, if you’re smart. Charley Pride was obviously smart. So, that talk with Cash probably stayed in the back of his mind over the years.
We can say that Johnny Cash was correct. Racial tensions were high when Charley Pride was at his height. However, he managed to chart several songs and even had thirty singles reach the number-one spot. When it came down to it, audiences loved his music. That’s what made the difference.
If you’ve never listened to any of Charley Pride’s music, a good place to start is “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’.” It’s a sweet love song and good life advice all rolled into one.