Charley Pride makes grand return
Art and Stage
Charley Pride returns to New Zealand this month for his first tour here in 17 years. He shouts at Vicki Anderson.
Charley Pride is yelling at me.
I've just asked, for the third time, where he is.
As opening gambits go it's lame but here we are, presumably on opposite sides of the world clutching our respective mobile devices, yelling at each other.
Each time I inquire as to his whereabouts he refers to me as "girl" although I've repeatedly shouted my name at him. He can't understand my accent.
From wherever the heck he is, he yells something unintelligible in reply.
The third time there's something steely in his tone - I don't ask where he is again.
One of the biggest selling country artists of all time, Pride returns to New Zealand this month for the first time in 17 years.
There's a new double album of greatest hits, 40 Years of Pride, to celebrate and he's riding that album release wave on tour around the country.
Of the 40 tracks featured across the double album, 30 were international country No 1 hits.
His greatest achievement?
"So many, I like them all," he booms in that distinctive, rich baritone.
"They are all just wonderful. The three Grammys, the Country Hall of Fame."
He has sold 70 million albums in his five-decade-long career. On RCA Records the 75-year-old is second in sales only to Elvis Presley.
I briefly wonder if he ever yelled at Elvis.
If so, I bet the King shook in those blue suede shoes.
Asking Pride questions is like firing thoughts into a wind tunnel and seeing what random words return to hit you in the face.
"The song I like to sing the most is the one I'm singing right now," he proclaims.
"Girl, let me explain something to you. I'm a very successful artist. The double album is all the different signature songs like Kiss An Angel Good Mornin', wrapped around other songs."
It's lunchtime. I'm hungry and imagine Pride's other signature songs like Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone, I'm Just Me and I Can't Believe That You've Stopped Loving Me wrapped around each other like a giant pita bread sandwich.
Mmm, pita bread.
I'm snapped out of my brief reverie by Pride yelling a reply to a question I have yet to ask.
"Girl, every show I give 110 per cent."
"110 per cent is what you get from Charley Pride when Charley Pride goes on stage."
One of 11 children, he was born in Sledge, Mississippi.
Just the second African American to have been inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, Pride is a big baseball fan, his dream was to become a professional baseball player but an injury prevented this. On one baseball team he was once traded for a vehicle. He supports the Texas Rangers.
He met his wife of 56 years, Rozene, at a baseball game.
In January 1966, Pride released his first single with RCA, The Snakes Crawl at Night under the name Country Charley Pride. Between 1969 and 1971, Pride had eight single records that simultaneously reached No 1 on the United States Country Hit Parade and also charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1971, he released his biggest hit and signature tune Kiss an Angel Good Mornin', a million- selling crossover hit.
During the rest of the 1970s and into the 1980s, Pride continued to rack up country music hits, mining those familiar country music themes of heartache and food - Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town, Burgers and Fries, Someone Loves You, Honey, When I Stop Leavin' (I'll Be Gone), I Don't Think She's in Love Anymore, Roll On Mississippi, Never Been So Loved (In All My Life) and You're So Good When You're Bad.
He parted ways with RCA in 1986.
I discovered only some of the above from talking to Pride.
His 1994 autobiography, co- written with Jim Henderson, in which he also revealed that he has battled with manic depression, proved an interesting source of information.
It also didn't yell at me from a mystery location.
There's apparently a film based on Pride's life and career produced by professional wrestler, Dwayne Johnson.
I repeatedly attempt to question Pride about it.
"One of the finest places ever with my fans was my first time in London," Pride yells.
"I'm asking about your film," I shout slowly and carefully.
"I'm always reaching out to my fans," Pride replies. "Touring is wonderful, it's my fans that keep me going. I'll keep performing as long as people want me to. They don't go to us so we have to go to them."
As another country great once sang - know when to hold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run. I'm none the wiser about the movie but if his shouting is anything to do go by, fans should take heart that Pride is still in excellent voice.
Charley Pride at CBS Canterbury Arena, November 29. Tickets $97 plus booking fee from Ticketek.co.nz
- © Fairfax NZ News