I don't claim to be the world's greatest Charley Pride fan. I never have. But I've come to recognize and understand there was a reason he was known as 'The Pride Of Country Music'.

Charley first came to national attention in the mid to late 1960s and scored hit the first Number One hit in 1969 with All I Have To Offer You (Is Me). Now, truth-be-known I was a young teenager in those days and was more into the pop/rock hits of the day. I suppose the only time I really heard Charley Pride music as if I was riding along with my Dad and he had his country station on the radio. To be honest, I probably didn't pay much attention. It was in 1971 that Charley scored his signature hit Kiss An Angel Good Mornin' and I did notice that because it became what is called a 'crossover' hit. It was so big that it became a pop hit as well. So that's when I guess I was 'introduced' to this guy, this Charley Pride.

But I didn't begin to appreciate Charley Pride truly until I began this now nearly half-century-long radio career in 1974 in Winner, South Dakota. I remember playing We Could, Mississippi Cotton Pickin' Delta Town, and Then Who Am I, and my personal appreciation of this artist began.

I'm not going to list all the songs I've liked that Charley had. That would take up pages. Suffice to say the more hits he had and I played, the more my appreciation for a truly talented artist grew. And then when I delved further into his life, that appreciation bloomed into profound respect.

'Trailblazer' and 'Legend' are words that are thrown around much too casually. And yet, truly, Charley Pride was both. Much has been written, and rightly so, about the challenges Charley faced simply because of the color of his skin. You can read in detail about that elsewhere. Much more important is the content of his character. That is evidenced by the outpouring of condolences and messages I've seen from virtually every corner of Country Music and the music world in general. Of course, I'm sure Mr. Pride wasn't perfect. Who among us is? But I will say this: Through the decades I've never read a story about this man that was derogatory or even controversial. Married to his wife Rozene since 1956, Charley Prides life was the opposite of what many people might think of as a stereotypical country song.

No, I'm not the world's biggest Charley Pride fan. But I would say this: Charley Pride is one of the very, very few artists I've ever played on the radio in nearly 50 years, that...I knew I'd like the song. He never missed. Was every song I ever played by Charley Pride great? In my opinion, no. But every song, every single song I ever played by him was, at the very least, good.

I have my favorites and so do you. But go ahead and play them all. This artist was 'The Pride of Country Music' and always will be.

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