Country Music Hall of Fame member Charley Pride, who will appear at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino on Friday night, said he misses his friends. The friends he is remembering are country music legends: Johnny Cash, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard, who died April 6.
"I knew Merle very well; we were really close," Pride said during a phone interview with the Sun Herald. "Merle was the first person to let me use his equipment -- the first night he did was in Detroit in front of about 10,000 people. I was as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof."
One of only three black members of the Grand Ole Opry, Pride is considered a pioneer for black artists in country music. But he said his struggle was not the fear of being accepted by his audienc
es, it was getting someone to let him play for them.
"My hard times was when promoters were reluctant to book me," he said. "I never had a hoot call in all of my years in the business; people didn't care if I was green or purple, they just liked that voice."
And what a voice. Pride ruled AM country radio in the early 1970s, with eight number-one hits from 1969 to 1971. In 1971, he also released "Kiss an Angel Good Morning," which became his signature song. It was a hit on both the country and pop radio charts.
Pride plays about 45 dates a year when he's not spending time at his home in Dallas and dealing with the affairs of the Texas Rangers, of which he is a part owner.
He still misses the people he came up with in country music.
"Merle inducted me into the Country Music Hall of Fame because I asked him to do it," Pride said. "To look back and see so many that have left that I started out with -- Tammy Wynette and George Jones and the list goes on and on; it's a hurting thing because I would love for them to be here, especially when you started out with them."