CHARLEY PRIDE-DID YOU THINK TO PRAY/A SUNSHINE LOVE/SONGS OF LOVE/ SWEET COUNTRY.

CHARLEY PRIDE-DID YOU THINK TO PRAY/A SUNSHINE LOVE/SONGS OF LOVE/ SWEET COUNTRY.

Growing up, in Sledge, Mississippi, Charley Pride had two loves. The first was baseball, the other was music. Music however, was just a hobby for Charley Pride. His mother bought him a guitar in 1950, when Charley was just fourteen. Soon, he had taught himself to play the guitar. He was a natural. Still, Charley Pride’s dream was to make a living out of baseball. 

By 1952, Charley Pride was pitching for the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro American League. Things went well for Charley Pride, and in 1953 he signed for the Boise Yankees. They were a Class C farm team of the legendary New York Yankees. Charley was one step closer to achieving his dream. Then injury interrupted his nascent career.

The injury resulted in a loss of form for Charley Pride, and he was sent to the New York Yankees’ Class D team, Fond du Lac, in Wisconsin. This was a setback for Charley. 

Towards the end of the season Charley found himself playing for the Louisville Clippers. Charley’s career seemed to have stalled, and now was on the slide. It was then that Charley and and another player were traded to the Birmingham Black Barons for a team bus. That all but ended Charley’s hopes and dreams of becoming a pro ball player.

He spent another couple seasons in the minor leagues. Charley even got to play three games for the Missoula Timberjacks, the Cincinnati Reds farm team. However, when he was let go by the Missoula Timberjacks Charley ended up working in construction in Helena, Montana. 

Soon, Charley had been signed by a semi-pro team the East Helena Smelterites. Initially, he was paid $10 a game. However, Charley was a crowd puller, so he was paid a bonus of $10. This augmented his weekly pay. So did the money Charley was making from playing with The Night Hawks and as a solo artist.

Before long, Charley was playing around the local area. He was even playing at company picnics and before the Helena Smelterites’ games. Charley was making a good living. Especially if he arranged his shifts so that nights were free for when he played the local live circuit. However, working at the smelter was hot and dangerous work, and Charley once broke his ankle. Other times he suffered burns. Despite this, Charley kept this up until 1967, when his musical career began in earnest.

With Charley needing to fly all over the country, he needed to live near an airport. So Great Falls, Montana became the Pride family home in 1967, before they moved to Texas, the Lone Star Stare, in 1969.

By 1969, Charley Pride had released seven albums. His debut Country was released in April 1966 and reached number sixteen in the US Billboard Country charts. This was enough for Country to be certified gold. Despite this, his first two singles The Snakes Crawl at Night and Before I Met You failed to chart. Then Just Between You and Me reached number nine in the US Billboard Country charts. For Charley Pride this was the start of a long and successful career. However, at one point it looked like Charley’s debut album had been a one-off.

When The Pride of Country Music was released in June 1967, it failed to replicate the success of Country. The Pride of Country Music reached number thirty-three in the US Billboard Country charts. At least the two singles Just Between You and Me and I Know reached number nine and six on the US Billboard Country charts. That was a small crumb of comfort for Charley Pride. However, in December 1967, Charley Pride bounced back.

Just before Christmas 1967, Charley Pride released his third album The Country Way. Not only did it reach number one on the US Billboard Country charts, but reached number 199 in the US Billboard 200. Charley Pride’s music it seemed, was already reaching a much wider audience. Things got even better for Charley when he enjoyed his second gold disc. That wasn’t the end of the commercial success.

The two singles released from The Country Way, Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger and The Day the World Stood Still reached number four on the US Billboard Country charts. Some of the veterans of country music scene forecast that Charley Pride was set to become one of the biggest names in country music.

1968 was a busy year for Charley Pride. he released another two albums. Make Mine Country was released in April 1968, and reached number four on the on the US Billboard Country charts. ThenSongs of Pride…Charley That Is was released in September 1968, and reached number six on the US Billboard Country charts. It featured the biggest single of Charley Pride’s career, The Easy Part’s Over which reached number two in US Billboard Country charts. For Charley, 1968 had been the most successful year of his career, until 1969.

During 1969, Charley Pride could do no wrong. Charley Pride in Person was released in January 1969, reaching number two in the US Billboard Country charts, and number sixty-two in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in another gold disc for Charley Pride. Then when The Sensational Charley Pride was released in May 1969, it number two in the US Billboard Country charts, and number forty-four in the US Billboard 200. Again, the album was certified gold. By June 1969, RCA Victor were ready to release The Best of Charley Pride. It reached number one in the US Billboard Country charts, and number twenty-four in the US Billboard 200. The Best of Charley Pride, which  was certified gold in America and platinum in Canada, was Charley’s most successful album. What helped was it featured a number one single.

All I Have to Offer You (Is Me) featured on The Best of Charley Pride. It was released as a single, and reached number one in the US Billboard Country charts, and number ninety-one in the US Billboard 100. Later, in 1969, Charley enjoyed a second number one single, when (I’m So) Afraid of Losing You Again was released, and also reached seventy-four in the US Billboard 100. (I’m So) Afraid of Losing You Again would feature on Charley’s next album Just Plain Charley. However, by then, Charley Pride had just enjoyed the most successful year of his career. Surely it couldn’t get any better?

It did. As the seventies dawned, Charley Pride was about to begin the hottest streak of his career. Just Plain Charley was released in January 1970; reaching number one on the US Billboard Country charts and twenty-two on the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Charley’s sixth gold disc. Later in 1970, six became seven.

When Charley Pride’s 10th Album was released in June 1970; it reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts and thirty on the US Billboard 200. Charley was presented with his seventh gold disc. As if things couldn’t get any better, Is Anybody Goin’ To San Antone reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts and seventy on the US Billboard 200. However, this wasn’t the only number single Charley enjoyed during 1970.

From Me To You was released in December 1970, and became Charley Pride’s third album of the year. It reached number two on the US Billboard Country charts and forty-two on the US Billboard 200. This resulted in gold disc number eight for Charley Pride. Then when the Bill Rice penned Wonder Could I Live There Anymore was released as a single, it reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts and eighty-seven on the US Billboard 100. Lightning struck twice when I Can’t Believe That You’ve Stopped Loving Me reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts and seventy-one on the US Billboard 100. For Charley Pride the success he was enjoying was beyond his wildest dreams. Just a few years ago, he had been working in a smelter. Now he was one of the biggest names in country music. What would 1971 hold for Charley Pride?

June 1971 saw Charley Pride release I’m Just Me. It marked a return to number one on the US Billboard Country charts and fifty on the US Billboard 200. This time, there was no gold disc for Charley. However, I’d Rather Love You reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts and seventy-nine on the US Billboard 100. I’d Rather Love You gave Charley his seventh number one single. Soon, the number would rise to eight.

Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs was released in October 1970, the album reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts and thirty-eight on the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Charley receiving his eighth gold disc. Then when Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’ was released as a single it reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts and number twenty-one on the US Billboard 100. Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’ was Charley Pride’s eight number one single. By then, Charley Pride was one of RCA Victor’s most successful artists. However, it was then that Charley Pride through a curveball, and decided to record Do You Think To Pray, a country gospel album.

Did You Think To Pray is one of four albums released on two discs by BGO Records. The others are a trio of country albums A Sunshine Love, Songs Of Love and Sweet Country. These albums feature Charley Pride during the most successful period of his career. The next part of story begins with Did You Think To Pray, which was released in late 1971.

Did You Think To Pray.

Just like many country artists who had preceded Charley Pride, he wanted to record a country gospel album. Johnny Cash, Hank Snow and Roy Acuff had all recorded a country gospel album Now it was Charley Pride’s turn.

This was the music Charley Pride had grown up listening to in Sledge, Mississippi. In a way, it was Charley Pride going back to his roots. So he chose ten tracks that he would cover and record with producer Jack Clement at RCA’s Nashville Sound Studio.

Among the tracks Charley chose, were Did You Think To Pray, Angel Band, Whispering Hope and The Church In The Wildwood. Other tracks included Arthur Brumley’s I’ll Fly Away; Ann J. Morton’s Time Out For Jesus; Ben Peter’s Let Me Live; Lassaye Holmes’ This Highway Leads To Glory and Curtis Stewart’s Lord, Build Me A Cabin In Glory. These tracks were recorded in Nashville, the capital of country music.

A crack band of session players were assembled by producer Jack Clement, at RCA’s Nashville Sound Studio. Joining the session were The Jordanaires, who added backing vocals on This Highway Leads To Glory. This was a controversial move. 

Charley Pride was the second biggest selling artist on RCA Victor. The biggest selling artist was Elvis Pressley. What would The King make of The Jordanaires appearing on the opposition’s album? Eventually, the featured on a couple of tracks on Did You Think To Pray. Just like previous sessions, the album was recorded quickly, and Did You Think To Pray was scheduled for release in late 1971.

Deep down, some executives at RCA Victor must have been worried, Charley Pride was one of the biggest names in country music. Here he was deviating from what was a successful formula. Releasing a country gospel album could alienate some record buyers. That was the least of their worries. Before that, critics had their say.

They like what they heard, and wrote approving, positive reviews. This was no surprise given the quality of music on Did You Think To Pray.

Seamlessly, Charley Pride made the switch from country to gospel on Did You Think To Pray. Tracks like Did You Think To Pray, Angel Band, Let Me Live, Whispering Hope and This Highway Leads To Glory showcased Charley Pride’s versatility.

His vocal veers between heartfelt and sincere to almost laid-back as sometimes, the album heads in the direction of bluegrass gospel. Other times, Charley Pride reinvents traditional tracks, bringing them into the twentieth century. Charley Pride’s first gospel album looked like being an unqualified success.

When Did You Think To Pray was released in late 1971, the album reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts and number seventy-six on the US Billboard 200. This meant another gold disc for Charley Pride. Executives at RCA Victor who had been worried by Charley’s gospel album were able to relax. The only disappointment was when Let Me Live stalled at number twenty-one on the US Billboard Country charts and stopped short of reaching the the US Billboard 100, at number 104. However, normal service would be resumed when Charley returned to country music. Before that, Charley released another compilation.

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The Best of Charley Pride Volume 2 was released in early 1972. It reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts and number fifty on the US Billboard 200. This was another gold disc for Charley Pride’s collection. Would his next studio album A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride prove as popular?

A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride.

It wasn’t until June 1972, that Charley Pride returned with his   next album, A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride. A lot had happened since then. 

Charley Pride had won two Grammy Awards. The first came when the single Let Me Live won Best Gospel Performance. Then Did You Think To Pray won the Grammy Award for Best Sacred Performance. Buoyed by winning two Grammy Awards, Charley Pride began to think about his next album.

For what became A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride, Charley Pride chose ten tracks. They were all cover versions. Charley didn’t write much of his material. So he was reliant on other people’s songs. 

This included Ben Peters who wrote Sunshiny Day and It’s Gonna Take A Little Bit Longer. Two Al Urban songs, When The Trains Come In and You’re Wanting Me To Stop Loving You were chosen. So were two songs from the songwriting team of A. L. Doodle Owens and Hal Bynum. Their contributions were She’s Helping Me Get Over You and One More Year. Other tracks included Richard Jarvis’ Back To The Country Roads; Gene Ash’s Put Back My Ring On Your Hand; Johnny Duncan’s Nothin’ Left But Leavin’ and Rev. Roland W. Davis’ Seven Years With A Wonderful Woman. These songs would become A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride.

Again, Jack Clement produced at A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride RCA’s Nashville Sound Studio. With a tight, talented band accompanying Charley, the recording went smoothly, and before long, RCA Victor were getting ready to release A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride.

Before that, reviews of A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride were published. The album received positive reviews, with critics complimenting Charley Pride on his choice of material. Much of it seemed tailor made for him. He had relied on tried and trusted songwriters. Ben Peters’ Sunshiny Day whetted the listener’s appetite for the rest of the album. 

Al Urban’s You’re Wanting Me To Stop Loving You featured a soul-baring performance; while Put Back My Ring On Your Hand featured a needy hopeful vocal from Charley Pride. Then on Ben Peters’ other contribution, It’s Gonna Take A Little Bit Longer Charley’s vocal veers between wistful to hopeful. The highlight of A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride, was the celebratory sound of Seven Years With A Wonderful Woman which came from the pen of Rev. Roland W. Davis. Then She’s Helping Me Get Over You features an emotive performance. Closing A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride was Charley’s reading of Nothin’ Left But Leavin’. He sounds as if he’s lived and survived the lyrics. Given the quality of the songs on A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride, surely commercial success was sure to follow?

A Sunshiny Day with Charley Pride was released in July 1972, and reached number one on US Billboard Country charts and number 115 on the US Billboard 200. The disappointing performance on the US Billboard 200, meant there was no gold disc for Charley Pride. At least It’s Gonna Take a Little Bit Long reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts, but stalled at 101 in the US Billboard 100. While Charley was still one of the Kings of country music, was he losing his crossover appeal? 

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Songs of Love By Charley Pride.

While Charley Pride was RCA Victor’s second biggest selling artist, the worry within the company’s headquarters was that one of their biggest assets was losing his magic touch. Between 1966 and 1971, ten of Charley Pride’s albums had been certified gold. For the last two albums, Did You Think To Pray and A Sunshiny Day with Charley Pride it looked as if Charley was no longer as popular outside of country music circles. So his next album was one of the most important of his six year career.

With this in mind, Charley Pride started choosing songs for his next album. Again, Charley chose songs by tried and trusted songwriters. This included two songs by Ben Peters, She’s That Kind and My Love Is Deep, My Love Is Wide. Johnny Duncan who contributed two tracks to A Sunshiny Day with Charley Pride wrote She’s Too Good To Be True. A Good Hearted Woman came from the pen of country music royalty, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s A Good Hearted Woman. Among the other tracks were the Davis and Pitt composition, Give A Lonely Heart A Home; and She’s Too Good To Be True, which was penned by Sonny Lamaire and J.P. Pennington. Along with Too Weak To Let You Go, You Were All The Good In Me and the album closer I’m Building Bridges, these songs became Songs of Love By Charley Pride.

For the recording of Songs of Love By Charley Pride, Charley andproducer Jack Clement headed to RCA’s Nashville Sound Studio. With a tight, talented band accompanying Charley, the recording went smoothly, and before long, RCA Victor were getting ready to release Songs of Love By Charley Pride.

With the lucrative Christmas market in mind, RCA Victor scheduled the release of Songs of Love By Charley Pride for December 1972. Before that, critics had their say on Songs of Love By Charley Pride.

They noted that Songs of Love By Charley Pride featured more songs designed to tug at the listener’s heartstrings. That was the case from the album opener Too Weak To Let You Go, She’s That Kind, Give A Lonely Heart A Home, Love You More In Memory and (Darlin’ Think Of Me) Every Now And Then. Songs of love, loneliness and love lost featured on Songs of Love By Charley Pride. Songs came to life in Charley’s hands.

It was as if he had been there and lived to tell the tale. On She’s Too Good To Be True there’s an air of cynicism; while hurt and heartbreak feature heavily on Songs of Love By Charley Pride. Among the highlights of Songs of Love By Charley Pride were the album opener Too Weak To Let You Go, Good Hearted Woman and the hurt-filled take on (Darlin’ Think Of Me) Every Now And Then. Despite songs of that quality, some of the critics felt that Songs of Love By Charley Pride wasn’t as good as A Sunshiny Day with Charley Pride. As usual, record buyers had the casting vote.

When Songs of Love By Charley Pride was released in December 1972, the album reached number one on the US Billboard Country charts, but stalled at 149 in the US Billboard 200. This was a disappointment, as Charley Pride’s crossover appeal seemed to be slipping. That became apparent when Too Good To Be True reached number one in the US Billboard Country charts, but failed to enter the US Billboard 100. Despite a number one album and single in US Billboard Country charts, it was a worrying time for Charley Pride. 

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Sweet Country.

For a country artist with crossover appeal, the difference financially can be huge. Granted  Charley Pride was enjoying a successful career. However, he wasn’t as popular as he once been. Maybe his next album Sweet Country would result in a change in fortune for Charley Pride?

He wasted no time releasing another album. Charley it seemed was keen to get back on the horse. He had chosen and recorded ten new tracks.

Just like his two previous albums, Charley Pride recorded songs by songwriters he knew and trusted. This included Ben Peters, who contributed a trio of songs, The Happiest Song On The Jukebox, Just To Be Loved By You and Tennessee Girl. Johhny Duncan contributed I’m Learning To Love Her. Other tracks included Don Williams’ The Shelter Of Your Eyes; John Schweers’ Don’t Fight The Feelings Of Love; Hillman Hall’s Pass Me By and Merle Haggard’s A Shoulder To Cry On. Along with Along The Mississippi and Love Unending, these were the tracks that became Sweet Country.

It was recorded with producer Jack Clement at RCA’s Nashville Sound Studio. Some of Nashville’s top musicians accompanied Charley, and the recording went smoothly. So four months after the release of Songs of Love by Charley Pride, RCA Victor were getting ready to release Sweet Country.

When Sweet Country was released, it was well received by critics. Charley brought something new to Don Williams’ The Shelter Of Your Eyes; John Schweers’ Don’t Fight The Feelings Of Love and Merle Haggard’s A Shoulder To Cry On. Ben Peters was proving a reliable source of quality songs for Charley. He brought he Happiest Song On The Jukebox, Just To Be Loved By You and Tennessee Girl to life and in the process, made them his own. The same could be said of Johhny Duncan’s almost wistful I’m Learning To Love Her. Sweet Country was a return to form from Charley Pride. Would record buyers agree?

Sweet Country was released in April 1973, and became Charley Pride sixteenth albums since 1966. However, Charley narrowly missed out on his fifth consecutive number one album in the US Billboard Country charts, when Sweet Country reached number three. In the US Billboard 200, Sweet Country stalled at 166. This was Charley Pride’s lowest chart position in the US Billboard 200 since Songs of Pride…Charley That Is in 1968. If executives at RCA Victor weren’t worried, they were now.

Ever since the release of Did You Think to Pray in late 1971, Charley Pride seemed to more popular in country music circles. No longer was his music crossing over as it once had. Just three years ago, he had reached number twenty-two in the US Billboard 200 with Just Plain Charley in 1970. Later, that year, Charley Pride’s 10th Album had reached number thirty and From Me to You reached number forty-two. Then I’m Just Me reached just fifty in the US Billboard 200 in 1971. Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs arrested the slide, when it reached thirty-eight in the US Billboard 200. However, Did You Think to Pray was the turning point.

After the release of Did You Think to Pray, Charley Pride’s albums never reached the upper reaches of the US Billboard 200. Indeed, Sweet Country proved to be the end of an era.

Little did Charley Pride realise this, when he attended the American Music Awards, to collect the Favourite Country Male Artist award, A Sunshiny Day With Charley Pride won the Favourite Country Album Of 1973. For Charley This was another award to add to his eleven gold discs and the one platinum disc he had been awarded in Canada for The Best of Charley Pride. However, gold discs in America would be a thing of the past for Charley Pride.

While he was still one of the biggest names in country music, Charley Pride’s albums never again sold in the same quantities. It was across the border in Canada, where Charley Pride enjoyed two more gold discs and where The Best of Charley Pride Volume 3 was certified four times platinum in 1976. Since then, Charley Pride has continued to tour and release albums. 

Charley Pride is still regarded as country music royalty. He’s enjoyed thirty-nine number one singles on the US Billboard Country charts, and sold over seventy-million albums. Still, Charley Pride is RCA Victor’s second biggest selling artist of all time. The boy who once dreamt of becoming a baseball player has come a long way.

The most successful period of Charley Pride’s career was between 1966 and 1972. This period includes the four albums that were recently released on two discs by BGO Records. The two disc set begins with the gospel country of Did You Think To Pray and includes a trio of country albums A Sunshine Love, Songs Of Love and Sweet Country. These albums feature Charley Pride during the most successful period of his career. 

This quartet of albums is the perfect introduction to Charley Pride. His is a story like no other. He’s the failed ballplayer, who ended up working in a smelter in Montana, and four years later, found himself singing at the Grand Ole Opre. That’s Charley Pride, who went on to sell seventy million records and is the living embodiment of the American Dream.

CHARLEY PRIDE-DID YOU THINK TO PRAY/A SUNSHINE LOVE/SONGS OF LOVE/ SWEET COUNTRY.

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