Charley Pride Statue Unveiled at the Ryman Auditorium

photos: Catherine Powell

A life-sized likeness of Charley Pride now adorns the grounds of the Country Music Mother Church in Nashville, a.k.a. The Ryman Auditorium where the Grand Ole Opry was held for many years. A Grand Ole Opry member, Pride’s bronze statue now joins other iconic Opry stars Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn, and Little Jimmy Dickens as part of the building’s “Icon Walk.”

The statue was unveiled on Wednesday, April 12th in a ceremony at The Ryman after having been delayed a couple of weeks after the school shooting in Nashville right before the original ceremony was scheduled to take place. Pride’s wife of 60 years Rozene Pride was in attendance and spoke, as did Charley’s son and performer Dion Pride.

“He has often been called the Jackie Robinson of country music,” said Rozene Pride. “The only difference was Jackie Robinson was picked for the role. Pride picked country music because he loved it and that was his life.”

Dion Pride added, “He loved his fans – in fact, his fans drove him. All of you drove him. You are the reason why he was the success he was. Everything he did was for you.”

Actor Dennis Quaid was also on hand. Quaid is currently producing a movie on Charley Pride’s life.

Born in Sledge, Mississippi as the forth child of 11 children to a sharecropper, Charley Pride challenged the notion that country music was a white man’s genre. Between 1967 and 1987, Pride delivered 52 Top 10 country hits, and had 29 #1’s. He won the CMA’s coveted Entertainer of the Year in 1971, along with Male Vocalist of the Year in 1971 and 1972. Along with Grammy Awards and other accolades, Charley Pride was one of the most successful, accomplished, and influential country artists of all time.

In the mid 70’s, Charley Pride was RCA’s best-selling artist since Elvis Presley. Pride became the first black country artists to sing at the Grand Ole Opry (harmonica player DeFord Bailey was the first performer), where he was invited to become a member in 1993. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000. He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017. Pride passed away on December 12th, 2020 at the age of 86.

“Charley Pride broke barriers and defied stereotypes, becoming one of the most successful and beloved country music artists of all time,” said Ryman Hospitality Properties Executive Chairman Colin Reed at the ceremony. “The Ryman Icon Walk honors not only his contributions and the groundwork he laid for countless other artists in country music, but also to the Ryman, where he performed many times throughout his career. Charley’s influence will always be felt throughout the entire Nashville community, and his addition to the Ryman Icon Walk is our way of paying tribute to his incredible talent and enduring legacy.”

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