For half a century, Charley Pride has been one of Country Music’s hardest working and most beloved entertainers. Ever since his 1966 debut single on RCA, “The Snakes Crawl At Night,” he has forged a path that has been consistent and rewarding to his fans and those that love traditional Country Music. With over 50 Top Ten Country singles to his credit – 29 of those reaching #1 – Charley is one of the most successful Country vocalists of all time. Against all odds, he has outlasted nearly all his contemporaries from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. MUSIC IN MY HEART, his first album in six years, is an album steeped in Country tradition yet still sounds fresh and invigorating. With this album, Charley has delivered one of the most consistently excellent albums of his career. Now, if only Country radio still celebrated the traditional sounds of artists like Charley Pride…
Produced by Billy Yates and featuring songs written by Merle Haggard (“The Way It Was In ‘51”), Bill Anderson (“You Lied To Me”) Ben Peters & Justin Peters (“Natural Feeling For You”) and many others, MUSIC IN MY HEART is an essential listen for those that love Charley’s classic recordings as well as his more recent output on the Music City Records label. Tracks like “It Wasn’t’ That Funny,” “New Patches,” “I Just Can’t Stop Missing You” and the previously mentioned titles will remind you of the days when Country Music was about life, love and loss and less about glamor and gloss. MUSIC IN MY HEART is an instantly lovable and timeless collection of songs that will no doubt be considered a classic in Charley’s catalog.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to catch up with Charley Pride and spend a few minutes chatting about the album and more.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: MUSIC IN MY HEART has just been released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
CHARLEY PRIDE: With the quality of this album, if we were getting the airplay that we used to, it would be a great seller. And this is no brag. Like Walter Brennan used to say, “No brag, just fact!” (laughs).
SPAZ: The album is a continuation of that pure, classic Charley Pride sound…
CHARLEY: That’s right. I’m singing for three or four generations now. I’ve got fans that are my age and their grandkids and great grandkids are listening, too.
SPAZ: This is an album full of great material. I know that it has been six years since the last album. Have you spent that time going through new material and trying to pick songs for this project?
CHARLEY: I was sent a lot of songs. I do the same thing I’ve always done – I cut the list down to the final songs. I always ask myself, “Do I like this song?” I’ll give you a quick example. (In 1965) I was given seven songs when I went to record with Cowboy Jack Clement. They said, “Go back and work on these songs and send them back.” I recorded them. I had a Gibson amplifier and Gibson guitar and I worked and worked on these songs. But I didn’t send them back – I drove them back up to Nashville with Jack Johnson (first manager). Clement put the tape on and he looked up at Johnson and said, “I think he’s ready to record!” And that’s how “The Snakes Crawl At Night” and “Atlantic Coastline” came about. But before that, I wanted to record “Just Between You And Me”. But Clement said, “No, I wrote that and I don’t want people saying I’m taking you and selling you my songs already!” (Laughs.) But guess which song ended up being my first Top Ten hit? “Just Between You And Me!” So that is my gauge. Every song I listen to, I still ask myself, “Do YOU like it, Charley?” That’s what I did with this album – that’s how I picked the songs. There are some other great songs we didn’t cut that I still might record later.
SPAZ: “Natural Feeling For You” is quite a lovely song…
CHARLEY: Guess who wrote it? Ben Peters (starts singing his 1971 hit, “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’” which was also written by Peters). There’s another one of his that will be on the next album but I loved “Natural Feeling For You” more so I put it on this one. I’ve recorded six or eight number ones by him (Peters) and at least 30 others. I don’t write so I have to record other people’s songs.
SPAZ: The tracks on this album should be played on the radio. Does having hits matter to you these days?
CHARLEY: A lot of these songs could be Top Ten. Like I said, if I was being played, then you could let the fans decide. I’ll compete against whoever. I don’t care who it is. I’m a traditionalist. To me, traditionalists go from Bill Monroe and Ernest Tubb and I cut ‘em off at George Strait. Then after that, you’ve got Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks and everyone else. I got nothing against ‘em. I’m just trying to show a difference between traditional and what is going on now. My album – I’ll put it up against any of these artists and let the people decide.
SPAZ: For decades, you’ve recorded songs that every listener can relate to at some point in their lives. Is that the heart of Charley Pride’s music – to celebrate the commonalities in your audience?
CHARLEY: That’s the essence of all of it. With Country Music, you can find a song to fit any mood you are in. If you want a song to make you feel like you want to feel, you can find it. Especially with traditional Country Music – you can find it if you look for it. If something is happening with you and you want to try to feel better about it – you might even cry at what might have happened – the song will make you feel better after you’ve had a few tears. That’s what I’m talking about.
SPAZ: Do you feel that the UK and Europe are more interested in your extensive catalog than the U.S.? There are labels over there that have been reissuing your albums on CD but here in the U.S., most of the original albums remain out of print apart from your releases on the Music City label.
CHARLEY: You might be right about that. I’ve been going to the UK since 1966 and Ireland since 1976. When I tour over there, they sing along to every word to all my songs. In August, I’m going to Ireland and I’ll be a special guest to Miranda Lambert for two shows at a festival.
Thanks to Charley Pride
Special thanks to Larry Germack, Kyle Watson, Greg Gosselin and Dave Rayburn