American Masters – Charley Pride: I’m Just Me

About

Premieres Friday, February 22 at 9 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). Streams Saturday, February 23 via pbs.org/americanmasters and PBS apps

American Masters – Charley Pride: I’m Just Me traces the improbable journey of Charley Pride, from his humble beginnings as a sharecropper’s son on a cotton farm in segregated Sledge, Mississippi to his career as a Negro American League baseball player and his meteoric rise as a trailblazing country music superstar. The new documentary reveals how Pride’s love for music led him from the Delta to a larger, grander world. In the 1940s, radio transcended racial barriers, making it possible for Pride to grow up listening to and imitating Grand Ole Opry stars like Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff. The singer arrived in Nashville in 1963 while the city roiled with sit-ins and racial violence. But with boldness, perseverance and undeniable musical talent, he managed to parlay a series of fortuitous encounters with music industry insiders into a legacy of hit singles, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Narrated by Grammy-nominated country singer Tanya Tucker, the film features original interviews with country music royalty, including Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker and Marty Stuart, as well as on-camera conversations between Pride and special guests, including Rozene Pride (his wife of 61 years), Willie Nelson and fellow musicians.

“At a time when African-American singers were more notable for R&B hits, Charley Pride followed his passion for country music, overcoming obstacles through determination and raw talent to make a lasting impact on the genre and create a legacy that continues today,” said Michael Kantor, executive producer of American Masters. “We are honored to share the inspiring, and largely untold, story of this barrier-breaking performer with viewers nationwide.”

Notable Talent:

  • Charley Pride
  • Garth Brooks
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Willie Nelson
  • Dolly Parton
  • Darius Rucker
  • Marty Stuart

Buzzworthy Moments:

  • Charley Pride and his wife Rozene speak candidly about Pride’s struggles with mental illness over the years. While on tour in Germany in 1968, the singer suffered a manic attack and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
  • Charley Pride and fellow country music superstar Willie Nelson reminisce on camera about the early days of their careers.
  • Charley Pride explains how he maneuvered his way through the white ranks of country music in order to gain acceptance in the industry.

Noteworthy Facts:

  • Eighteen-year-old Charley Pride made his debut in the Negro American League as a pitcher-outfielder for the Memphis Red Sox in 1952.
  • Charley Pride was drafted into the army in 1956 and served 14 months in Colorado. While in the military, he played on the baseball team and sang in the barracks.
  • After Chet Atkins signed Pride to RCA, his third single, “Just Between You and Me,” reached the top 10 on the country music charts in 1967. The singer received his first Grammy nomination, for Best Country & Western Vocal Performance, Male, for the song.
  • Charley Pride first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry radio show in 1967. When he was inducted as an Opry member in 1993, he became the first African-American Opry member since DeFord Bailey, who had been a regular member from 1927 until 1941. Pride celebrated the 25th anniversary of his induction into the Grand Ole Opry in 2018.
  • Charley Pride won Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year at the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in 1971.
  • Charley Pride committed to an extensive tour of the U.K. in 1976, including several dates in Northern Ireland during the peak of the Troubles conflict. Because of the risks, international music acts were routinely avoiding Belfast. Pride’s November 1976 appearance at Belfast’s Ritz Cinema brought the community together and he became a hero to both sides of the conflict for helping to break the informal touring ban of Northern Ireland. This resulted in “Crystal Chandeliers” being considered a unity song.
  • In 2000, Charley Pride was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
  • The Recording Academy honored Charley Pride with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the GRAMMY Salute to Music Legends awards ceremony and tribute concert event in 2017.

Series Overview:

Launched in 1986 on PBS, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including ten for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 13 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards, and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of masters past and present, American Masters offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the American Masters Podcast, educational resources and more. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel.

Production Credits: Print

American Masters – Charley Pride: I’m Just Me is a production of Corridor Group Productions Inc in association with THIRTEEN’s American Masters and ITVS. The film is directed by Barbara Hall, who is also executive producer. Co-executive producers are Greg Hall, Suzanne Kessler and Ed Lanquist. Jon Schouten is producer. Editors are Matthew Walsh and Chris Windings. Writer is John Schouten. Michael Kantor is American Masters series executive producer.

Underwriters: Print

Support for American Masters – Charley Pride: I’m Just Me is provided by Mike and Ginny Lester. Major support for American Masters is provided by AARP. Additional support is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, Ellen and James Marcus, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Judith and Burton Resnick, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, Vital Projects Fund, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation, Seton Melvin, and public television viewers.

Production Credits: Print

American Masters – Charley Pride: I’m Just Me is a production of Corridor Group Productions Inc in association with THIRTEEN’s American Masters and ITVS. The film is directed by Barbara Hall, who is also executive producer. Co-executive producers are Greg Hall, Suzanne Kessler and Ed Lanquist. Jon Schouten is producer. Editors are Matthew Walsh and Chris Windings. Writer is John Schouten. Michael Kantor is American Masters series executive producer.