Darius Rucker Remembers Charley Pride: ‘I Couldn’t Have Done What I Do If There Hadn’t Been Charley’ (Exclusive)

He has great songs, but the delivery was so real. You can’t believe that Charley didn’t write “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin ‘” because he sings it with such feeling. Even when we did “Why Things Happen” Jimmie Allen‘s new EP together, I remember listening and saying, “Man, nobody sounds like Charley Pride.” We never went in the room together when we recorded it. That’s one of the thoughts that came to mind when I heard that he died. I always thought we would sing that song onstage together, the three of us.

We talked for hours at our very first meeting. He hosted the Opry and I was on it. I praised him and said how wonderful it was to look at his catalog. It was the ’60s and’ 70s and he had these hits and was entertainer of the year – this black guy did what I know he was told not to do by anyone. He said, ‘Darius, one of the crazy things for me is that I’ve never been on the cover Ebony or Jet,And I said, ‘Me neither,’ and he and I just laughed. That has always stayed with me. Not to celebrate Charley Pride as an African American proving we can do anything, that was sad.

Charley’s age or my age when I grew up African American, you didn’t make it until you were on the cover of Ebony or Jet, and that both of us would never make the switch was one of the things we thought we would ever do together.

Even when I started playing in Hootie & the Blowfish, I can’t imagine what it was like for Charley: it wasn’t just white people who said, “You can’t play this music,” it was black people who said, “Why are do you play that music? ”That’s another thing that makes what he did so amazing.

Before I actually sat down to talk to him about it I used to say to myself when I got into country music no matter what happens I can handle it because it won’t even come close to what Charley was going through [including George Jones drunkenly writing “KKK” on his car].

Later in life, he and George were great friends, but you hear those stories and you say, “Wow, it wasn’t just a person who didn’t want to be a fan, it was the people you should go to. put on to be a ** hole. “

It’s like God put him there for that reason, because they know he had the temper to do what had to be done. Just like Jackie Robinson in baseball. A force greater than we knew someone had to do it and he was the man who had to do it because he could handle it. Shockingly, there is no Charley Pride movie. That’s the ultimate American story.

I couldn’t have done what I’m doing, I don’t think, if Charley hadn’t been for me. I think one of the reasons I got a chance is that a lot of people looked on the radio and said, “Wow, it’s been 25 years,” so I had a good song and they gave it a shot. Charley opened the door. I’m trying to push it in a bit more and help these kids.

There is no question that I feel obliged to help everyone I can. I feel like Charley was with me. I just want to help and if I can help those guys anywhere, anytime. Other color artists or any artist. Jimmie, Kane [Brown], Mickey [Guyton] … I feel a little special bond with them because we are doing something that we have all been told not to do.

I am so happy that he received the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the CMAs this year. Charley knew what he was doing and the impact he had on music, but I think it was another one of those accolades you want to see when you’re alive. It was great to see him get that and see him back in the spotlight and become a superstar.

At the CMAs, we talked about how I wanted to get to Texas to hang out – no music or anything, just sit back and have some tea or coffee. He called me when he got home and I did something and didn’t answer and I called him back and he didn’t answer. You look back and say, “Wow, it’s just so sad.”

He’s one of those guys who if you’re making a Mount Rushmore out of country music, Charley Pride should be on it. For what he did and the way he did it and the fact that he did it when he did it. The word icon is used so often, but the icon is the only word I would use to describe it.

As told to Melinda Newman

Darius Rucker, a CMA Award and three-time Grammy Award winner, co-hosted this year’s CMA Awards, making him just the second black artist to do so since Pride co-hosted in 1975.