American Masters – Charley Pride: I’m Just Me is streaming free again for a limited time on pbs.org/americanmasters and on the PBS Video app which will run through December 26 before going back to members-only PBS Passport. Charley Pride: I’m Just Me is also set to air on Canada’s CBC on New Years Day, Friday, January 1, 2021, at 11 am ET / 10 am CT. The documentary is also now available on DVD at charleypride.com.
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 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 emulating 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 Recording Academy “Lifetime Achievement Award” and a place in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
The film includes original interviews with country music royalty, including Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, and Marty Stuart. It also includes several on-camera conversations between Pride and special guests, including Rozene Pride (his wife of 63 years), Willie Nelson, and other fellow musicians. The film also features many songs from his repertoire of classic country hits, along with more modern cuts like “Standing In My Way,” from his latest album Music In My Heart, released in 2017.
“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.”
On January 30, 2019, the film made its world premiere at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The premiere featured an appearance by Charley Pride himself, along with special guest artists featured in the film, including the film’s narrator Tanya Tucker, Jimmie Allen, Janie Fricke, and Sylvia Hutton. Members of the media and other family and friends of Pride also attended. After the film, a Q&A was hosted by the film’s director Barbara Hall, and journalist Robert K. Oermann, Country Music Hall of Fame’s Peter Cooper, and Charley Pride.
Notable talent in the film:
• Charley Pride
• Garth Brooks
• Dolly Parton
• Willie Nelson
• Tanya Tucker (narrator)
• Brad Paisley
• Darius Rucker
• Marty Stuart
• Sylvia Hutton
• Charlie Worsham
• Jimmie Allen
• Whoopi Goldberg
• 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 Arkansas and Colorado. While in the military, he played on the Fort Carson baseball team and sang in the barracks.
• After RCA signed him to a record deal, 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 January 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 intense political violence, international music acts were 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 after several other international music acts soon followed. This resulted in “Crystal Chandeliers” being considered a ‘unity song’ in Ireland and the UK when it was subsequently released as a single.
• 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.
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 the executive producer. Co-executive producers are Greg Hall, Suzanne Kessler, and Ed Lanquist. Jon Schouten is the producer. Editors are Matthew Walsh and Chris Windings. The writer is Jon Schouten. Michael Kantor is the American Masters series executive producer.
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.