Country singers Charley Pride and the late Faron Young will become the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the highest honor in country music. The new inductees were announced Friday morning, June 16, during a ceremony in the lobby of the Hall of Fame in Nashville. Pride, his wife Rozene and their grandchildren, Carlton and Malachi, were on hand for the announcement. Young, who died in 1996, was represented by his son, Robyn.
Pride, 62, was in tears when Brenda Lee reviewed his career history prior to announcing his name. As Lee later explained, Pride’s upcoming induction was kept a secret from him; he had been asked to attend the announcement on the pretext that he was to speak about the Grand Ole Opry’s 75th anniversary. When it became clear that Pride was an inductee, the full impact of the news seemed to overwhelm him. The lobby of the Hall of Fame, packed with press representatives and country fans, erupted with applause and cheers when Lee announced Pride’s name. Wiping his eyes and visibly moved, Pride walked to the podium and spoke briefly.
“I had no idea,” he said. “I had no idea. I’m so happy now. I was just reading about Vernon Dalhart and Marty Robbins, whom I loved, all those plaques.”
Pride was so choked up by the honor he said he would talk to the press later.
The Mississippi native broke country music’s color barrier and is the only country superstar who is black. His first hits, including “Just Between You and Me” and “I Know One,” were issued under the name “Country” Charley Pride, and RCA concealed his race until releasing his first album. A long string of successes followed, among them “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” and “All I Have to Offer You Is Me.” Pride was the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 1971.
During a press conference following the announcement, Pride was asked how he feels about being the Hall of Fame’s first black inductee. “Our culture is just ate up with race, what I call a skin hangup,” Pride said. “It doesn’t make any difference. I’m glad I’m in the Hall of Fame. I’m glad I’m right next to the people I love in there — Ernest Tubb, Marty Robbins, the whole bit. I don’t care if they were pink.”
Young, a native of Shreveport, La., enjoyed prominence from 1953 — when he hit with “Goin’ Steady,” — through the mid ’70s. He performed on Shreveport’s live radio show, the Louisiana Hayride, and later moved to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. His many hits include “If You Ain’t Lovin’ (You Ain’t Livin’),” “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young,” “Hello Walls” and the first version of “Sweet Dreams.” He died at age 64, the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Robyn Young said his father would have loved the honor. “This is something I’ve wanted to see happen for a long time,” he said. “The week Dad passed away in ’96, I talked to Johnny Cash. He said he and June were trying to remember what year Dad went into the Hall of Fame. I told him my dad wasn’t in the Hall of Fame yet. A lot of people thought that he had been in there for 20 years. It’s been my goal in life to see my dad get in there. It’s his rightful place.”
In some ways his father’s induction symbolizes a final resting place for the legend. “When my father died, he wanted his ashes scattered on Old Hickory Lake, near Nashville,” Robyn said. “That meant that there wasn’t really a gravesite where I could go visit him. I’ve thought about that for a while, and I decided that the best headstone he could ever have would be a bronze plaque in the Country Music Hall of Fame.”
Pride found it fitting that he will be inducted with Young. “Faron was one of the very first artists to take me out touring,” he said. “He ended up being one of the most supportive artists in the business.”
“My dad loved Charley,” Robyn Young said. “Charley and Rozene stayed at our house for a week at a time. Charley and Dad loved each other. They even had little pet nicknames for each other.”
Pride and Young will be inducted during The 34th Annual CMA Awards, to be telecast Oct. 4 on CBS from the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville. Their induction will bring the Hall’s membership total to 74.
“This award is about singular achievement,” Hall of Fame Director Kyle Young said. “It’s very hard to get in the Hall of Fame. It makes the honor that much more meaningful. And these two guys are great additions.”