tv Tavis Smiley PBS July 10, 2017 6:00am-6:31am PDT
good evening from los angeles i'm tavis smiley tonight we revisit our conversation with country music legend charley pride who has enjoyed successful musical career and broke color barriers being the first superstar in the genre, he just released his first studio album in more than six years it's called "music in my heart" we're glad you're with us. a conversation with charley pride. coming up right now. ♪
>> announcer: and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. ♪ ♪ >> charley pride is a true living legend has enjoyed one of the most successful careers in the history of country music, is a three-time grammy winner and sold tens of millions of records worldwide and today he celebrates 50 years as a recording artist and i'm honored to finally have him on this program to discuss
his trailblazing career. but before we start that conversation, a look back at charley pride performing "just between you and me" his first success on the country charts. ♪ just between you and me ♪ i'm not so sure about it ♪ so just between you and me ♪ you're too much to forget ♪ you're too much to forget ♪ [ cheers and applause ] >> how'd that sound to you all these years later? >> well, it sound like what i'm still doing. >> ha, ha. to what do you attribute the fact that you are still doing this 50 years later? >> i'm just going to say it like this, i love what i do, and you remember the song called "that
old black magic" by billy james. we were touring over in england at the same time and we were off so i said i'm going to go see him. i went to see him. 65 years old. ♪ voice was out there. i said i sure hope my voice is like that when i'm 65. him about 20 years later and and now people saying you still got it charley you sound good as ever. so i just did a sold out performance in at the wynn in nevada about four days ago. that's why i say i'm still doing it. >> how have you taken care of this instrument over the years. >> i don't have a answer for that other than it's just a blessing. >> yeah. >> i never had -- i hear people -- i followed elvis out in 1971,
when i won male vocalist entertainer of the year and i hear people talk about vegas throat and all that. i never drank any water or nothing when i was performing. i don't have any answer other than i'm just blessed. >> yeah. yeah. let me go back to the beginning. from mississippi. >> uh-huh. >> we have that in common. of course you sing much better than i do but we both are from mississippi so got that in common with you. from your earliest recollections how did you get turned on to country music? >> my dad had an old fill co radio and didn't nobody use the knobs, or turn the knobs. had a battery on it and everything. sometimes would have to keep in the oven to keep the battery longer. >> uh-huh. >> well, so i saw it, bill monroe was his favorite we would get the grand ole opry out
of nashville and he was one of his favorite singers. i remember his favorite show was "mr. district attorney" on radio. i'm going to do this for you. i'm going to give you this. it's never recorded. been here since i was this high. mr. district attorney, guardian of the people. j johnson in the title roll and harkt and miss miller. shall be my duty of district attorney to prosecute limit of the law all persons accused of crime perpetrate in this county to defend the rights and privileges -- de, de, da, da. [ laughter ] >> so the first time i saw a television and guy saw a cat being slayed where they could walk down the middle, the owner, he served me and if you were white he would serve you, would probably spit on you to warn you but that's the way it was. but u up on the mantle was a tv
and here's what -- it went like this -- howdy all you friends and ♪ neighbors join us friends for the show tune up your banner, hang up your fiddle and bow. roll back the rugs on the floor ♪ light up the old car fight ♪ because everyone's gonna have some fun ♪ ♪ at the grand ole opry tonight. ♪ that was called orswell but real name was kirby. so my mother used to order group stitches from them and i still would love to have those right now. and now it's on each corner of the paper and -- of the picture. >> so your mother and father then are the ones who introduced you to country music. >> and everything else. >> yeah. when did you first get an instrument. a guitar? >> i was 14 years old. i picked cotton to buy it.
my mother stored all our boots and remember those, when you go to school with those rear bib overalls. put a flute there. so i would wait, we used to wait until they come back. i loved the smell of those boots. but she ordered guitar from sears roebuck and i'm sure country music hall of fame would love to have. it was $14 gift card i got that evening and was out in the lot in the wagon and went back in the house and it rained that night. think about that. it rained that night. >> you left the guitar outside. >> i left it out. >> oh, lord. >> and i never could keep it in tune, tavis, never could keep it in tune, but would always try to keep, near, near, near, and finally my mother was coming up on the porch we live in old shotgun house, you know about those. >> oh, i know, i'm from mississippi, one way in.
[ laughter ] shotgun straight through, exactly. >> okay. >> ha, ha. >> so she was walking up on the porch coming in, in the back, she said, boy, and went, boing -- boing -- she called it my box, you better go up and look in the palettes. i got up there and it had doubled together. >> ooh. >> of course you see it was only tape, i mean, it was only glue and so i contemkept everything,t everything, finally i kept everything for a long time the neck. >> yeah, yeah. >> last time i remember seeing it was out in the dust. >> yeah. but how did you get proficient playing a guitar? how did you get good at this. >> didn't. >> okay.
you didn't. ha. ha. >> here's what happened. >> okay. >> when i got the guitar, i mean, it played pretty good until it kept -- >> kept bending. yeah. >> okay. i start, i went back, got by the radio singing ♪ and i walk over the floor to you ♪ ♪ boom, binge ♪ >> that's the way they ended it and i would tune it and start bar chords. you remember the song jimmy rogers had that song ♪ ♪ kind of funny how the lord made the bee and the honey comb, honey comb ♪ ♪ remember that? >> i heard the song, yeah. >> he recorded his with his thumb i did mine with these two
fingers. >> yeah. >> so i had nobody out in the country to teach me how to tune it. >> so you just learned to play by ear. >> yeah. >> you would just listen to the a radio and tune it. >> i do everything by ear, i don't read a note of music. >> so this guitar your mother got you. when did you get a real guitar? >> i'd say, i moved -- well, i went in the army. >> yeah. >> and i got, i think that's when i got my next one. >> right. >> i remember going down to where elvis and roy orbison all the guys, in memphis. so i went, i got out of the army. i went in '58. i got to tell you this, when you asked me i can give so many examples skbr it examples.
>> it's pbs, let loose. >> i went down and this song, dion and the belmonts had stole it, i believe. ♪ there's my baby walking ♪ and a kind of elvis type. ♪ there's my baby walking in ♪ >> so they put me in the studio. first time ever been in a recording studio. he said do it again. i have to condense it down. the guy sam phillips. i did it. i thought if i did "walking" would try to learn how publishing and all that stuff say walking it might be mine. i always want to be a good business man. >> you were young but you still understood publishing rights. okay. >> well, i just, i always want to be -- anyway. i just got it back. what happened is, they put a shuffle on it.
♪ here's my baby ♪ bomb boom ♪ walking in ♪ cha cha ♪ i finally got it back from europe. they put a shuffle on it and sold a lot of those things over there in europe. and it happened to me again when i did ed monton symphony after i got into the business, we had eight cameras. i had to fly all the way from hawaii to do the thing. i thought i would go the next day but this is before the security had to go through, i get there by 6:00 and they say you got to go to edmonton today, so i ran home, repacked, got back out, caught the plane, did this edmonton thing, i thought i had the best ever, it was the first i had ever done and it was good. i had a green sult. suite and everything. suit and everything. when i agreed to do the symphony
they had eight cameras, now tavis they didn't have any cd, or dvd, nothing like that. just put all those eight cameras together and put it on dvd and sold it in europe and made a ton of money. >> you didn't get any of that. >> not a nickel. i said can't you do something i said it's me. something about likeness. but anyway. that's what happened. and so. >> i want to go back to this clip i played earlier because it occurred to me, in preparing for our conversation i was studying a bit more in depth and you were actually starting to make hit he's in the late 60s. you were coming into your own as a black country star during the height of the civil rights movement. >> there we go right there. let me give it to you.
>> okay give it to me. >> my career was smack-dab in the middle of the civil rights movement. >> sure. >> and so the people would say to me, man you must have had it hard and i said no, and they look at me. i said, my troubles i had was the promoters didn't want to book me because they thought it was too early to try it, you know. so -- >> you mean too early to put a black man on stage? >> yeah. let me throw that too. because when a reporter, like, when a lot of times i would be interviewed they'd say charley how's it feel to be the jackie robinson of country music, or how's it feel to be the first negro country singer, or first black country singer or first afro american country singer, i
say i feel same. i'm a staunch american. i always have been. i will throw in this, my oldest sister just passed away about three months ago or so and she would say charles u she call me charles, she say why you singing their music. you don't talk like -- i say i talk the best i can and do the best i can with my voice. now, i said to her, i says it's my music too, so a lot of my peers which all of them are really in my corner, i'm trying to make sure i come back to the point about being black and disspursing the record between you and me, well, another thing, when it comes in here i'm going to have to jam it in.
i was told when i came to nashville by my one and only manager i ever had, he says charley, he said you going to have to get by some people in nashville. i said yeah. said named one special right off the bat baron young he said we're on the way to nashville i said we get there and going to look him up and get it out of the way right now. so we went to this and that club and finally found him with a bandana around his head with microphone plugged into a tape recorder. so i was like this coming when we found him. so jack told me he said he's just going to meet you and say you're one of those n-words that trying to sing country music. i said okay i'll be ready for that too. so i got by here, he ran up
ahead of me, my only manager, he said baron, i want you to meet charley his shoulders went like that and turned and said charley pride youing a fine song, i said you do too. we shook hand. i don't know where the guitar came from but he would sing one and i would sing one. and finally he i'm singing i thought you were going to say the n-word, i said i'm going to come back at you you foul mouth, he said you were going to say that, i said that's the way i was going to come back at you. now i was 50 years in what you call traditional singing, his son came over and mention all the time and dad, this is a
baron son, sit and ate with his daughter, now he become one of my very staunch supporters. now i heard people say, they would ask baron, they'd say would you take charley orn the road, i'm not going to take him out i make $200,000 a year. guess who was the first to bring me out. farn young. >> so he didn't give you the push back that was predicted but did you get push back being the first country star of african descent, you had to get some? >> no. >> you didn't get any? except for the producers that didn't want to book >> if anything was said to me that was told to me that he was going to say. i can give you things, going to give you couple examples, i'm
just starting out, i'm going to texakana, arkansas, playing vfw, up comes this guy, i don't know if he was kidding around or serious but he came up to me and said charley pride, said i'm with the ku klux klan i'd like to shake handles with a man. i'm saying this because it happened. he could have said anything, when you get through, i'm the grand wizard of the ku klux klan when we get through we're going to get you he could have said that i didn't have any guards or security around. so people say why you think that you didn't have -- and like i said -- when i say to a reporter
i've had not one iota of calls out of my audience and he will give me that, i can't believe you got to be lying look. so i start naming my accomplishments. i say star on the hollywood walk of fame between gladys knight and leonard bernstein. sometimes you might get a star and it will be on the side street or over there, you never know what happened to it. i said three grammys. i can start naming. now grand ole opry. i'm second only to elvis presley to sell most records on rca. he said oh, well you do a lot. i said now you gave me that i
can't believe you're lying look. if i am lying it won't help me get more grammys or another star on the hollywood walk of fame so why should i give it to you. it didn't happen. sk >> so you're telling me you were never treated in a racist manner, it doesn't happen, to quote you, hold up now, what also didn't happen is a bunch of black people followed you, why not? >> let me give you an example, now see, remember, our culture, remember what i said about my sister why you singing their music. >> but you said it's our music as well. >> yeah. mine. now wait a minute. >> yours but not ours. >> it's ours if you want it. >> okay. so more black people didn't want it. >> you have to ask them i'm not speaking. dr. king did all of that. the show, speak for whoever. >> but i'm asking why didn't
more black people follow you in when you kicked open the door? >> we went, me and don of the dallas cowboys which i did the anthem for in the first super bowl. we went to toronto, ontario to do a pilot way before "hee-haw" so we get there and dom meredith, lee, husky, hex and charley pride and i'm standing there, tavis, here's the deal i'm sitting with joe texas drummer and he said did you listen to any other music growing up i said oh, yeah naming people like jackie wilson. we were on the same label with sam cookie got ready to say jim, he says, wait a minute, you for real, ain't you?
i said what? hee he interjected, he said you for real. i said what do you mean. he said you sound the way you do, making that money, i didn't know you talked like them too. that's what he said. i never had nobody say that to me. so i marked that down. the one that didn't have a chance to say that to me, they're out there. i can tell. now there's a lot out there think i'm an uncle tom and i depise uncle time because my mother taught me to deviate around and be a staunch american. i got nothing against anyone who wants to do what they want to do. i try to do what i want to do. get what i want. least amount of infringement on the next color. >> my time is up.
let me ask you this, did you ever feel offended when your sister repeatedly asked you why are you singing their music. >> no sir that's the truth. >> you have nothing but pride in this career, pardon the pun. >> that's all right. >> in this career you've establishd. >> that's right. i've been very blessed. you asked what i do to keep it going, mentioned billy danielles, it's a blessing, i'm blessed. i've had a operation on my right vocal chord but the only thing i lost was real deep octave. ♪ real down ♪ real down. but i can go high as i can. >> still doing it 50 years later. >> i've been wanting to get on the program. >> glad you came in.
you got more career than i got time. it's been 50 years of charley pride making hits and he's still doing it five decades later. congratulations. an honor to have you on. >> the time's up? >> that's how fast it goes. like 50 years goes by real fast. >> not that fast. >> on that note, i'm out of here. that's our show tonight. thanks for watching and as always keep the faith. ♪ >> announcer: for more information on today's show visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. hi i'm tavis smiley join me next time we will take a deep dive at what's grabbing the country's attention in the next week. that's next time, we'll see you then. ♪
tonight as part of our road to health series a conservative with patient advocate and author leslie michelson whose book will help to make the system work better for you and then bebe winans joins us. we're glad you've joined us. grammy-award winning singer bebe winans and leslie michelson. in just a moment.