Country music fans now have a new ‘must see’ to add to their bucket list when visiting Nashville.
Ryman Auditorium unveiled the latest addition to its Icon Walk with a statue honoring American music icon Charley Pride. The detailed bronze likeness was added to the permanent outdoor exhibition on the historic venue’s grounds ensuring the country music trailblazer will forever remain part of the Soul of Nashville.
For the tribute to Pride, the Ryman team collaborated once again with artist Ben Watts, the talent behind the existing three statues that are already part of the Icon Walk. The project took a year for Watts to create. Charley’s beloved wife of over 60 years, Rozene Pride, and Charley’s son Dion Pride were in attendance for the unveiling.
“I do not think it is possible to tell the history of the Ryman, the Opry and country music as a whole without Charley,” said Colin Reed, Ryman Hospitality Properties Executive Chairman, in his remarks. “Charley’s music and performance helped break down racial barriers in the industry and helped pave the way for other artists to make their mark in this genre.”
Created as a way to honor those who have made significant contributions to the historic venue and Music City, Pride’s statue joins likenesses of beloved legends Loretta Lynn, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Bill Monroe, three of the most profound musical innovators in country and bluegrass music.
Prior to the unveiling of the bronze statue, Reed surprised Rozene and Dion by presenting them with a historic photo of Charley and Rozene. The photo was discovered as part of a collection of photographs taken by famed photographer Les Leverett. Leverett captured many historic moments at the Opry over the years. “We want you to have this as a memento of today,” said Reed.
“He has often been called the Jackie Robinson of country music,” Rozene shared with the crowd gathered for the statue unveiling. “The only difference was Jackie Robinson was picked for the role. Pride picked country music because he loved it and that was his life.”
Addressing the large group of fans in attendance Dion Pride added, “He loved his fans – in fact, his fans drove him. All of you drove him. You are the reason why he was the success he was. Everything he did was for you.”
During his 50+ years as a recording artist, Pride enjoyed one of the most successful careers in country music history and is credited with helping break color barriers by becoming the first black superstar within the genre.
A global sensation, he sold tens of millions of records worldwide with his large repertoire of hits. A three-time GRAMMY® award winner and Recording Academy “Lifetime Achievement Award” recipient, Pride garnered 41 chart-topping country hits, including “Kiss An Angel Good Morning,” a massive No. 1 crossover hit that sold over a million singles and helped Pride land the Country Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year” award in 1971 and the “Top Male Vocalist” awards of 1971 and 1972.
A proud member of the Grand Ole Opry, Pride performed concerts worldwide and toured the United States, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand over the course of his career. In recent years, he received the Crossroads Of American Music Award at the 2019 GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi Gala and the Country Music Association’s Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award one year later in November 2020.
On December 12, 2020, Pride died at the age of 86 from complications due to COVID-19. In 2021, CMT celebrated his life and impact as a musical pioneer with CMT Giants: Charley Pride. His memory and storied legacy continue to live on through his vast library of stories and songs, with forthcoming plans for a number of posthumous projects. More about Charley Pride at his website https://charleypride.com.
Now designated as a National Historic Landmark, Ryman Auditorium is known as the Mother Church of Country Music and is the most famous former home of the Grand Ole Opry (1943-1974). More about the Ryman at https://www.ryman.com.