Charley Pride is to be honored with the unveiling of a bronze statue outside Nashville’s hallowed Ryman Auditorium this week. In a ceremony on Wednesday (29) starting at 2.30pm, the memorial will go on display on the Ryman’s Icon Walk, joining statues of other country greats such as Loretta Lynn, Bill Monroe and Little Jimmy Dickens.
Pride’s wife of some 60 years, Rozene, and his son Dion will both attend the unveiling, along with Ryman Hospitality Properties CEO Colin V. Reed. The singer, who did so much to break through color barriers in country music and became the first African-American solo singer to perform on the Grand Ole Opry in 1967, died in 2020 of complications from Covid-19, at the age of 86.
A place on the Icon Walk
Like others in the series, the statue took sculptor Ben Watts a year to create. The Icon Walk runs along the exterior of the venue known as the “Mother Church of Country Music,” at which Pride performed on many occasions. The statues of Dickens and Monroe were unveiled in 2017 as part of the Ryman’s 125th anniversary celebrations, and Lynn’s in 2020.
Pride sold some 25 million albums and had 29 country No.1s between 1969 and 1983, in a stellar career that saw him win three Grammys and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy. The Grand Ole Opry member was the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year in 1971 and the Top Male Vocalist for 1971 and 1972.
Shortly before his death, he received the Crossroads Of American Music Award at the 2019 Grammy Museum Mississippi Gala, and the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award from the CMA in November 2020, a month before his passing. In October 2021, Garth Brooks joined forces with the RIAA at a ceremony to honor Pride with the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award, at the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville.