There are times in life – and they don’t happen all that often – when you simply get blown away by someone’s generosity and kindness. It happened to me last Tuesday. I’ve been a fan of Charley Pride (above), the great Afro-American country and western singer since 1972, when I was in Seychelles, where he was (and probably still is) huge. In 2007 Mark Scarborough stayed at Chanters Lodge and I happened to mention to him that I was a fan of Charley’s. Yesterday, Mark came to stay again – with him he brought for me a photo of Charley Pride personally autographed and dedicated to me, posters, an autobiography and a multitude of albums including, brilliantly, his 2011 release ‘Choices’ – playing as I write. Charley’s getting on a bit in years but you wouldn’t know it from his voice on this beautiful album.
How come Mark did this? Well he’s a friend of Danny Hutchins. Who’s Danny Hutchins? I hear you ask. Danny joined Charley Pride as a backing musician in 1977 when Danny was just 17 and has been with him ever since. In his autobiography Charley says of his first meeting with Danny “we decided to do a medley which he hadn’t heard. He might have heard the individual songs but not the transitions and the lead-ins, the way they were put together. We played it one time through and the kid didn’t miss a damn turn. He hit every note – sharp, flat, augmented, everything. I hired him on the spot and he’s been with me ever since. I feel as though I’ve practically raised him. He’s been a big asset”. Well, Mark told Danny I was a fan and he organized all the wonderful things that Mark brought for me. Awesome!
For the uninitiated Charley Pride’s first hit came in 1966 ‘Just Between You And Me’. Since then he’s had 36 number one hit singles on the US country charts, 31 gold albums, 4 platinum and one quadruple platinum. He’s one of the best-selling country artists of all time. On RCA Records Charley Pride is second in sales only to Elvis Presley. My favourite tracks? ‘Crystal Chandeliers’ which I sang regularly on stage in the Musuku Restaurant when I managed the Ridgeway Hotel in Lusaka, and ‘Leaving Never Gets Me Anywhere’ which I also used to perform.
Charley made it in what was, and is, a musical genre dominated by white people – I guess you have to work twice as hard and be twice as tough to achieve that! Ground breaking!
Thanks Mark, Danny and Charley – you made my day!!