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"I feel great!" declares Charley Pride. "I'm completely cured."
The Country Music Hall of Famer, 66, certainly seems fine as he chows on meat, potatoes and salad - with pecan pie for dessert - backstage before a show in Ontario, Canada. Amazingly, only a few months ago he was undergoing emergency surgery to relieve a subdural hematoma - a potentially life-threatening buildup of blood between the brain and skull.
"I'm fully healed," assures Charley, casting an affectionate glance at his wife of 48 years, Rozene. "The doctor showed me my X-rays and told me I had the brain of a 29-year-old. I said, 'Wait a minute, let me call the wife! If I tell her you said that, she ain't going to believe me!'"
His ordeal began during a golf game on May 4. "I bent over to tee my ball, and felt like my eyeballs were going to pop out," he recalls.
Charley - the CMA's 1971 Entertainer of the Year whose smash hits include "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'," "I'm Just Me" and "She's Too Good to Be True" - took some pain medication and finished his day on the green. "Blood was building up under my skull and pushing against my brain," he notes, "but I didn't know it at the time."
After a restless night in bed at his Dallas home, Rozene insisted that Charley go to the emergency room.
He spent the next few days in bed, awaiting surgery - even though he felt fine. "I almost had the staff convinced to let me go!" he chuckles.
The surgery was successful, and within five days he was back home, where letters, flowers and gifts filled the Prides' gymnasium-sized living room.
Fellow baseball fan Garth Brooks sent him two bouquets with a card reading "To my baseball buddy - get well," while Loretta Lynn sent a basket of fresh fruit.
Recovered Charley is now back on tour.
"I'm blessed to be alive," he admits. "I'm so lucky."
- Nick Krewen