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Relaxing backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame legend Charley Pride is smiling. He's just been pleasantly surprised by a fan from Pocahontas, Ark., who brought him a photo she had taken of him back in 1979.
"That's the first time I got a chance to see how I looked at that time," says Charley, who made his Opry debut at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium in 1967. "I've got pictures that I have from then, but not that kind from a fan. It's just nice to have something like that."
It's also nice to know that Charley - who scored 29 No. 1 hits, including "All I Have To Offer You (Is Me)," "A Shoulder to Cry On" and his 1971 signature tune, "Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'" - still has that warm, friendly baritone. And he'll be putting that legendary voice on record again as he makes plans for an upcoming album that'll be chock-full of all-new material.
"That's one of the things that I truly get excited about," he says, "going in the studio and trying to come out with something that excites me the way 'Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'' did. I couldn't wait to record that song. I'm looking for things like that."
When he looks back at his career, Charley can certainly beam at his list of accomplishments, which include three CMA Awards (including 1971's Entertainer of the Year), Grand Ole Opry membership and three Grammys.
"When I first won CMA Male Vocalist of the Year in 1971," Charley recalls with a grin, "I was flying. It was like when I used to sit on the porch and look at the clouds and wonder how it would be to float on them."
These days, Charley is still breezing along. He and his wife of 46 years, Rozene - whom he met while playing minor league baseball in Memphis - call Dallas home. They also spend time at their condo in Branson, where Charley performs about a dozen shows a year.
When he's not making music, Charley loves hitting the golf course and visiting his and Rozene's three children, Kraig, Dion and Angela.
The once-aspiring baseball player harbors no regrets about his choice of career. "I never suspected until it got going along that I would be singing country music," says Charley. "But I'm glad that it has lasted this long."
-- Keith Ryan Cartwright