Country music’s humble trailblazer as a Black star

Dion Pride performs during the taping of “CMT Giants: Charley Pride” in April at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville.
Dion Delight performs through the taping of “CMT Giants: Charley Pride” in April at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville.
Illustration: Andrea Brunty, USA TODAY Community, Photograph: Andrew Nelles/Tennessean.com
Dion Delight performs through the taping of “CMT Giants: Charley Pride” in April at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville.
Illustration: Andrea Brunty, USA TODAY Community, Photograph: Andrew Nelles/Tennessean.com

On this second installment of Hallowed Sound, journalists from the USA TODAY Community look at the state of race in nation music, scour the South seeking untold tales and shine a light-weight on a brand new, eclectic technology of Black artists.

The legacy of Charley Delight burns brightly. 

From “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin'” to “Mountain of Love,” the Nation Music Corridor of Fame artist entertained generations with a rich-voiced storytelling that Delight humbly delivered not like any earlier than him. 

He trailblazed a format, changing into the primary Black famous person to prime nation charts. Artists from groundbreaking “Black Like Me” singer Mickey Guyton to nation legend Garth Brooks — and an limitless listing in between — share boundless respect for what Delight achieved.  

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For his son Dion Delight, the late singer represented a “universal” sound heard in nation music. Charley Delight died in December of COVID-19 problems. He was 86. 

“I never listened to my father with color,” Dion Delight advised the USA TODAY Community, including: “It never dawned on me or occurred to me that he had the pigmentation that he had. I think that was something about … his character and his way with people — and of course the delivery of his vocal — that was very universal.

“I really feel like I am biased, however I do actually consider my father was the most effective of all time.” 

Dion Pride performs during the CMT Giants: Charley Pride show at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, April 8, 2021.
Charley Pride performs one of the five songs nominated for Single of the Year during the third annual CMA Awards show at the Ryman Auditorium on Oct. 15, 1969.
TOP: Dion Delight performs through the taping of “CMT Giants: Charley Pride” in April at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville. ABOVE: Charley Delight performs one of many 5 songs nominated for Single of the 12 months through the third annual CMA Awards present on the Ryman Auditorium on Oct. 15, 1969.
TOP: Dion Delight performs through the taping of “CMT Giants: Charley Pride” in April at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville. ABOVE: Charley Delight performs one of many 5 songs nominated for Single of the 12 months through the third annual CMA Awards present on the Ryman Auditorium on Oct. 15, 1969.
LEFT: Dion Delight performs through the taping of “CMT Giants: Charley Pride” in April at Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville. RIGHT: Charley Delight performs one of many 5 songs nominated for Single of the 12 months through the third annual CMA Awards present on the Ryman Auditorium on Oct. 15, 1969.
ANDREW NELLES, Invoice Preston, The TENNESSEAN

Nonetheless, Dion Delight did not see Charley Delight — the entertainer — a lot at dwelling, he stated. 

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“His character, his humility, his humbleness; he was always dad when he came home,” Dion Delight stated. “He always would say he was the well. If you want the answers, come to him. So I spent a lot of time picking his brain on wisdom and life. … I saw [the on-stage entertainer] from afar, if that makes sense.” 

Then Dion Delight began touring together with his dad. He quickly discovered himself with a backstage view to his father’s excellence. He toured on-and-off with Charley Delight’s street band for greater than 20 years, enjoying keyboards or guitar. Dion Delight typically opened the present. 

He noticed the facility of his dad’s voice at a present in Eire, the place the singer led an a cappela singalong of people customary “Danny Boy.” 

“They start singing with him [and] he puts the mic down,” Dion Delight stated. “They stop singing when he stops singing. He says, ‘No, it’s your song. You sing.’ … They were just screaming for him, ‘No. Sing it with us. Sing it with us.'” 

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“He starts singing with them. And there’s nothing more powerful than the human voice,” Dion Delight continued. “To hear my dad … it may sound corny, but I felt levitated that night.” 

His father’s legacy blazed brightly abroad on that evening, and it continues to burn with a brand new technology of artists raised on his showmanship. 

Dion Delight, about father Charley Delight
Outdoors of race, exterior of tradition, exterior [the] nation that you just’re from, he introduced individuals collectively. That’s the lesson I acquired from him. He introduced individuals collectively as individuals.

“Outside of race, outside of culture, outside [the] country that you’re from, he brought people together,” Dion Delight stated. “That’s the lesson I got from him. He brought people together as people.

“There was by no means any thought or indication of variations. It was a united, reciprocal expertise for everyone above and past our pure, I might say, conditioned shortcomings of the cultures and races. That is one thing that was invaluable that I used to be in a position to be taught from my father.” 

Dion Pride joined George Strait, Alan Jackson, Jimmie Allen, Luke Combs, Lee Ann Womack, Darius Rucker and more in paying tribute to Charley Pride last month as part of an all-star television special, “CMT Giants: Charley Delight.” 

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