by Jessica Nicholson
Darius Rucker recently opened up about his final conversation with late country music legend Charley Pride, who died Dec. 12, 2020 at age 86, due to complications from COVID-19.
Rucker’s final conversation with Pride came as Rucker was co-hosting the Country Music Association Awards (alongside Reba McEntire), and in the process, becoming the first Black co-host of the CMA Awards since Pride did the honors in 1975. Pride was also in attendance for the CMA Awards when it aired on Nov. 11, 2020, as Pride was honored with the CMA’s Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, and performed “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” alongside Jimmie Allen.
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During a conversation with Southern Living, where he was named the publication’s 2021 Southerner of the Year, Rucker recalled his last conversation with Pride.
“When I saw him, we talked for a minute, and I told him I wanted to come to Mississippi. I said, ’This is the perfect time. I’ll come, and we’ll social distance and sit and talk and drink some coffee.’ And he was like, ’Yeah, let’s do that.’ It was the last time I spoke to him.”
Rucker, who just earned his 10th career No. 1 hit with “Beers and Sunshine,” added that being there to see Pride be honored with the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award was a highlight of the evening for him.
“Oh, the moment for me—the whole deal, really—was seeing Charley receive that [lifetime achievement] award and get it when he was still alive. You can look at all the legends who are still around, all of whom are great, and none of them deserves it more than Charley.”
Last year’s CMAs were a rarity among music awards shows, in that they held an in-person ceremony, welcoming artists to a more intimate setting at Nashville’s Music City Center and airing the show live on Nov. 11. Though the nominees and performers themselves were in the audience for the show, there was no ticketed in-house audience for the ceremony.
Pride’s acceptance speech for his lifetime achievement award honor proved to be one of the evening’s sweetest moments.
“Well, you might not believe but I’m nervous as can be,” Pride said from the stage while accepting the honor. “All the people have been influenced by my life, what my life has been influenced by, I got to say something about some of them.”
He also paid tribute to the late Jack Clement, who not only financed a demo session for Pride and gave the demo tape to Chet Atkins (who was instrumental in getting Pride signed to a recording deal with RCA), but also produced or co-produced Pride’s first 13 projects for RCA.
“This man I’ve always been awed by, and I still am. My wife Roseanne and I would go and visit him. In fact, last time we visited before he passed away. He always said, ‘Roseanne, you’re so pretty.’ I never have forgotten that. All my fans, I want to say thank you,” Pride said. “Well, I’m through talking. I just want to thank everybody again. Like I said, I’m nervous.”