Shock news Daniel O'Donnell: Charley Pride was my favourite US country singer and a good friend
I WAS shocked and saddened to hear last Saturday night that my dear friend Charley Pride had died in Dallas, Texas, as a result of contracting Covid-19.
It is so unfortunate that he caught it because Charley was in good health. His mind was still very sharp and he was still sounding as good as ever.
Shortly before I got the sad news, I'd actually been watching Charley on the internet performing at the 2020 Country Music Association Awards in America where he received the highly coveted Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
Charley looked really well on that event early last month, and he sounded so good too.
He was also on top form when he joined us on our Daniel sa Bhaile show on TG4 during the summer and sang Crystal Chandeliers.
Charley was my favourite American male country singer. I've been a fan ever since first hearing him when I was a teenager.
My brother John had an eight-track tape in his car at the time and I remember playing Charley on it and instantly loving his songs such as Just Between You And Me and Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone?
I loved his voice from the minute I heard it, and from then on I was hooked. Imagine then how I felt later in life when I actually got to meet Charley, share a bill with him, have him guest on my own TV showsâ€¦and even record with him.
That is beyond the expectations of any fan, but it actually became a reality for me.
I first met Charley in person back in 1988 when I was recording an album in Nashville and he was staying in the same hotel. Then the following year he came over to Dublin to appear as a special guest on my first TV show.
Anytime I met Charley after that it was like we had met yesterday. From then on he was on countless shows of mine. Anything we ever asked of him he was agreeable to do it.
He was a guest on our PBS special from Branson, Missouri, and on a BBC TV series that I did. And he was a guest when I did a Gerry Kelly special.
When I recorded my Country Boy album in 2008, which featured standards by the country greats, I said, 'Wouldn't it be lovely if I could get Charley Pride to duet on it with me.' Not alone that, but I also suggested a duet with my favourite American female country singer, Loretta Lynn.
Well, prayers do get answered you know, and I ended up having duets with both legends on that album after they agreed without hesitation. I recorded Crystal Chandeliers with Charley, and I Wanna Be Free with Loretta. That is certainly something to treasure.
Charley and I were on many tours, and one of the biggest thrills of my career happened while we were both on the bill for The Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls in the mid-Noughties.
As I walked up the street I didn't realise that the arena was going to be in front of me until I suddenly saw it, and there was a billboard declaring: 'Appearing: Charley Pride and Daniel O'Donnell.'
People often ask me, 'What moments made you stop and think, 'how did this happen?' Well, that was one for me because I absolutely loved Charley Pride as a singer.
When I got to know him, I also loved him as a person. When I did a show one time in Dallas, where he lived, Charley invited Majella and myself to meet him and his wife Rozene for lunch. Afterwards, we went back to their lovely home. They were both so welcoming. Charley and Rozene were married for 64 years and were a totally united couple.
I feel blessed to have experienced all of those times with Charley, who always called me Danny O'Donnell.
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