Country Singer Reflects on His Legacy in advance of May 24 Show

By Rick Hiduk

(Originally published in the Sullivan County Review)

Dion Pride, the son of the late legendary country singer Charley Pride, will perform live at the Sullivan County Fairgrounds on Friday, May 24. His show is part tribute to his father, an opportunity to share his love of music in general, and to play with one of his favorite bands.

While some stories about Dion suggest that he has sometimes struggled to maintain a balance between being the son of one of RCA Records biggest stars (second only to Elvis Presley) and being appreciated for his own well-honed musical abilities, to speak with him is to realize immediately that Charley is still as much a part of Dion today as are all of the younger Pride’s other influences and collaborators combined.

It was such a blessing to grow up under his roof. I got trained by one of the most professional singers there ever was,” Dion related. “I felt that my father was a greater man than his success, because he was so much more enriching than his success.” From the first time that Charley brought an eight year old Dion onto the stage with him, he explained, “I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Dion was born in Helena, MT, and grew up in Great Falls, one of three children born to Charley and Rozene Pride. He attended public schools and started singing and playing the guitar at age five. Dion doesn’t remember having a favorite subject. “I just liked school,” he stated.

As a youth, Dion was often unaware how gifted he was in the sense that he was surrounded by music and routinely met other popular artists of the day. “It really wasn’t all that different, honestly, except for when we traveled or went out with my father to a show,” Dion said of his childhood.

While Charley was always passionate about country and western music and shared it with his children, Dion’s mother was a big fan of standard vocalists of the day, including Jack Jones, Herb Alpert, Lawrence Welk, and Tom Jones. Consequently, Dion recalls being a fan of Vic Damone, Sammy Davis, Jr., and even Barbara Streisand. One of his uncles and his brother Kraig brought jazz and R&B into Dion’s life.

I didn’t realize at the time that I had a very eclectic music base at a very early age,” he said. Nonetheless, as he began to experiment with drums and bass guitar, he developed a repertoire of mostly his father’s songs and began performing. “If anyone asked me to play anything else, I was actually offended,” Dion recalls. “He (Charley) was so revered.” As Dion began to study classical piano, however, “Things really branched out from there.”

In addition to maintaining good grades at school while improving his musicianship, Dion also excelled at athletics – one more thing that he shared with his father. While Charley was learning to play guitar, it was his skills on the baseball diamond that first brought attention and opportunity to him. He debuted with the Negro League’s Memphis Red Sox in 1953 and continued with the integrated minor leagues through 1960, twice being named Negro League All Star and being on the winning All-Army Championship team in 1957.

Dion lettered in several sports in high school and was offered scholarships to play baseball in Arkansas and football in other places. “By the time the baseball scholarship came around in my senior year of high school, it was pulling me,” he remembers. “I thought it through. I settled into knowing that I wanted to make a career in music and went to north Texas.” He still resides in Dallas with Mary Ann, his wife of 22 years.

Dion was introduced to the concept of “jamming” with other musicians by his father, who would occasionally invite his peers to their home to play. As Dion grew into the music business, he would routinely get together off-stage for jam sessions with other musicians, including Johnny Duncan, Janie Fricke, Ronnie Milsap, and Glen Campbell.

He has also done studio work with his brother, Kraig, who performs under the name Carlton. “It’s been a long time. But when he first started doing his reggae music, I was playing some of the instruments for him in my father’s studio,” said Dion. “To get to work on music with him was a fun and enjoyable experience.”

As previously noted, Dion is proficient on numerous instruments, none of which have time to gather dust. “I have to rotate them, depending on the day and the mood that I’m in,” he related. “I always look at what I do as with any skill. It’s perishable, and you have to keep it. You have to maintain your chops. I practice quite regularly.”

Dion has also composed more than 100 songs, several of which were recorded by his father. When asked to name a few favorites from his own catalog, he said, “I don’t have one. I have a special like and place for every song that I play because they all have some type of meaning and come from different moods, whether it be about the heart or just life.” Upon further reflection, though, he singled out his composition Not Alone. “It’s a song I wrote for my wife,” he noted.

The stage is surely Dion’s home away from home and the place where his inner energies come to life. “The reciprocal energy between the musicians, myself and the audience is priceless,” he asserted. ‘It’s always different, always new and the same in that every performance is always a pinnacle.”

He would often pick his father’s brain about various aspects of the music business and asked him once if he ever got nervous on stage. “That turned into quite a discussion. I was only talking about nerves, but my father took it to a deeper level,” Dion recalled. The elder Pride said to him, “The day that you are getting ready to go out on stage and you don’t feel that, it means you don’t care anymore.”

So yes,” Dion maintained, “I feel it ever time. It’s something that I could never get tired of. When they do come to see me, they will never encounter an artist that loves what they do and is as honored to perform for them as I am.

On May 24, music lovers can hear Dion perform hits by his father like Kiss An Angel Good Morning, Crystal Chandeliers, Kaw-Liga, and Is Anyone Going to San Antone. He’ll bring his energy to renderings of hits by other artists like Waylon Jennings, Brooks & Dunn, and George Strait. “I love western swing,” Dion related.

Though not specifically promoted as such, the Cramer Brothers Band, a family-led unit that has wowed audiences across Pennsylvania and beyond for decades, is much more than a warm-up act for the show. They will start at 6 pm, and Dion will join them on stage at 7:30.

They are superior musicians and very professional. The chemistry that we have and the bond that we have acquired is real. They make me feel like part of the band,” Dion said of his relationship with the Cramer Brothers. “Those are some of my favorite shows. I can genuinely say that I love those guys. That’s part of what’s going to make this so much fun.”

When asked if he had ever played in Sullivan County before, Dion thought he remembered playing there once before with his father – a notion corroborated on social media by a number of Sullivan County residents who definitely remember Charley Pride performing there. 

The fun at the Sullivan County Fairgrounds on May 24 will start at 3 pm with DJ AM Flashback. There will be numerous on-site vendors of food and other items. Tickets are $30 for bleachers and $35 for track seating and can be purchased by calling Darlene at 570-209-1849 or logging on to and Proceeds from the show benefit the Kiwanis Club of Sullivan County.

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