CMA Awards 1971: Charley Pride Becomes The First And Only Black Artist To Win CMA Entertainer Of The Year

Charley Pride country music
Joe Rudis/The Tennessean

Here’s to the great Charley Pride.

With the CMA Awards coming up in a couple weeks, we’ve been taking a look back at some of the best moments from the shows history, like the time Alan and George straight up skewered pop country on stage, the time Charlie Rich got so intoxicated that he lit John Denver’s envelope on fire, and more recently, when Sturgill Simpson trolled the entire show when he busked outside of the arena with his Grammy in his guitar case.

But aside from some of the funnier stories we’ve been sharing, there have been quite a few very significant and historical moments, as well.

And one of the most important comes from the year 1971, when the late Mr. Pride became the first and only Black artist to win Entertainer of the Year.

He earned his first CMA nominations, Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year, in 1968. He won both categories in 1971, becoming the first non-white artist to win in both categories.

A year later, the late, great Loretta Lynn became the first female to win Entertainer of the Year at the 1972 CMA’s, and while we don’t really know for sure, I’d say that’s no coincidence.

A few years after that, in 1975, Charley became the first Black artist to host the CMA Awards, which he did alongside Glen Campbell. Up until 2020, when Darius Rucker co-hosted with Reba, Charley was the only Black artist to ever do so.

And in 1993, he became the second Black artist to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry (after DeFord Bailey in 1926), with Darius becoming the third Black artist to earn a spot in the Opry in 2012.

It’s nearly impossible to list out all the impressive achievements Mr. Pride accomplished throughout his decades in country music, paving the way for other Black artists like him to have a career in the industry that didn’t really feel possible before he started it all.

Charley was officially inducted into the hallowed halls of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

He also had his final performance ever at the CMA Awards two years ago, taking the stage with Jimmie Allen to sing “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’.”

He passed away in Dallas after succumbing to complications from COVID-19 in 2020, not long after the show aired, and the world truly lost a great man and pioneer that day.

It was a sad day for country fans all over the world, indeed, but this is certainly a happy way to remember the country legend:

This year’s 57th annual show will air live on ABC on November 8th live at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, and will once again be hosted by Luke Bryan and Peyton Manning.

You can see the full list of nominees HERE and first round of performers HERE.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock