Dubbed "the Jackie Robinson of country" for his remarkable and unlikely career, Pride has racked up 52 Top 10 country hits, has been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and has sold more records at RCA than anyone beside Elvis.

Dubbed "the Jackie Robinson of country" for his remarkable and unlikely career, Pride has racked up 52 Top 10 country hits, has been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and has sold more records at RCA than anyone beside Elvis.

Ben De Rienzo/

Still touring and recording at age 83, Dallas-based country legend Charley Pride doesn't waste time worrying about career milestones. Maybe that's because he's already blown past most of them.

Dubbed "the Jackie Robinson of country" for his remarkable and unlikely career, Pride has racked up 52 Top 10 country hits, has been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and has sold more records at RCA than anyone beside Elvis. Still, he keeps making new albums, including Music In My Heart, which comes out Friday, July 7.

Yet the one milestone that eludes him — the only honor that gets him slightly riled up today — is a movie about his life. Pride says he hopes his life story makes it to the big screen before he heads into the big sleep.

83-year-old Charley Pride releases new album "Music in My Heart" on July 7, 2017.  He says of continuing to play well past retirement age: "You just love it, and it's hard to stop."

83-year-old Charley Pride releases new album "Music in My Heart" on July 7, 2017.  He says of continuing to play well past retirement age: "You just love it, and it's hard to stop."

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"I don't want to be like my buddy Johnny Cash, who was lying down trying to look up through the grass when his movie was done," Pride says of 2005's Walk the Line, which came out two years after The Man in Black died.

A Pride biopic starring actor Terence Howard was reportedly in the works in the late 2000s. Then, in 2011, it was announced that actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would star in a movie about the singer.

But like so many Hollywood projects, the film collapsed in a pile of red tape, much to Pride's dismay.

"I could give a scriptwriter enough to do three movies and they'd all be good," the singer says. "Ain't but one Charley Pride."

He's got a point. Aside from being the first black star in the alabaster world of country music, Pride also has a one-of-a-kind voice, a rich, velvet baritone that ranks as one of the greatest in contemporary music — not just country, but any genre.

While it's weathered slightly by age, Pride's voice remains splendid throughout Music In My Heart (Music City Records), an album of new tunes and old gems by Merle Haggard, Bill Anderson and the late Texas songwriter Johnny "Country" Mathis.

"A lot of fans say I'm singing better now than I ever did," says Pride, who quit drinking and smoking years ago — one possible reason why his voice remains strong. "Mostly it's the man upstairs. He's in charge of everything. He gave me the blessing of the voice I have."

One of 11 children raised by sharecropper parents in Sledge, Miss., Pride was a teen baseball star who left home in the 1950s to pitch in the Negro Leagues. He flirted with the majors, and even tried out for the New York Mets. But an ankle injury kept him out of the big leagues.

Encouraged by coaches who heard him sing on the team bus, Pride eventually went to Nashville and found a fan in Chet Atkins, who signed him to RCA. Starting in 1966, Pride cut a mind-boggling 29 No. 1 country hits, including some that landed on the pop charts, like "Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'" and "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone," later recorded by Doug Sahm.

With his career skyrocketing in 1969, Pride needed to move near an airport that was bigger than the dinky one in Great Falls, Mont., where he was living then. He considered heading home to the Deep South, but he chose Dallas because it seemed more progressive.

"I grew up in a segregated society, and I didn't want to subject my three kids to that," Pride says. "We picked out what we thought was the best place for the kids and also for traveling around the world, and you couldn't find a better place for that than Dallas."

Pride didn't totally avoid racism in the 1960s: One Nashville exec told him, "You look like them, but you sound like us," Pride once recalled.

Country music singer Charley Pride plays catch during a spring training workout at the Texas Rangers training facility in 2016. He's a former baseball player and a minority owner in the Texas Rangers.

Country music singer Charley Pride plays catch during a spring training workout at the Texas Rangers training facility in 2016. He's a former baseball player and a minority owner in the Texas Rangers.

Smiley N. Pool/Staff Photographer

Yet he wants to make it clear that, for the most part, he was welcomed warmly by country fans and Nashville musicians.

"My peers wanted me to make it worse than I wanted to make it," he says. "People say to me, 'You must have had it hard,' and when I say, 'No, I didn't,' they give me that you-gotta-be-lying look. But there was never one iota of hoot-calls at any of my shows."

He says he feels totally at home in North Dallas, where he's lived for decades with his wife of 50 years, Rozene. He's also a welcome and frequent guest in the Texas Rangers clubhouse. A minority owner in the team, Pride practices with the players every year at spring training and remains upbeat about the Rangers' diminishing chances to make it to the post-season in October.

"There's enough games left yet ... if we can just get it rolling," he says.

Pride, meanwhile, never stops rolling. On July 11, he'll travel to New York to receive a Lifetime Achievement Grammy during a ceremony and tribute concert at the Beacon Theater. In August, he'll fly to Ireland to play the Harvest Country Music Festival alongside Miranda Lambert, and he's got a U.S. tour booked for the fall.

Retirement isn't in the cards, he says. At least not yet.

"People say: 'Charley you still got it. Don't ever stop singing.' Now, if people stop saying that, get a hook, I'm gone. I'm not going to reach for something that's not there anymore," he says.

"But right now, they're still filling up the places, and when you go onstage and you got a whole audience singing backup to every word of your song, it's one of those things that gets in your blood," he says. "You just love it, and it's hard to stop."

Love country music? Check out the upcoming country concerts in Dallas-Fort Worth.

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