- - Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Growing up the son of sharecroppers in Mississippi, Charley Pride developed a love of country music that propelled him into a legendary career as one of its biggest stars.

Now, items donated by Mr. Pride from throughout his life will become part of the Smithsonian’s upcoming National Museum of African American History and Culture, set to open in 2015. A gala reception was to be held Wednesday in Mr. Pride’s hometown of Dallas to celebrate the museum gift, which includes a pair of Mr. Pride’s boots, one of his guitars and his Country Music Association male vocalist of the year award from 1971.

“Obviously, the one thing that stands out to people is that Charley Pride was country music’s first black superstar. But what he was trying to do was play the music that he liked and entertain his audiences,” said Dwan Reece, the museum’s curator of music and performing arts. “His links to country music are just as natural as Loretta Lynn’s. This is his childhood. This is the music that he knows.”

Mr. Pride said that while it was difficult to part with some of the items, it’s nice to know they will be in the museum where he can always visit.

As the museum began acquiring its collection of items documenting African-American life, art, history and culture, Ms. Reece said there was “no question” that Mr. Pride’s was an important story to tell.

“One of the things we want to express in the exhibit is that African-Americans have a history in all kinds of music,” Ms. Reece said. “I’m not sure everybody would expect us to have a section on country music.”

Once the museum opens, items from Mr. Pride’s life will join a collection that also will represent music artists including Louis Armstrong, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Michael Jackson.

Mr. Pride, who at 78 is still touring and heads to Ireland this month and the United Kingdom next month, said he never had trouble from audiences over his race. “I never had one iota of hoot calls from the audience,” Mr. Pride said.

However, he did recall a 1966 performance when a crowd of 10,000 at Detroit’s Olympia Stadium — the biggest audience of his career at that point — grew quiet upon seeing that the fledgling country singer was black.

“I said, ‘You know, I realize it’s a little unique me coming out here on a country music show wearing this permanent tan.’ When I said that there was this big old applause — saying exactly what they were thinking,” Mr. Pride said.

He told the crowd he would play his three singles and maybe a hit from another singer, but that “I ain’t got time to talk about pigmentation all night.”

After the show, fans lined up to get his autograph. “That’s the way it’s been for the last 40 some years,” he said.

Tyler Perry to replace disabled woman’s stolen van

Filmmaker Tyler Perry is donating a new vehicle to a Georgia woman with cerebral palsy after her specially-equipped van was stolen outside Atlanta.

Mr. Perry told Atlanta station WSB-TV he decided to give Alicia Day a new van after he saw a news report about the theft this week, the Associated Press reports.

Authorities said Ms. Day’s 2000 Chrysler Town and Country van was stolen from her Decatur driveway sometime Sunday night.

Ms. Day, who uses a wheelchair, told WSB she prides herself on being independent and works part time as a greeter at Home Depot. Her mother relied on the van to take Ms. Day to work and to doctor appointments.

Ms. Day said “my mouth just dropped to the floor” when she learned Mr. Perry would give her a new van.

School for the deaf gets cash, Swift tickets after prank

Taylor Swift is giving $10,000 and concert tickets to a Boston school for the deaf after a prank during an online contest promising an on-campus performance by the Grammy-winning singer.

Horace Mann School for the Deaf was disqualified from the contest because many of the votes were from pranksters who thought it would be funny for a school for the deaf to win a concert.

Miss Swift, known for hits including “You Belong With Me” and “Love Story,” said every student at the K-12 school will receive a ticket to her next local concert. She donated $10,000 to the school, the contest sponsors donated $40,000 more, and VH1’s Save the Music program donated $10,000 in musical instruments.

“Any kind of specific instrument that can be purchased to bring music alive for these students will go a long way,” Boston Public School spokesman Matt Wilder said.

Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif., won the on-campus concert and a $10,000 grant to its music department.

Miss Swift is releasing her fourth studio album, “Red,” on Oct. 22.

Formerly Hootie, Rucker to join Grand Ole Opry

Darius Rucker’s conversion to country is complete: He’s joining the Grand Ole Opry.

Mr. Rucker performed on Tuesday night’s Opry and received a visit from unannounced guest Brad Paisley, who surprised him with the invitation.

“I’m still surprised,” Mr. Rucker said afterward. “They shocked me. Everybody, my wife and I’m just finding out even my kids knew. I wasn’t expecting anything today. I didn’t think tonight is the night I’d be asked to be a member of the Opry. That’s unbelievable.”

The singer rose to fame as the frontman for South Carolina rockers Hootie & the Blowfish, but began to pursue his lifelong passion for country music a few years ago. He’s had a multiplatinum, award-winning run since and will release his third country album early next year.

The 46-year-old is the third black performer to hold Opry membership, joining Country Music Hall of Fame members DeFord Bailey and Charley Pride.

“I felt like I was in,” Mr. Rucker said. “I felt like I was accepted and I was part of the family. This is the completion of the conversion from Hootie into Darius the country singer. With the induction into the Opry, it’s definitely complete now.”