Legendary country artist Charley Pride has received the Ameripolitan Master Award for his work, making him the first-ever living recipient of the prestigious prize. The award, which celebrates country artists who “do not readily conform to the tastes of today’s ‘country’ or other music genres and organizations,” was presented to Pride at the 3rd annual ceremony on Feb. 16 in Austin, Texas.

The awards divide the genre into four categories generally overlooked by mainstream organizations — like honky tonk, rockabilly, outlaw and western swing — and selects winners based on fan votes. The Ameripolitan Awards also seek to highlight these often lesser-known musicians and performers and make them more accessible to potential fans.

Pride released his most famous single, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” in 1971. It sold a million copies and became a crossover hit for the artist, earning a slot in the Top 40 in pop as well as adult contemporary charts, in addition to spending five weeks at No. 1 on the country charts. Pride's success also earned him the CMA Entertainment of the Year award, as well as Top Male Vocalist. The 77-year-old Mississippi native has won three Grammy awards and achieved 39 No. 1 hits in his career and has been a trailblazer for African American artists in country music. He is one of only three African Americans to be inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. In the height of his career, Pride became the best-selling RCA Records performer since Elvis Presley.

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