The Story Behind Charley Pride’s “I’d Rather Love You”

Charley Pride
Charley Pride

Charley Pride’s road show welcomed a new addition in 1970: a struggling performer named Johnny Duncan. Duncan had been signed a few years earlier by Columbia, but still hadn’t been able to connect with a single that would break his own career open. Johnny’s highest chart tally so far had been #21 with Vic McAlpin’s “Jackson Ain’t A Very Big Town,” a duet with June Stearns in 1968. Pride, however, saw promise in Duncan and allowed him to use his own band, The Pridesmen, on tour.

Many fans who attended Charley’s concerts erroneously thought that Duncan worked for Pride and was simply fronting his band, but that wasn’t true. Johnny was there as an artist in his own right, performing as an added part of the show. A third element in the entourage was a comedian/ventriloquist by the name of Alex Houston. In selected cities, a big-name act such as Waylon Jennings or Mel Tillis would sometimes be brought in as a “guest star.”

Charley Pride took a particular interest in Duncan’s work as a songwriter and recorded a number of his songs during the 2 ½ year period they toured together. The album “I’m Just Me” is a prime example – Duncan placed three songs in the package, including “I’d Rather Love You,” written after a show at the Tri-State Fair in Amarillo, Texas.

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