Charlie Daniels reflects on six-decade career in music

Charlie Daniels reflects on six-decade career in music

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How many 82-year-olds do you know who tweet every day? Charlie Daniels is not like most octogenarians (he turns 83 on Oct. 28), and brings what he loves best Friday to the Rhythm City Casino Resort Event Center, Davenport.

“I am thankful for the blessings of God for my health, the love of what I do, the love of entertaining, I enjoy so very much,” Daniels, the grandfather of a 22-year-old and 11-year-old, said in a recent telephone interview. “I enjoy walking on stage, entertaining the people. I love to get on stage, my music, and have them enjoy it. It's an honor and absolute blessing.”

From his Dove Award-winning gospel albums to his Southern rock anthems and his CMA Award-winning country hits, the humble, stentorian-voiced artist has carved a varied career over six decades.

Raised among the pines of North Carolina, Daniels began his career playing bluegrass with the Misty Mountain Boys. After moving to Nashville in 1967, he began making a name for himself as a songwriter, session musician and producer. Elvis Presley recorded a tune he co-wrote titled “It Hurts Me,” which was released on the flip side of “Kissin’ Cousins.” He played on such landmark albums as Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline.”

Daniels recorded his self-titled solo album in 1970 for Capitol Records; two years later he formed the Charlie Daniels Band, and the group scored its first hit with the top 10 “Uneasy Rider.”

Since then, the CDB has had such hits as “Long Haired Country Boy,” “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” “In America,” “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” and his signature song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1979 as well as single of the year at the Country Music Association Awards.

Forty years on, Daniels is still surprised the colorful tale (which he co-wrote with his band) of a home-grown fiddle whiz taking on the devil became legendary.

“I thought it would be a good song for us, but I had no idea whatsoever it would be as big,” he said. “I'd be lying if I had any idea of it would do what it did. It's the last thing that we play (in concert); we have nothing to follow it with. Once we play that, we might as well walk off stage.”

A common misconception is that the lyrics in the final verse were changed from “S.O.B.” to “son-of-a-gun” after Daniels was forced to go back in the studio and do a "clean" version. In fact, both versions were recorded on the very same day with everyone in agreement that the “son-of-a-gun” version would have a better likelihood of getting radio airplay, with the “S.O.B.” version on the “Million Mile Reflections” album.

To record the devil’s fiddle solo, Daniels overdubbed seven fiddles, so they are all playing together on the track, and Johnny’s solo is three fiddles overdubbed.

His latest disc — "Beau Weevils - Songs in the Key of E” — features Daniels on lead vocals, guitar and fiddle; James Stroud on drums and percussion; Charlie Hayward on bass; and Billy Crain on guitar, released last October.

“We had worked together, with James in the capacity of producer, which had resulted in some of our most successful albums for The Charlie Daniels Band, but James is one of the finest and most soulful drummers in the business and I figured we could get together, musician to musician, and come up with something special,” Daniels said, describing the new songs as “down-home, swampy rock meets funk with a little taste of 'Delta' type of style.”

Over the course of his long career, he's received numerous accolades, including induction into the Grand Ole Opry and Musicians Hall of Fame. Daniels has been presented the Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music and was honored as a BMI Icon in recognition of his songwriting.

A review of a July 2018 New York concert (at digitaljournal.com) said: “It is evident that Daniels is like fine wine, where he only gets better with age and experience. Daniels and his band perform with such energy and charisma, and they left the Long Island audience wanting to hear more classics.”

The CDB will perform over 100 concerts in 2019, including concerts with Alabama (50th-anniversary tour), Outlaws & Renegades (Travis Tritt), shows with The Marshall Tucker Band and performances at the famed Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

His discography has also reflected Daniels' love of multiple genres. In 1994, he released his first Christian album, “The Door,” on Sparrow Records.  The album won the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award for Best Country Album and “Two Out of Three” was named video of the year by the Christian Country Music Association. In 1997, Sony Wonder released Daniels' first children’s album, “By The Light of The Moon: Campfire Songs and Cowboy Tunes.”

“When I came along in 1936, my formative years, I came from rural parts of the South, you may or may not have had a radio station in your town,” he said in the interview. “There weren't that many stations. They had to fulfill their FCC mandate for everybody, so on one station, we got all kinds of music. I was exposed to many, many kinds of music, just all kinds. So when I got ready to write original music, that stuck with me. I've done a little bit of all of it.”

Last year, he published his memoir, “Let’s All Make the Day Count: The Everyday Wisdom of Charlie Daniels,” a book that shares his signature wit and powerful lessons that he’s learned from traveling and playing all around the world. It was meant for those who have enjoyed his daily “let’s all make the day count” tweets and want to hear more personal stories from his life.

To his 962,300 Twitter followers, Daniels shares thoughts on causes important to him, including being a patriot, a mentor to young artists and wide-ranging efforts to support the military, underprivileged children and others in need.

He grew up in a town that had a shipyard, that sent ships and war materials across the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. “We took the war very seriously,” Daniels recalled. “There are only two things that protect Americans — the grace of God and the United States military. Without our military, folks, there'd be no us. We have to make sure they have no unmet need when they come back.”

“Bureaucracies by design move slowly, the need is immediate, help is slow coming,” he said of serving veterans. “We try to help out, fill in the gaps.”

On Sept. 10, the second Charlie Daniels Patriot Award Dinner was held in Nashville, and more than $200,000 raised for the nonprofit The Journey Home Project. 

The sold-out event featured performances by Daniels ("Let 'em Win Or Bring 'em Home") and Darryl Worley ("Have You Forgotten") and remarks from decorated military veterans Mark "Oz" Geist (Benghazi survivor and co-author of “13 Hours”/Marine Corps, retired), Eddie Gallagher (Navy SEAL), Michael Flynn (former National Security Advisor) and former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik.

The Journey Home Project is a nonprofit organization that assists other groups in securing funds to help causes that benefit veterans, founded in 2014 by Charlie Daniels and his manager, David Corlew. For the past several years, Daniels has headlined a concert at David Lipscomb University benefiting the Yellow Ribbon Program, which provides scholarships for veterans.

On his Twitter account, Daniels posts that 22 U.S. veterans die by suicide per day; as well as daily tweets about the total number of abortions worldwide, Benghazi, and praying for the blue (law enforcement).

The only things he doesn't write personally are band updates and anniversaries. The opinions are all his. “I do that every day, do what I can to keep issues in people's faces.”

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