Charlie Daniels has seen a lot of changes in his 78 years. From music to politics, the legendary fiddler, singer and songwriter has an opinion.
The Charlie Daniels Band will be playing one show at 9 p.m. Friday, July 24, at The Event Center at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races, in West Virginia. That gave me the opportunity to snag a phone interview.
Calling from somewhere in Minnesota, where CDB would later put on a concert, Daniels said this was a good time of year to be in the state, not too cold. However, he conceded, an early morning walk with his wife, Hazel, indicated mosquitoes may be a nuisance now.
Last year, CDB played 107 shows and Daniels said they will play that many again this year plus 10 Grand Ole Opry performances and other events, like the upcoming Volunteer Jam in August.
This year will be the 40th Vol Jam, which started when CDB was recording “Million Mile Reflections” and wanted to include a couple of live tracks. They rented a 2,200-seat venue and invited some friends, like The Allman Brothers Band and The Marshall Tucker Band, to join them. It was a sellout.
“The first year we sold 2,200 seats; the second year 13,000 seats sold out,” Daniels said. The show includes a long list of performers and there were a couple of years when there was no show because, as Daniels explained, “it’s such a hassle to put together.” And, he added, it’s hugely expensive to do. Efforts to have Vol Jam benefit a nonprofit organization have been challenging because once expenses are paid there has been little left.
This year, the team has lined up sponsors for the 40th Vol Jam and is in the black now, Daniels said. It will take place Aug. 12 at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena and include Trace Adkins, Ted Nugent, Tracy Lawrence, Colt Ford, The Oak Ridge Boys, Michael W. Smith, Travis Tritt, Montgomery Gentry, Billy Ray Cyrus, The Kentucky Headhunters and more. Proceeds will benefit two organizations: The Journey Home Project and The Predators Foundation, a project of ice hockey’s Nashville Predators, which is “devoted to funneling the excitement of professional sports towards the needs of the community,” according to a news release.
The Journey Home Project was founded in 2014 by Daniels and some friends “to soften the landing of our people coming back from the military, helping them with education, whatever we need to do to help veterans transition back into civilian life,” Daniels said.
Though he didn’t serve in the military, Daniels has long been a staunch supporter. “I’m an old guy,” Daniels said. “I’m 78 years old and one thing I’ve learned is that the only thing that has protected America is the grace of God and the American military. It was true after World War II and it’s true today.”
He believes the biggest threat to America today is its political climate. “I don’t think the president and his administration understand the ways of the world, they don’t understand the dangers and don’t take the dangers seriously or the role (the U.S.) military plays,” Daniels said. “Russia is building up arms. China is building up arms. The Middle East is ready to explode.”
He says the recent nuclear agreement with Iran is viewed as a “sellout” by Israel and in the Midd;e East as a sign of “weakness.”
“In a few years, if it takes that long, a nuclear arms race is going to start,” he said. “(Iran) is not going to keep their word. (The agreement) is not set up to verify anything. It’s damn tomfoolery.
“We live in dangerous times,” he said.
He also faults the current administration with missing a great opportunity to unite the country, instead choosing to “pit one group against another financially, politically, racially,” he said.
Daniels, born in 1936, grew up in the South in a Christian home. He admits he “got way off center for a while” from his faith but “knowing the truth” brought him back to his Christian roots.
His 2014 album “Off the Grid— Doin’ It Dylan” was a tribute to Bob Dylan, who hired Daniels as a young studio musician for three of his album projects. The album, his first since 2007, is a collection of Dylan-penned songs.
Daniels said he is always in the middle of odds and ends projects, including writing his biography. He also wrote a song for the national rodeo championships, which takes place in Las Vegas. The song will debut there in December, he said.
His wife, Hazel, often travels with him on tour. The two met in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where CDB was playing a show. “My drummer was dating a girl there and she was her friend,” he said. In September, the Daniels’
will celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary.
“I think you could say it’s going to work out,” he said.
You can read more of my interview with Charlie Daniels in the July 23 editon of 72 Hours, inside The Frederick News-Post.