In his nearly 60-year career, Charlie Daniels has made albums that were country, bluegrass, Southern rock, Christian, songs for kids and, most recently, cowboy songs. But the soon-to-be 81 singer, songwriter and fiddler will tell you he doesn’t label his music as anything other than the “Charlie Daniels Band sound.”
“I do my music when I want to do it and the way I want to do it,” said Daniels, who has a home studio and his own music label, Blue Hat, in Tennessee. “Otherwise I don’t worry about it. I have the freedom to do what I want. When I was with a major label I had to do an album a year.”
Though he’s not ready to talk about it yet, Daniels plans to head to the studio in November to begin a new album.
The Charlie Daniels Band, and country artist Travis Tritt (“Anymore,” “Here’s a Quarter,” “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” “Country Club” and “Help Me Hold On”) will take the grandstand stage at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16. Tickets are $48 reserved grandstand and $53 reserved track seating.
Daniels recorded his self-titled solo album in 1970 for Capitol Records. Two years later he formed CDB and group scored its first hit with the Top 10 “Uneasy Rider.” Since then the band has populated radio with memorable 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 the Country Music Association Awards.
Daniels said he is often asked how many times he’s played “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The answer: “I have no idea,” he said in a phone interview from Connecticut, where he was on a tour stop. “We’ve played it at almost every show we’ve done. We recorded it 38 years ago and we do about a hundred shows a year, mostly more than that … an educated guess, I’d say close to 10,000 times. I’ve never played it perfect, but I do play it better each night,” he said with a chuckle.
Daniels, who was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, recently completed his memoir, which turned out to be a 20-year project. Titled “Never Look at the Empty Seats” (www.charliedaniels.com), it’s set to release Oct. 24. It includes stories about his life, his career, experiences along the way and some sage advice for people in any profession, including music: “(The music business has) never been easy!”
“I could never find a place to end it,” he said of the book. “I was 72 years old when I joined the Grand Ole Opry. Important things kept happening. When I was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016 I decided that was a good place to stop. The next morning I wrote about the induction and my impressions of it and the book was finished.”
His earliest memories of music are listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio, which he continues to do every day. In his youth, it was with his grandfather and he was influenced by the stars of the day like Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubbs and Hank Williams Sr. Daniels said he credits Bob Dylan with giving him the most important boost of his career and long-time friend Bob Johnston, for giving him guidance in his career and life. The book is dedicated to Johnston.
“Since 1959, Bob has had an important influence on my life and career,” Daniels said.
He was a studio musician on a Bob Dylan album and “he was kind enough to put my name as a musician on the back of the album. People (in the industry) read it and must have said, ‘he must be OK,'” Daniels said.
He tells the story of how “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” came to be on his “Million Mile Reflections” album. “We were going into the studio to record and realized we didn’t have a fiddle tune. How we didn’t realize that before I don’t know. We took a break and I wrote that song with the guys. I’d had this (idea) in my head about ‘the devil went down’ and everyone added something.
“Sometimes lyrics pop like popcorn and sometimes song ideas are in my head for 14 years,” he said.
In his 2016 release, “Night Hawk,” Daniels pays tribute to the American cowboy. “They ride, move cattle around. It’s a lot different than what you see in the movies. I’ve done it in Texas and in Nevada. I have great admiration for cowboys, their horsemanship, their ability to herd cattle.” The album includes songs about cowboys and songs cowboys like to listen to.”
Daniels is also known for his love for America, support of the military and his Soap Box, found at www.charliedaniels.com. On July 4, he released his recording of the Johnny Cash tune “Ragged Old Flag.” On Daniels’ stirring version of this talking-song he is joined by Mark “Oz” Geist, Benghazi warrior/survivor and co-author of “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.”
You can bet you will hear “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” at the GFF show, but what else can you expect?
“Entertainment! That’s what we do!” Daniels said.