The Charlie Daniels Band
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The Charlie Daniels Band

Charlie Daniels
Charlie Daniels in September 2017
Charlie Daniels in September 2017
Background information
Charles Edward Daniels
Born(1936-10-28)October 28, 1936
Wilmington, North Carolina, U.S.
DiedJuly 6, 2020(2020-07-06) (aged 83)
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
  • Musician
  • singer-songwriter

Charles Edward Daniels (October 28, 1936 - July 6, 2020) was an American singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist[5] known for his contributions to Southern rock, country, and bluegrass music. He was best known for his number-one country hit "The Devil Went Down to Georgia". Much of his output, including all but one of his eight Billboard Hot 100 charting singles, was credited to the Charlie Daniels Band.

Daniels was active as a singer and musician from the 1950s until his death. He was inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame in 2002,[6] the Grand Ole Opry in 2008,[7] the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009,[8] and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.[9]

Early life

Daniels was born October 28, 1936, in Wilmington, North Carolina, and raised on a musical diet that included Pentecostal gospel, local bluegrass bands, and the rhythm & blues and country music from Nashville's 50,000-watt AM radio stations WLAC and WSM. In 2016, he shared memories of his youth and baseball in Wilmington when he wrote the foreword for a book on the Tobacco State League.[10] As a teenager, Daniels moved to the small town of Gulf, Chatham County, North Carolina. He graduated from high school in 1955. Already skilled on guitar, fiddle, banjo, and mandolin, he formed a rock 'n' roll band and hit the road.[11]


In 1964, Daniels co-wrote "It Hurts Me" (a song which Elvis Presley recorded) with his friend, producer Bob Johnston, under Bob's wife's name, Joy Byers. He worked as a Nashville session musician, often for Johnston, including playing guitar and electric bass on three Bob Dylan albums during 1969 and 1970, and on recordings by Leonard Cohen. Daniels recorded his first solo album, Charlie Daniels, in 1971 (see 1971 in country music).[12] He also produced the 1969 album by the Youngbloods, Elephant Mountain.[13]

His first hit, the novelty song "Uneasy Rider", was from his 1973 third album, Honey in the Rock, and reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.[14]

Daniels in concert at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California

During this period, Daniels played fiddle on many of the Marshall Tucker Band's early albums: A New Life, Where We All Belong, Searchin' for a Rainbow, Long Hard Ride, and Carolina Dreams. Daniels can be heard on the live portion of the album Where We All Belong, recorded in Milwaukee on July 31, 1974.[15] The same year, he organized the first in a series of Volunteer Jam concerts based in or around Nashville, Tennessee, often playing with members of Barefoot Jerry. Except for a three-year gap in the late 1980s, the Jams continued until 1996. In 1999, the first of several Volunteer Jam Tours began, and in 2015, a Jam celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first Volunteer Jam was held at Bridgestone Arena, and another followed in 2016, celebrating his 80th birthday. In 1975, he had a top 30 hit as leader of the Charlie Daniels Band with the Southern rock self-identification anthem "The South's Gonna Do It Again." "Long Haired Country Boy" was a minor hit in that year. Daniels plays fiddle on Hank Williams, Jr.'s 1975 album Hank Williams, Jr. and Friends.[16]

Daniels won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1979 for "The Devil Went Down to Georgia", which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1979. The following year, the song became a major crossover success on rock radio stations after its inclusion on the soundtrack for the hit movie Urban Cowboy, in which he makes an onscreen appearance. The song still receives regular airplay on U.S. classic rock and country stations. A hard rock/heavy metal cover version of the song is included in the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock as the final guitar battle against the last boss (Lou, the devil). Daniels openly stated his opposition to the metal cover and the devil winning occasionally in the game.[17]

In 1993, Daniels teamed up with fiddler Mark O'Connor to record a sequel to Daniels' 1979 single "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" titled "The Devil Came Back to Georgia". Daniels plays the fiddle alongside O'Connor, while Johnny Cash, Marty Stuart, and Travis Tritt sing the lyrics. The song is on O'Connor's album Heroes.[18]

Subsequent Daniels' pop hits include "In America" (number 11 in 1980), "The Legend of Wooley Swamp" (number 31 in 1980), and "Still in Saigon" (number 22 in 1982). In 1980, Daniels participated in the country music concept album The Legend of Jesse James. In the late 1980s and 1990s, several of Daniels' albums and singles were hits on the country charts, and the music continues to receive airplay on country stations. Daniels released several gospel and Christian records. In 1999, he made a guest vocal appearance on his song "All Night Long" with Montgomery Gentry (Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry) for their debut album Tattoos and Scars, which was a commercial success.[19]

Daniels' distinctive speaking voice is used in the 1999 musical The Civil War. He is featured in the prologue and "In Great Deeds". Daniels was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 1999.[20]

Daniels at Louisville Waterfront Park, Kentucky, April 29, 2009

In 2000, he composed and performed the score for the feature film Across the Line. He guest stars as himself on two episodes of King of the Hill: "Peggy's Fan Fair", which aired on May 21, 2000, and "The Bluegrass is Always Greener", which aired on February 24, 2002. In 2005, he makes a cameo appearance in Gretchen Wilson's music video for "All Jacked Up", as well as making a musical guest appearance in the VeggieTales episode "Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson's Hairbrush", by writing, producing, and performing the Minnesota Cuke theme song. In 2006, he played in the backup band for Hank Williams Jr.'s opening sequence to Monday Night Football.[21]

On October 18, 2005, Daniels was honored as a BMI Icon at the 53rd annual BMI Country Awards. Daniels' songwriting garnered six BMI Country Awards during his music career; the first award coming in 1976 for "The South's Gonna Do It Again".[22]

In November 2007, Daniels was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.[23] He was inducted during the January 19, 2008, edition of the Opry.[24]

Daniels lived in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, where the city named a park after him. He continued to tour regularly. He appeared in commercials for UPS in 2002 convincing NASCAR driver Dale Jarrett to race the UPS Truck. In 2009, Daniels was featured playing fiddle in a commercial for GEICO.[25]

In October 2016, Daniels became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.[26] In March 2017, HarperCollins announced that Daniels' memoir, Never Look at the Empty Seats, would be released on October 24, 2017.[27]

On October 26, 2018, Daniels released a new album with a side project called Beau Weevils, along with CDB (Charlie Daniels Band) bass player Charlie Hayward, producer James Stroud on drums, and Billy Crain on guitar. The album is titled Songs in the Key of E.[28] On November 6, 2018, Daniels released a book of daily inspirational quotes and stories titled Let's All Make the Day Count: The Everyday Wisdom of Charlie Daniels through HarperCollins' Thomas Nelson imprint.[29]


Daniels' music encompasses bluegrass,[1]country,[2]rock,[2]Southern rock,[2]outlaw country,[30]country rock,[2]blues rock,[31]rock and roll,[31][3]blues,[3] and gospel.[3]


Daniels performing at U.S. Naval Station Great Lakes, September 11, 2003

Daniels' public politics were varied and idiosyncratic, in his late career tending in a general rightward progression. His earliest hit, "Uneasy Rider", portrayed him as a country boy in the counterculture movement, caught in an argument with right-wingers at a "redneck" bar. "The South's Gonna Do It Again" had a mild message of Southern cultural identity within the Southern rock movement. Daniels was an early supporter of Jimmy Carter's presidential bid and performed at his January 1977 inauguration.[32]

"In America" was a reaction to the 1979-1981 Iran Hostage Crisis and the troubled American economy of the later 1970s;[33] despite the turmoil the song described a patriotic, united America where "we'll all stick together and you can take that to the bank/That's the cowboys and the hippies and the rebels and the yanks." The song experienced a revival following the September 11 attacks, when it appeared on the internet as "F*** Bin Laden".[34]

In 1989, Daniels' country hit "Simple Man" was interpreted by some as advocating vigilantism.[34] Lyrics such as "Just take them rascals [rapists, killers, child abusers] out in the swamp/Put 'em on their knees and tie 'em to a stump/Let the rattlers and the bugs and the alligators do the rest" garnered Daniels considerable media attention and talk show visits.[35]

In 2003, Daniels published an Open Letter to the Hollywood Bunch in defense of President George W. Bush's Iraq policy. His 2003 book Ain't No Rag: Freedom, Family, and the Flag contains this letter as well as many other personal statements. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Daniels said that having never served in the military himself, he did not have the right to criticize John Kerry's service record but that Kerry should allow the release of his official military record to establish the truth or falsehood of allegations from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.[36] His band's official website contains a "soapbox" page[37] where Daniels made statements such as the following: "In the future Darwinism will be looked upon as we now look upon the flat earth theory" and "I am more afraid of you and your ilk than I am of the terrorists" regarding U.S. Senator Harry Reid. On March 27, 2009, Daniels criticized the Obama Administration for "changing the name of the War on Terror to the "Overseas Contingency Operation" and referring to terrorism as "man-caused disasters."[38]

In 2019, Daniels lambasted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for signing the Reproductive Health Act, which legalized abortion until birth under some circumstances, tweeting "Watch the wrinkles on Cuomo's face lengthen as the ramifications of the thousands of murders he has sanctioned come to bear on him. The NY legislature has created a new Auschwitz dedicated to the execution of a whole segment of defenseless citizens. Satan is smiling."[39]

Personal life and death

Daniels married Hazel Juanita Alexander on September 20, 1964. They had one child, a son, Charles Edward Daniels Jr.[40] An avid University of Tennessee sports fan,[41] Daniels enjoyed hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, and other outdoor activities. He was a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and performed on their videos.

Daniels suffered a major arm injury on January 30, 1980, while digging fence post holes on his farm near Mount Juliet. He suffered three complete breaks in his right arm and two broken fingers when his shirtsleeve caught on a spinning auger. The injury required surgery and sidelined him for four months.[42][43]

Daniels was successfully treated for prostate cancer in 2001.[43] On January 15, 2010, Daniels was rushed to the hospital after suffering a stroke while snowmobiling in Colorado. He was released two days later.[43] During a doctor visit on March 25, 2013, Daniels was diagnosed with a mild case of pneumonia and admitted to a Nashville hospital for a series of routine tests. The tests revealed that a pacemaker was needed to regulate his heart rate. One was put in on March 28, and Daniels was released from hospital within days.[44]

Daniels died on July 6, 2020, at the age of 83 of a hemorrhagic stroke at Summit Medical Center in Nashville.[45]




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