The best that’s ever been
Legendary fiddler comes to Frederick
Thursday, Sept. 15, 2005
He was on a tour and had been here before, and he was interviewed about this day.
When he spoke to The Gazette on the telephone and the questions began to fly,
Charlie Daniels voice rang with a southern twang and said, ‘‘partner” let me tell you why.
Daniels’ latest album, ‘‘Songs from the Longleaf Pines,” is dedicated to Russell Palmer, the man whom he credits with teaching him his first guitar chord.
‘‘I started kind of late... I was fourteen or fifteen years old. A guy that I knew, Russell Palmer – I went over to his house and he had this guitar out, foolin’ with it. He started showing me stuff. But he didn’t know too much. [So] we started bugging everyone in the neighborhood who knew anything about music... We used to listen to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs [on the radio] in Raleigh, NC, back before FM became so popular, and [tried to emulate them]... Russell started playing banjo and I started playing the fiddle, and we formed a little musical group. Without him, I don’t know if I’d ever learned to play music at all – him and that rickety, old guitar.”
An amalgam of country, rock, bluegrass, boogie-woogie and more, for over 40 years, the exact sound of The Charlie Daniels’ Band has long defied description – simply referred to as CDB Music.
‘‘Most of the time, the music represents where the band is at the time... The way my mind operates... I can’t put a name on it.”
Bluegrass and gospel
The recently released ‘‘Songs from the Longleaf Pines” has been touted as a return to Daniels’ roots – A compilation of the musician’s bluegrass and gospel favorites.
‘‘It’s a collage of a lot of old bluegrass stuff. Some were so obvious – like ‘Walking in Jerusalem’ or ‘Working on a Building’ that I always admired so much. It wasn’t a very hard thing to pick out these songs that I wanted to do.”
‘‘We have a six-piece band, and everybody gets featured, everybody gets input, everybody has a chance to put their own personality into the music. Obviously, when you play 120 nights a year, somebody has to be the leader and make [the choices]. But a band has to evolve. It’s bound to. A musician on his own evolves, if adventurous at all – which all of my guys are. We’re bangin’ and slammin’ every night trying to come up with something new.”
Daniels’ Grammy-winning hit, ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia,’ became a Platinum single and scaled the heights of both country and pop charts in 1979, was featured in the film, ‘‘Urban Cowboy,” and resulted in triple Platinum sales for the album on which it was featured, ‘‘Million Mile Reflections.” For many, it was the song that put him on the pop-cultural map.
‘‘I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. It depends on how long you’ve been following the band. Some say ‘‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” others say ‘‘Long Haired Country Boy.” But for the general public, that’s the song I’m [best known] for.”
‘‘We were gonna call that album ‘Reflections.’ We had the concept to do it. Then Gene Watson came out with an album called ‘Reflections.’ We figured we’d done well over a million miles on tour, so that’s what we [ended up calling it.]”
In April of 2005, Charlie Daniels and his band traveled more than 16,000 miles throughout Southwest Asia and performed up to three shows per day for American troops stationed in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Germany and Iraq.
‘‘We started out a long time ago, entertaining the troops. I’ve been to Korea three times. We’ve been to Cuba. To Kosovo. Wherever the troops are, that’s where we go. I’m a very huge supporter of the military... I hope to go over next April if we can. They’re the greatest bunch of kids I’ve ever been around.”
‘‘In Iraq, these people are getting shot at. We got shot at. The thing of it is – what I got – is that the Iraqi people are glad we’re there. We’re winning the war. You don’t often hear about that on the evening news, but we’re winning. We were never not winning.”
In addition to music, to date, Charlie Daniels has written and published two books. Sharing the same name as his biggest musical hit, his first, ‘‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” was a colorful collection of southern-fried short-stories. In 2003, he released ‘‘Ain’t No Rag (Freedom, Family and the Flag),” a meditation of his enormous love for the USA.
‘‘There’s an element of sameness between writing music and writing fiction. Except with fiction, you have more time to get your thought out – and you don’t have to rhyme.”
‘‘I got a high school diploma – thank God. I was lucky to get that. I’ve never taken any writing classes. I just sit down and start writing, and try to make it as interesting and informative as I can... I tend to enjoy it. Though, if it comes to my druthers – I’d rather write music.”
‘‘I’ve been working on my bio for several years now. But it’s slow-sloggin’... After all, I’m still livin’ this thing... I think it’s important to be concise... No one cares what I had for dinner July 14.”
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