(October 28, 1936 – July 6, 2020)
A Country, Americana, Bluegrass, Western, and Southern Rock music legend, fellow performers and others in music share memories of his influence
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry member and southern rock and Americana legend Charlie Daniels passed away this morning, Monday, July 6th at Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, Tennessee. Doctors determined the cause of death was a hemorrhagic stroke. Daniels was 83.
Everyone should understand when they put themselves in front of the public, that every impression they make is determinative. Most artists ‘get it’ that the hardest think to fake is sincerity. But then there are those who really are sincere, and so absolutely genuine that nobody else could ever make you believe otherwise of them.
When I first interviewed Charlie Daniels I was working as a newspaper political columnist who, oddly enough, also got all the choice musician interviews because I was the paper’s ‘go to’ guy with the arts. I met Charlie when we did a phone interview that was set for twenty minutes. When I noticed we were at 22 minutes, I pointed that out to him. He replied, ‘Well, thanks for letting me know. If you gotta go it’s okay.’
“I assured him I would like to spend more time if he had it available. Somewhere past 35 or 40 minutes, a voice in the room on his end asked if he was ‘still talking to that guy.’ He said, ‘Yes I am, and please go away,’ and apologized to me for the interruption.
Well past an hour and a half, he said, ‘I do need to go now. Are you coming to our show?’ I said yes, and he asked if I had good seats. I said, yes, third row. He said, ‘We can do better’n that.’ Within seconds I was front row center, set for backstage credentials, and invited to join him in his tour bus after the show. He hung up saying, ‘I’ll look forward to meeting you in person, pard. I’ve really enjoyed this.’
Fast forward two weeks. I was directed to where he was after sound check. I expected I’d get “Who?” But nope, he wanted to pick up where we left off, so we got a few minutes then, and another hour on the bus after the concert, before it was time to roll.
So what did he find so compelling about our conversations? Sure, we had conscientiously covered his music including many hits and my own favorites of his from an ancient album — High Lonesome — whose songs he didn’t remember how to play anymore. He chuckled at that, saying, ‘Heck, I wrote it, and somebody likes it. You’d think the least I could do is remember how to play it!’
He was intrigued when I told him that record was very much a folk album, and how he could easily get himself booked to play any folk festival he wanted. He said he knew he had “horsepower as a bluegrass guy when he talked to the right people,” but ‘nobody has ever confused me with Bob Dylan.’ More laughter.
We had a rapport, and I knew it when he told me something. Charlie or his people had checked me out before agreeing to do the phone interview. He knew I was a political columnist so he had taken the time to read several of my pieces. He said that was to see if it was safe to talk to me. In turn, I told him I knew he did a political blog that was hardline conservative. He knew, going in, we didn’t see things eye to eye. At all.
But he said, ‘I wanted to talk to you pard, because I knew we disagreed. I always figured nobody ever learns anything if you only talk to people who agree with you. I saw some of your interviews and knew I’d get a fair shake and it seemed like it would be fun. I can talk to anybody anytime just about music. All the big magazines and tv people. I enjoy that well enough and, in my business, I need to do it. But it gets old. So what else can we talk about?’
What followed on the phone — and resumed without missing a beat two weeks later, aboard his bus — was what politics today wholly lacks and desperately needs. Two well-read people thoughtfully discussing the problems of society and the planet, with each thanking the other for raising things the other didn’t know or hadn’t considered. And it was fun.
There’s an old line about disagreeing without being disagreeable. Our conversations didn’t even evoke that much tension. Each of the times we spoke, he always signed-off that he enjoyed talking with me. Not “to” me, but “with” me. Journalists need to preserve objectivity, of course. But each time, I found it enjoyable, and indeed, a full-on joy, to talk with him, too.
Charlie kept doing his blog with his political views through that era. It always ended with, ‘So, what do YOU think?’ and he always read and politely commented on the comments, even when they were impolite.
We talked a few more times on the phone, but the pace of his tours made for shorter conversations and waits of several days between call backs.
I could have been a more persistent acquaintance after I left that newspaper, which wasn’t long after my series of interviews that year with music luminaries. But it would have felt irresponsible, given his need to do advance work, including talking to media to promote upcoming shows in their markets. Besides, I knew by then that the pace of a tour is exhausting, and somebody could end up resenting you if you got underfoot.
But some interview subjects become real people who always stay with you. Later, when I programmed and hosted Tied to the Tracks, the Acoustic Americana radio show on Los Angeles airwaves and global web simulcast, I spun Charlie’s acoustic cuts and always got listener calls that they had no idea he had recorded any music like that, or that it brought back happy memories of what he played in concert that was never on the radio.
More than anything, I always have, and always will, call Charlie Daniels a consummate gentleman and mindfully thoughtful human being. That comes first, before I get to the part about his songwriting, musicianship, and stage presence. Or how we politely disagreed with each other’s politics.
Of course, others have more to say about Charlie Daniels
Charlie Daniels was a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist known for his contributions to Southern Rock, Americana, and Bluegrass, in addition to Country.
From his Dove Award-winning gospel albums to his genre-defining Southern rock anthems and his CMA Award-winning country hits, few artists have left a more indelible mark on America’s musical landscape than Charlie Daniels.
An outspoken patriot, beloved mentor, and a true road warrior, Daniels parlayed his passion for music into a multi-platinum career and a spotlight supporting the military, underprivileged children, and others in need. The Charlie Daniels Band has long populated radio with memorable hits such as the signature song, The Devil Went Down to Georgia.
Over the course of his career, Daniels received numerous accolades, including becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, inductions into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
Charlie helped to shine the spotlight on the many causes that are close to his heart. He was a staunch supporter of the military and gave his time and talent to numerous charitable organizations including The Journey Home Project, which he founded in 2014 with his long-time manager, David Corlew, to help veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
Fellow artists have dropped whatever they were doing today to express their thoughts, as they mourn the loss of their friend and share fond memories. It may sound trite, but it is certain that he left them inspired for the duration of their lives.
“I will truly miss my friend and fellow Country Music Hall Of Fame member, Charlie Daniels. He was one of the most honest and genuinely nice people in the business. I will miss our talks. We shared lots of memories and supported each other. My prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues.”
~ Charley Pride
“All of The Oak Ridge Boys are saddened and devastated by this sudden and immeasurable loss. Charlie was not only a dear friend but a Patriot who loved Jesus and loved the USA. It is all so very hard to process right now…We will miss Charlie, but we know where he is… The Everlasting Arms of HIS and OUR Savior hold him now…Until The Day Charlie…Until the DAY…prayers for Hazel.”
~ Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys
“One of the best friends, not only a peer, but a true friend. He was one of the most spiritual men. When we got together for a show in Oklahoma, we performed ‘Will The Circle be Unbroken.’ I never will forget that night.”
~ Sam Moore
“What a loss and a shock – we can hardly put this in words. Charlie was such a beloved part of our community! He was a great friend and a fellow patriot. I will always cherish the countless shows we worked together over the decades and our backstage talks. He leaves an immeasurable mark on country and southern rock music. Charlie was a great leader and philanthropist, incredibly humble and one of the biggest supporters of our armed forces and veterans. I loved standing in the wings when he took the stage – he was powerful and magical – he left other artists in awe and every audience on their feet! We love you Charlie and will forever cherish our friendship.”
~ Lee and Kim Greenwood
“I am very saddened to hear of Charlie Daniels’ passing. I have known and loved Charlie since our early days when he appeared on one of my television specials and l played his Volunteer Jams. Charlie was a strong man who loved his family, fans and country. The music community and the world have lost an old friend.”
~ Crystal Gayle
“Charlie Daniels has been a friend of mine for the last 40 or 50 years. He is one of the greatest artists in country music and an all around wonderful man. We will miss you Charlie.”
~ B.J. Thomas
“I recall a show I played in West Texas with Charlie, what a great talent and personality he was, and so respected in the music world. He and his memory are cherished and loved by all.”
~ Janie Fricke
“It was an honor to know Charlie. He was a Godly, family man and the U.S.A. didn’t have a better friend. He always had an encouraging word and a firm handshake. Sheila and I pray for Miss Hazel, the family, the band and his entire organization. Rest in peace ol’ pal!”
~ T. Graham Brown
“I am absolutely stunned and heart broken over the loss of our legendary friend, the great Charlie Daniels! You could not find a finer or kinder man! His giant talent paled in comparison to the phenomenal human being that he was! He was passionate and honest about what he believed in and unapologetically spoke his truth.There is a reason he was so loved by all who knew him and such an Icon in Country Music!!! He cut a wide path in our hearts! We love you Charlie! My prayers are with his family at this time of deep loss. Rest In Peace Charlie.”
~ Deborah Allen
“My heart goes out to Hazel, Charlie Jr. and their family. I always loved Charlie, and his music. He was the real deal and one of the great ones.”
~ Lacy J. Dalton
“I’m hurt. Charlie was one of the nicest guys in country music. He was always there to help anyone and he will be missed by all.”
~ Johnny Lee
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Charlie Daniels, a true Country Music Legend. ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’ will live on as one of the most quintessential Southern Rock songs in history. My thoughts and prayers are with Charlie and his family. Rest in peace Charlie and God bless you.“
~ Deana Martin
“What a huge loss not only in the music industry, but in the world. Charlie was simply one of the kindest, most loving patriotic friends I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He loved his friends and country so deeply. I was honored and blessed to perform on his infamous Volunteer Jam. My heart is broken today and I send my prayers of comfort up for his precious family.”
~ Kelly Lang
“It’s hard to imagine country music without Charlie Daniels and the world will never be the same. Thankfully he left a legacy like no other that we can reflect on. You are loved and you will be missed!”
~ Shane Owens
“Charlie Daniels was a music icon, yet every time I played piano for Charlie he made me feel like I was part of the Charlie Daniels’ family. He loved our country and devoted much of his time to encouraging and performing for our men and women in uniform. When my son Torre was in the Army, and he was about to ship out for his first tour in Iraq, Charlie met with Torre before he left, and he prayed with him. You have no idea what that meant to me. The devil can stay down in Georgia for all I care, because Charlie Daniels is heaven bound!”
~ Tim Atwood
“Rest in Peace to Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels. He was one of the true icons in country music and will forever be remembered. Charlie Daniels was a True American. Country Music has lost one of its finest ambassadors today. Prayers to the family of Charlie Daniels.”
~ J.D. Shelburne
“It truly breaks my heart to hear of the passing of Mr. Charlie Daniels. As a fellow NC native, he was included in the soundtrack of nearly every road trip, bonfire night, and any other occasion! He was an extraordinary musician and such a joy to watch onstage – his spirit for music and performing was truly incredible! His family are in my thoughts and prayers during this hard time. He will truly be missed by fans all around!”
~ Paige King Johnson
“When I was a kid at boarding school listening to my roommate’s Charlie Daniels albums, I had never been exposed to country music, and I didn’t know what I was hearing, I just knew that it grabbed me. So I transported the feel of it to my rudimentary songwriting on the grand piano in the common room of that dorm, and it has stayed with me ever since. Classic songwriting and musical authenticity can reach across a culture like nothing else. Thanks to Charlie for waking a powerful spirit, all over the world.”
~ Carrington MacDuffie
“A pioneer that stood for so many great things outside of music, a true patriot. He taught us all what a fiddle truly was while never being afraid to voice his opinion. He’s going to be deeply missed but his legacy will no doubt live on. Prayers and thoughts are with his family, friends and fans.”
~ Vonn Kiss
And finally, this personal note from Jeremy Westby, former publicist for Charlie Daniels:
“I had the pleasure of representing Charlie Daniels and his charity The Journey Home Project for many years. He headlined a concert at the Air Force Academy back in 1998 when I was road managing the opening act — the Clark Family Experience — who were managed by Jim and Sherman Halsey. I’ll never forget how Charlie could shred that bow and keep the audience at the edge of their seats. I didn’t have the pleasure of talking to him then but as the years passed and my career came full-circle, I did – and then some.
Charlie was much more than a client. He welcomed me and my family into his home on holidays, we had media junkets to New York and more wonderful experiences than I can count. To say he leaves an indelible mark on our community is an absolute understatement. I will forever cherish the moments we had, and being part of the team to help guide his induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame will never be forgotten!
“My heart goes out to Hazel, David, Bebe, Paula, Angela, Charlie Jr. and the rest of The CDB. Love to you all.”
~ Jeremy Westby
Funeral be on Friday, July 10th, 2020 11:00am at World Outreach Church (1921 State Hwy 99, Murfreesboro, TN 37128)
(Republished from the Acoustic Americana Music Guide, with permission.)