The Charlie Daniels Band
by Renee Jinks
On October 28, 1936, Charles E. Daniels was born in Wilmington, North Carolina. When he was a child, he spent his time between North Carolina and Georgia. Like many a lad, little Charlie went coon and deer hunting with his dad. In the 1940's, Charlie wrote his first story, a ghostly tale about a wooley swamp.
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In 1953, Charlie had a bluegrass band and had written his first song. The first thing he wrote, that was recorded, was in the late 50's. By 1959, he had been in several rock-n-roll and R&B groups, spending the most time with the Jaguars (1959-1967). They recorded an instrumental single in Fort Worth, Texas, called 'Jaguar'.
The 1960's rolled in. By this time, Charlie, who was raised on country and was a fan of bluegrass, was also an accomplished rock-n-roll singer and guitarist. To this, he added another flavor to his stew when he discovered jazz. Country ran deep in Charlie's veins and, in 1964, Daniels co-wrote "It Hurts Me" which was recorded by Elvis Presley and appeared on the flip side of "Kissin' Cousins". 1967 was a good year for Charlie. He received an invitation to Music City from Bob Johnston, a producer who had joined CBS Records in Nashville. Charlie decided to take Bob up on the offer. He started work as a session player. After being told by producers that he played too loudly, Charlie picked up and went to work with Bob Dylan on Nashville Skyline. "Bob didn't care how loud I played!" he told me about the project.
In 1969, Charlie took a stab at producing. He produced Elephant Mountain and Ride the Wind for the Youngbloods.
1970 saw Charlie recording his first album, the self-titled Charlie Daniels on Capitol Records. He formed the Charlie Daniels Band and joined a wave of Southern rock bands. All through the 1970's, Charlie recorded album after album, Te John, Grease and Wolfman, Uneasy Rider, Whiskey, Fire On The Mountain, Night Rider, Volunteer Jam (III and IV), Saddle Tramp, High Lonesome, Midnight Wind and Million Mile Reflections.
The Charlie Daniels Band appeared in the movie Urban Cowboy in 1980 and released Full Moon. The CDB also hit the charts with "The Legend of Wooley Swamp". The 1980's were good to Charlie and his crew. They released more albums including more VJ (VI and VII) albums; a compilation, The Charlie Daniels Band - A Decade of Hits, Windows, Me And The Boys, Full Moon, Powder Keg and Homesick Heroes.
In 1990, Charlie released Simple Man. It rose to #2 on the country charts. The album is set afire by the title cut, in which a simple man ("with simple attitudes," Charlie explained), calls for the lynching of drug dealers and slow deaths via gators and snakes for murderers, child abusers and rapists. "Simple Man" landed Charlie on talk shows galore to explain himself. He wrote the song, he said, "out of frustration". He'd read about a disgraceful case in which a child was killed by her stepfather. "I know how I feel about it; I know what I'd like to do. Some of it's kind of tongue-in-cheek; it's a knee jerk reaction. I don't really want to take people out and leave them in the swamps...but violent crime...that's what the song's about."
That same year, the CDB released its first holiday album, Christmas Time Down South.
The 1990's saw choice music from Charlie Daniels: Renegade, All-Time Greatest Hits, America I Believe In You, The Door, Super Hits, Same Ol' Me, Steel Witness, The Roots Remain, and most recently, Blues Hat, By The Light Of The Moon and Campfire Songs and Cowboy Tunes, a children's album.
Enough background information.
What has Charlie been up to and what's on his mind these days?
In pondering the question I might ask such a prominent individual, I decided to play on the opinionated side of Charlie Daniels from the very beginning of our interview. (On Saddam Hussein)..."I don't think we should have to fool with it. Should've been done with it a long time ago. I'm not much of a United Nations fan. I'm all for the humanitarian work...the good things that they do. They made us stop the first time we were over there."
After more than 20 years, where is Charlie Daniels with his music?
"Well, I'm about in the same place I've always been, I go about seven ways from Sunday," he replied instantly, with a chuckle. "I never know what I'm gonna write until I sit down to do it. I just don't know what I'm gonna be doing! The last thing I did was a blues album...no, actually the last thing I did was a kid's album".
A fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of guy! Has he been that way all his life? "All my musical life!" Charlie shot back merrily.
When a body goes to a Charlie Daniels' show, they expect to see a fiddle. Where did that guy take lessons, I wonder? Amazingly, there were no lessons involved here. "No, I picked it up. I started playing guitar first. Then I started playing mandolin, then I switched over to the fiddle. I squeaked and squawked for a few years 'til I could play a tune with it and I've been doing it ever since." Is it a passion for him? "Pretty much so, music is passion."
Many country stars can be seen in cameo spots on TV shows and on the big screen. Is that a route for Charlie in the future? "No," Charlie stated firmly. "I've done a little acting. I want to keep playing music. I want to keep making records and doing concerts."
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