Charlie Daniels, born as Charles Edward Daniels, is an American musician known for his characteristically southern rock, country and bluegrass music. He not only sings, but also plays various musical instruments like guitar, bass, fiddle and violin. As a child he grew up listening to music that included Pentecostal gospel, local bluegrass, the rhythm & blues and country music. During his teenage years he began to play guitar and fiddle, and by the time he was 21, he had realized that his calling in life was to become a professional musician. After graduating from high school he joined the rock ‘n’ roll revolution started by Elvis Presley. A talented player of various musical instruments, he often worked for Bob Johnson and played the electric bass in three Bob Dylan albums. He also played fiddle on many of the early albums produced by The Marshall Tucker Band. He formed his own band the ‘Charlie Daniels Band’ in 1970 and became part of the first wave of southern rock bands. He got a chance to record his first solo album ‘Charlie Daniels’ in 1971. The band’s biggest breakthrough came in 1979 when the single ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ became a number one hit. The group became extremely well-loved for their instrumental dexterity and reached the peak of their popularity during the late 70’s and early 80’s.
Childhood & Early Life
Charlie Daniels was born in North Carolina as the only son of William Carlton Daniels, a lumberjack, and his wife LaRue Hammonds. He was raised in a family that a deep faith in god and valued virtues like honesty and hard work.
As a teenager he practiced hard on various types of musical instruments like fiddle, violin, mandolin, guitar, etc. In 1953, he along with some friends formed a bluegrass band named ‘Misty Mountain Boys’ and wrote his first song.
He graduated from Goldston high school, North Carolina, in 1955 and moved away to another town. The band he founded in high school broke up as a result of this move.
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Upon deciding that he wanted to be a professional musician, Daniels formed a rock ‘n’ roll band called the Jaguars in 1959. He wrote songs and the band played, but he could not find the success he sought.
In 1964, he co-wrote a song ‘It Hurts me’ with Joy Byers. It was recorded by Elvis Presley and put on the b-side of his album ‘Kissin Cousins’.
Daniels began work as a session musician in 1967, often working for producer Bob Johnson. He played the electric bass and fiddle for many stars like Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and Marty Robbins.
He produced the album ‘Elephant Mountain’ by rock band ‘The Youngbloods’ in 1969 at the behest of Johnson.
In 1970, he formed the ‘Charlie Daniels band’ and recorded his first solo album, the self-titled ‘Charlie Daniels’ in 1971. In 1972, the band recorded an album named after the nicknames of the band members, ‘Te John, Grease and Wolfman.’
His band released ‘Fire on the Mountain’ in 1974 which went on to become the band’s first big success. It was followed by ‘Nightrider’ in 1975 and ‘Saddle Tramp’ in 1976.
The album ‘Million Mile Reflection’ featuring the hit song ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ was released in 1979. It was followed by the even more successful ‘Full Moon’ in 1980. His next big hit, ‘Simple Man’ came out in 1989.
In the 1990s the band turned to Christian Gospel music with ‘The Door’ (1994) and ‘Steel Witness’ (1996).
Daniels, along with his manager David Corlew started his independent record label Blue Hat Records in 1997 and recorded an album by the same name.
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Over the first decade of the new millennium, the band released albums like ‘Road Dogs’ (2000), ‘Songs from the Longleaf Pines’ (2005), and ‘Deuces’ (2007).
Daniels’s first major work was his 1974 album ‘Fire on the Mountain’; the album was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It included songs like ‘Long haired country boy’ and ‘Orange Blossom Special’.
The multi-platinum album ‘Million Mile Reflections’ was released in 1979. It is best known for the hit single ‘The Devil went down to Georgia’. Daniels dedicated the album to fellow musician, Ronnie Van Zant who had died in 1977.
His platinum album ‘Full Moon’ (1980) produced two hit singles, ‘In America’ and ‘The Legend of Wooley Swamp’. The band dedicated the album to musician Tommy Caldwell who had died that year.
His 1989 album ‘Simple Man’ was the most controversial of all his works. Many listeners were shocked by the lyrics of some of his songs and he was asked for an explanation. Nevertheless, the album went on to become platinum certified.
Awards & Achievements
Daniels received the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1979 for his song ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia.’ This song is, till date, his most successful one and is still played on rock ‘n’ roll radio stations in the US.
The 1996 album ‘Amazing Grace: A Country Salute to Gospel’ recorded by the Charlie Daniels Band won The Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album.
He received the Pioneer Award in 1998 from the Academy of Country Music Awards. Former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford paid tribute to the country singer at the awards ceremony.
He was declared a Living Legend by the Nashville Network in 1999 and inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, a non-profit organization that honours musicians with ties to North Carolina.
He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, a weekly country music stage concert that presents the biggest stars of the genre, in 2008. Membership in the Opry is considered to be one of the most prestigious achievements for country musicians.
Personal Life & Legacy
Daniels married his wife, Hazel in 1963. They have one son, Charlie Daniels Jr.
He is a cancer survivor who was first diagnosed with the disease in 2001.
There is a park named after him in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.
He made a cameo appearance in the music video of Gretchen Wilson’s song ‘All Jacked Up’ in 2005.