Sunday, 22 June, 2008 1:09 PM
Charlie Daniels Living 50 Years, Moment by Moment
by Jim Shea
Deborah Evans Price
2008 CMA Close Up News Service
Charlie Daniels has earned
numerous accolades, including a trophy case full of CMA, Grammy
and Dove Awards. But one honor eluded the veteran singer, songwriter,
musician and entertainer until Jan. 19, when Daniels became a member
of the Grand Ole Opry.
"To see a dream
of almost 60 years come true, especially at this time in life when
I'm 71 years old, it's pretty doggone amazing," Daniels said.
"It all boils down to God giving me the desires of my heart.
It's a blessing."
The Opry induction was
a sweet way for Daniels to kick off 2008, his 50th anniversary in
music. Throughout his career, Daniels has covered a lot of territory,
from his early days in rock to his long tenure on the Country charts
to his forays into gospel music. He has released 50 albums, 17 of
them on his own Blue Hat Records label. And after launching that
imprint with manager David Corlew in 1997, Daniels became the first
artist to sign an exclusive distribution deal with Wal-Mart.
For the past seven years,
Koch Records has marketed and distributed Blue Hat. "They do
everything they say they are going to do, and when they come to
us with a release schedule, whether it's two albums a year or three,
whatever it may be, they produce like clockwork," said Bob
Frank, President, Koch Records. "Charlie has a very, very loyal
fan base, and we all enjoy working together. In fact, we forget
sometimes that we aren't all part of the same company, because we
work so closely together."
Having his own label
has afforded Daniels the freedom to indulge his passion for all
types of music. He grew up listening to Country and bluegrass, but
he also co-wrote "It Hurts Me," which Elvis Presley recorded,
played on Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline, New Morning and Self Portrait
and produced two albums for the Youngbloods before forming the Charlie
Daniels Band in 1970.
His discography spans
a vast field of music, from the blues of Blues Hat (1997) to the
bluegrass gospel of Songs from the Longleaf Pines (2005) and the
rockin' Country represented on two albums from 2007, Live from Iraq
and Deuces. The latter CD pairs Daniels with Brooks & Dunn,
Vince Gill, Brenda Lee, The Del McCoury Band, Dolly Parton, Darius
Rucker and Gretchen Wilson, among other guest artists.
"Charlie is a wonderful
example of a great humanitarian as well as an entertainer,"
said Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry, who joined with his partner
Eddie Montgomery and Daniels on Deuces for a new version of "Drinkin'
My Baby Goodbye." "His love for his family and patriotism
for his country are immeasurable, and his relationships on and off
the stage are equally important to him. All of this together makes
a man that I greatly respect and admire, someone I strive to emulate
in both my professional and private life. There is no other like
Many others share that
sentiment. "When I got the call from Charlie to be a part of
Deuces, I was ecstatic because I am a fan of Charlie - not just
his music but of him as a person," said Brad Paisley, whose
instrumental pairing with Daniels, "Jammin' for Stevie,"
honors the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. "I try to pattern myself
after him in some ways. He comes at his career from a totally musical
standpoint, always wanting to just play music. It doesn't matter
the genre or how many people are in a room - he just wants to play.
He's a true artist and a living legend."
Daniels takes part in
another interesting collaboration on How Great Thou Art: Gospel
Favorites Live from the Grand Ole Opry. On "I'll Fly Away,"
he teams with Mac Powell, frontman for the Christian band Third
Day, on a rousing duet that opens this recent compilation. "Country
Music and gospel music go hand in hand and they always have,"
Daniels said. "I don't think there's anything new at all about
it. It's an old idea that's being revived, and I hope the trend
continues because I love the old songs."
For his next recording,
Daniels will return to an album he had begun with his band before
doing Deuces. "I wanted to do some stuff that's a little off
the beaten path," he said. "I'm in no hurry for it, because
we probably won't be releasing another album this year. It's an
album that documents our combined personalities and the individual
musicianship" of the band members.
Aside from making music,
Daniels devotes ample time to humanitarian efforts, including his
annual Christmas for Kids concert in Nashville and performances
for troops at more than 20 U.S. military installations around the
world. Though he always sets aside the first part of the year to
vacation with his wife Hazel in Colorado, his varied activities
fill most of the rest of his yearly calendar, which is exactly what
he wants. Indeed, Daniels admits that he never could have imagined
50 years ago just how far his music would take him.
"People ask me what
would I have done if I had not been a musician," he said. "Well,
I'm not a 'what if?' thinker. It's been a long road and a good road
and a tough road. I've learned a lot of lessons in the many years
that I've been doing this that I wouldn't have learned anywhere
What advice does Daniels
have for young artists who would hope to follow his example? "Sometimes
we tend to get caught up in the business," he mused. "The
one thing you always have to remember is the people who are sitting
out front. Whether there are two or 10,000, the people make you
what you are. They make your dream come true. You should never walk
by a fan. If you've got to catch a plane or something, smile and
say, 'I'm so sorry. I do not have time to stop.' But most of the
time, you can take time. Be nice to fans. Be nice to people. Treat
people the way you want to be treated.
"So take care of
today, take care of tomorrow when it gets here and don't look back,"
he continued. "Keep looking forward. And never belittle a situation.
When you walk onstage or into a recording studio, when you do an
interview or do anything with your professional life, you have to
remember that this is the moment you are living right now. This
is the moment, and I've got to give it everything I've got. I've
got to be able to keep my head in the game. I've got to do the very
best I can in this moment, and the next moment will take care of
itself. Put the best you have in that particular moment. Just take
it moment by moment, day by day. Tomorrow is going to take care
of itself, if you take care of today. If you don't take care of
today, tomorrow is going to be a mess."
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