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Entertainment News

Sunday, 22 June, 2008 1:09 PM

Charlie Daniels Living 50 Years, Moment by Moment

Photo by Jim Shea

Charlie Daniels

By 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 him."

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 else."

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."

On the Web: www.charliedaniels.com

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