Charlie Daniels died two years ago on July 6, 2020, after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. The Hall of Fame frontman of the Charlie Daniels Band was 83 years old.
Charlie was larger than life, both on and off the stage.
On the stage, he was a true showman, with the musical chops to delight huge audiences (see Volunteer Jam 1-20), regardless of genre. While he was readily recognized as the fiddle-playing frontman of the CDB, Charlie was also an accomplished guitarist. In fact, he started his career as a session musician in Nashville, playing guitar/electric bass on a trifecta of Bob Dylan albums in 1969 and 1970 (Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, and New Morning). Of course, he also played fiddle on a number of recordings for The Marshall Tucker Band and Hank Williams Jr.
The Rockin’ Charlie Daniels Band
At the helm of the Charlie Daniels Band, he helped redefine what a country music band sounded like. Along with Alabama, Charlie’s rockin’ brand of country music ushered in a new era of band-driven music in the late 1970s—a 180-degree about-face from the pure vocal groups of the era. At the same time, he helped connect the worlds of country music and Southern rock, along with artists like Hank Williams Jr.
Charlie scored a number of Top 20 singles with the CDB, including “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye,” “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues,” “In America,” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which topped the charts in 1979 and became a cross-genre hit.
Like many people, the discussion about my favorite CDB song begins and ends with his 1979 No. 1 hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” I’ll never forget the first time I heard it as an 8-year-old in 1987. My father had taken me and my two brothers camping in the Arkansas Ozarks. And we picked up an AM station out of Little Rock. The tune was mind-blowing decades ago. And to this day, it still is.
Country music, bluegrass, gospel, or Southern rock . . . Charlie was a dexterous champion of each. Of course, he was recognized for his musical prowess with induction into the Grand Ole Opry (2008), Musicians Hall of Fame (2009), and Country Music Hall of Fame (2016).
Off the stage, you’d be hard-pressed to find a kinder soul, or a more enjoyable conversationalist—whether or not you agreed with Charlie’s point of view, politics, or faith. He wore his heart on his sleeve, and he didn’t mind telling you. But, man, he was a gentleman, and always a fantastic interview subject in my experiences.
“ON THIS DAY in 2020, we lost a true music icon, musician, songwriter, husband, father and dear friend to many,” wrote Charlie Daniels’ son, Charlie Jr., on Instagram on July 6. “You are deeply missed every day. And we are continuing to try to follow your example to make each day count. I love you, dad. I miss you so much. – CD, Jr.”
And if you miss Charlie’s music like we miss Charlie’s music, good news. On Aug. 26, Blue Hat Records will release a new album, Charlie Daniels & Friends: Volunteer Jam 1 – 1974 – The Legend Begins. The 12-song offering will feature never-before-released live recordings from Charlie’s first Volunteer Jam, including “Long Haired Country Boy,” “The South’s Gonna Do It (Again),” and more.