Country Throwback: Charlie Daniels Band Lights Up Nashville with ‘Orange Blossom Special’ in 2005

by Suzanne Halliburton

Ouch! Surely Charlie Daniels scorched some fingers after his frenetic fiddle-playing performance of “Orange Blossom Special.”

Daniels and his band sizzled during a live performance of it almost 16 years ago when the country was celebrating another national holiday, the Fourth of July. Charlie Daniels and the band entertained more than 100,000 folks who gathered at the Nashville Riverfront back in 2005 for an all-star concert.

Mercy sakes, it was a good rendition of the “Orange Blossom Special.” Daniels played his fiddle, then flipped it over and stroked it like a guitar. There was an electric guitar solo and a drum solo. The keyboards had their turn. Daniels would use his bow to direct all the moving parts. At times, you heard hints from both “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

Check it out. We’ll give you some details on the other side.

First, Why Would Charlie Daniels Be Playing a Fiddle About the Orange Blossom Special?

According to the late John Prine and his song, “You Never Even Call Me By My Name,” you can’t have a good country tune without mentioning a train. So, by definition, the “Orange Blossom Special” is the perfect country song because it’s all about a train.

The Orange Blossom Special was a sleek, luxurious passenger train that connected New York and Miami during the winter season. The train was christened in 1925. The owner of it banked on Florida emerging as the next big place for business. When it first rolled down the tracks, it took about 36 hours to get from New York down to South Florida.

Ervin Rouse wrote the song about the famous train in 1939. Then Bill Monroe recorded it. The song became a favorite on the Bluegrass festival circuit in the 1950s. Charlie Daniels was a bluegrass fiddle player. So it was a natural choice for Daniels to perform it.

Most folks identify “Orange Blossom Special” with Johnny Cash. He’s the one who sang it to prominence. Cash named his 21st studio album for the famous train. By way of his mother-in-law Maybelle Carter, Cash learned that Rouse originally wrote the song. So Cash invited Rouse to a performance in Miami.

Cash’s album reached No. 3 on the charts. So did the song.

Song Made Appearance in Urban Cowboy

If you’re a fan of movies about country music culture, you might remember seeing scenes of people dancing to the instrumental version of “Orange Blossom Special” at Gilley’s, the nightclub outside Houston.

It was part of the movie,” Urban Cowboy” and the song was included on the best-selling soundtrack. So was “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Unsurprisingly, the latter is still Charlie Daniels most popular song.

Obviously, the song was a favorite of the late, great musician Charlie Daniels, who died last year. He recorded it live from War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville on Oct. 4, 1974f or his “Fire On The Mountain” album in 1974.

On that Fourth of July evening in 2005, Daniels and his band performed with the Nashville Symphony. Then after the fireworks, Daniels and his band performed a full concert. It was recorded for a live album, so all of us could enjoy it.

For more Outsider coverage on Charlie Daniels, click here.