Country Music News For The Country Music Enthusiast!
Country music legend Charlie Daniels has died. He was 83.
The Country Music Hall of Fame, who was best known for his song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," died on Monday morning at Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, Tennessee. His cause of death was a hemorrhagic stroke.
The Grand Ole Opry member, who had a pacemaker placed in 2013, is survived by his wife Hazel and son Charlie Daniels, Jr.
Daniels began writing and playing music professionally in the 1950s. Over a decade later, he found success as a co-writer of Elvis Presley's 1964 hit "It Hurts Me." “Elvis recorded it, and it was by far the biggest thing that had ever happened to me in my life,” Daniels once said.
Shortly after, Daniels was hired to play on albums by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Marty Robbins, and in 1970, he released his first solo album, Charlie Daniels.
In 1972, he formed the Charlie Daniels Band and began the Southern rock festival called Volunteer Jam in 1974. This June, Daniels announced the rescheduling of the 2020 Volunteer Jam which was originally scheduled to take place on Sept. 15 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Due to coronavirus concerns, the event was rescheduled for Feb. 22, 2021.
Among his many accolades is a Grammy Award in 1979 for "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" as well as six total nominations, most recently in 2005 for best country instrumental performance for "I'll Fly Away." In addition, the Charlie Daniels Band has won awards from the Gospel Music Association, Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music.
Daniels was also inducted into Hall of Fame in 2016, which was the same year the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum featured an exhibition titled Charlie Daniels: Million Mile Reflections with musical instruments, stage wear, manuscripts, awards, childhood mementos and previously unpublished photos from Daniels' personal collection to show the impact he had on country music.
In 2014, he founded The Journey Home Project, which he served as chairman, to help veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the coming days.
MORE ON CHARLIE:
Born Oct. 28, 1936, in Wilmington, North Carolina, Charles Edward Daniels grew up inspired by church music and local bluegrass bands. He listened to Nashville’s WSM and WLAC, which streamed country and R&B music from all the way from Music City to Daniels’ radio speaker in North Carolina.
Daniels merged those sounds in the mid-1950s to create rock band The Jaguars, which most notably recorded instrumental single “Jaguar,” in Fort Worth, Texas, for national distribution via Epic Records. In Texas, he’d connect with producer Bob Johnston, who — years later — Daniels would credit with helping him find his way as a songwriter and sought-after session player in Nashville.
Three years passed before Daniels and his distinct country-rock influence would pull into Music City. Living in Newport, Kentucky, with his wife, Hazel, and 2-year-old son, Charles William Daniels, the seasoned stage player headed South with ideas of substituting beer joint stages for session work in Nashville.
And Daniels rolled into Nashville — literally, as he told The Tennessean in 2014 — beginning a five-decade stay in Middle Tennessee.
"I came to Nashville in 1967, with the clutch out of my car and a $20 dollar bill," Daniels told The Tennessean in 2014. "I didn't fit the Nashville type very well. I'd come out of 12 years of playing bang-slang, balls-to-the-wall music in clubs, and I played too loud and too bluesy."
With Johnston’s help, Daniels carved his name in the late 1960s and early '70s as a marquee Nashville player, working with the likes of Starr, Cohen and, most notably, Bob Dylan.
In 1969, Johnston called Daniels to pinch hit for an absent guitarist during a Dylan session at Columbia’s historic Studio A. After the session, Daniels heard nine words from Dylan that would change his life.
“I don’t want another guitar player,” Daniels, in a 2019 interview with The Tennessean, recalled hearing. He recited each syllable delivered with an excitement untouched by five decades: “I want him.”
He’d finish the Dylan sessions — what would be “Nashville Skyline,” an album considered one of the most influential out of Music City in the late 1960s — and returned for two more albums with the freewheelin’ Midwesterner, “Self Portrait” and “New Morning.”
“Dammit, it was just fun,” Daniels said in 2019. “It was a very pleasant experience.”
The life of a session sideman wouldn't stick, though. He'd cut a self-titled debut album in 1970, forming the Charlie Daniels Band — or CDB, as it was known for decades at concert theaters, state fairs and race tracks — in 1971.
A bearded embodiment of fast-fiddlin' Southern life, Daniels cut a handful of solo efforts in the early 1970s, none more notable than "Fire on the Mountain” — the Platinum-selling release that spilled into mainstream country and Southern rock success. Daniels would proceed to sell more than 13.5 million records, per the RIAA, logging nine Gold, Platinum or multi-Platinum releases.
On "Fire on the Mountain" Daniels released singles "Long Haired Country Boy" and "The South's Gonna Do It Again," the latter a swinging concoction of blues, country and rock that would be a rallying cry for Daniels’ Southern ethos.
“There are few artists that touched so many different generations in our business than Charlie Daniels did,” Sarah Trahern, Country Music Association CEO, said in a statement. “Today, our community has lost an innovator and advocate of country music."
In 1974, alongside longtime manager David Corlew, he launched the first “Volunteer Jam,” a regular all-star concert in Tennessee that continued for nearly 50 years. Billy Joel, Little Richard, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Roy Acuff, Garth Brooks, the Allman Brothers Band and The Marshall Tucker Band are among the alumni of the series, which held its most recent edition in 2018.
Backed by "The South's Gonna Do It Again," "Trudy" and the rest of his growing catalog, Daniels would forge a reputation among his peers as a scorching live player who bridged his steadfast country-rock to bluegrass and blues music.
"We would follow him into battle," friend and Nashville musician Larry Gatlin shared Monday. "We would not follow him on stage. We couldn’t. No one else could either. ‘Nuff said."
Upon its release in 1979, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” didn’t just top the country chart, it became a huge pop crossover hit — climbing up to No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart behind The Knack’s “My Sharona” and Earth Wind and Fire’s “After the Love Has Gone.”
The song won Daniels' only Grammy Award in 1979, for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, and it gained even greater ubiquity one year later, when Daniels and his band performed it in the 1980 film “Urban Cowboy.”
“Devil’s” crossover success was exceptional, but it also wasn’t an accident. Over the record's breakneck tempo, Daniels sings of “Johnny,” a hotshot musician who gambles his soul against the devil in a fiddling duel.
The setup allowed Daniels and his band to pit bluegrass fiddle up against fiery rock riffs, and it proved to be a winning combination.
The duel plays out over Daniel’s dizzying solos, and ultimately “Johnny” prevails, proclaiming, “I done told you once, you son of a b----, I'm the best there's ever been."
As he played “Devil” at nearly every concert for the next 40 years, Daniels made it a habit to challenge himself.
“I get a chance to play it better tonight than I did last night and better tomorrow night than I did tonight,” Daniels said in 2016. “I haven’t played it perfect yet. I am in love with walking on stage and entertaining people with songs I have written. It’s one of the few times in my life that I feel like I know what I’m doing.”
Still, Daniels undoubtedly had many other passions. A staunch supporter of U.S. troops and veterans, he spent much of his career traveling overseas to play for service members in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2014, he co-founded the Journey Home Project, a non-profit that has now raised more than $1 million for veterans and veterans-related programs and charities. The following year saw the opening of the Charlie and Hazel Daniels Veterans and Military Family Center at Middle Tennessee State University.
For the last four years, hardly a day went by without Daniels sharing this message on his Twitter account: “22 VETERANS COMMIT SUICIDE EVERY DAY!!”
On the platform, the man who sang 1980's confrontational "In America" solidified his reputation as one of the most outspoken figures in country music. In daily posts, he would decry abortion as “murder,” ask fans to “pray for the blue,” and declare that “Benghazi ain’t going away.”
“We’re sitting on the upstairs porch looking at the northern horizon and watching America light up, fireworks going off all over the place,” he tweeted on July 4. “You may tear down statues and burn buildings but you can’t kill the spirit of patriots and when they’ve had enough this madness will end.”
But in his twilight years, Daniels also continued to relate to the counter-cultural heroes he once played with. In 2014, he covered “The Times They Are a-Changin,” “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” and others on a full album of acoustic Dylan covers.
"All these things, they're just all part of my life," he told The Tennessean in 2014. "It all adds up. And whatever differences you may have, there are 12 notes of music in the world where you can find common ground."
In 1994, Daniels returned to the gospel music that influenced him as a child, releasing his first Christian album, “The Door.” The record would yield Daniels his first of three Grammy Award nominations for Southern gospel recordings. He’d earn his last Grammy Award nomination in 2005, for Country Instrumental Performance on “I’ll Fly Away.”
Daniels and Corlew launched Blue Hat Records in 1997, a label home for late career releases the likes of "Road Dogs" and Dylan tribute collection, "Off The Grid."
At age 70, he joined the ranks of country music stalwarts enshrined as a Grand Ole Opry member. He’d regularly perform on the 94-year-old country music radio tradition until his death.
“To be able to be a member and to have my name linked with my heroes is some pretty heady stuff for a guy that loves music and loves the Grand Ole Opry as much as I do,” Daniels once said.
Beyond the Opry, Daniels was a fixture of touring circuit until COVID-19 brought the industry to a halt this year.
"We play over one hundred cities every year and they’re all special in their own way, but when you get a chance to bring it all back home, especially when so many of your friends are joining you, it don’t get much better than that," Daniels said in 2019.
In 2016, Daniels earned a top honor for any Nashville musician: A place alongside the all-time greats in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Entering at nearly 80 years old, he joined Randy Travis and Fred Foster for the year’s Hall of Fame class.
He was “weak” and speechless when hearing the news he would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Daniels told The Tennessean in 2016.
“I’m so glad it went this way,” he said. “This is the cherry on top of the icing. It doesn’t go any further. That’s where the cake stops.”
Funeral arrangements are pending; in lieu of flowers, the Daniels family asks for donations to The Journey Home Project.
ARTISTS REFLECT ON PASSING OF
“I will truly miss my friend and fellow Country Music Hall Of Fame member, Charlie Daniels. He was one of the most honest and genuinely nice people in the business. I will miss our talks. We shared lots of memories and supported each other. My prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues.” - Charley Pride
“All of The Oak Ridge Boys are saddened and devastated by this sudden and immeasurable loss. Charlie was not only a dear friend but a Patriot who loved Jesus and loved the USA. It is all so very hard to process right now...We will miss Charlie, but we know where he is… The Everlasting Arms of HIS and OUR Savior hold him now…Until The Day Charlie…Until the DAY…prayers for Hazel.” - Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys
“One of the best friends, not only a peer, but a true friend. He was one of the most spiritual men. When we got together for a show in Oklahoma, we performed ‘Will The Circle be Unbroken.’ I never will forget that night.” - Sam Moore
"What a loss and a shock - we can hardly put this in words. Charlie was such a beloved part of our community! He was a great friend and a fellow patriot. I will always cherish the countless shows we worked together over the decades and our backstage talks. He leaves an immeasurable mark on country and southern rock music. Charlie was a great leader and philanthropist, incredibly humble and one of the biggest supporters of our armed forces and veterans. I loved standing in the wings when he took the stage - he was powerful and magical - he left other artists in awe and every audience on their feet! We love you Charlie and will forever cherish our friendship." - Lee and Kim Greenwood
“I am very saddened to hear of Charlie Daniels’ passing. I have known and loved Charlie since our early days when he appeared on one of my television specials and l played his Volunteer Jams. Charlie was a strong man who loved his family, fans and country. The music community and the world have lost an old friend.” - Crystal Gayle
“Charlie Daniels has been a friend of mine for the last 40 or 50 years. He is one of the greatest artists in country music and an all around wonderful man. We will miss you Charlie.” - B.J. Thomas
“I recall a show I played in West Texas with Charlie, what a great talent and personality he was, and so respected in the music world. He and his memory are cherished and loved by all.” - Janie Fricke
“It was an honor to know Charlie. He was a Godly, family man and the U.S.A. didn’t have a better friend. He always had an encouraging word and a firm handshake. Sheila and I pray for Miss Hazel, the family, the band and his entire organization. Rest in peace ol’ pal!” - T. Graham Brown
“I am absolutely stunned and heart broken over the loss of our legendary friend, the great Charlie Daniels! You could not find a finer or kinder man! His giant talent paled in comparison to the phenomenal human being that he was! He was passionate and honest about what he believed in and unapologetically spoke his truth.There is a reason he was so loved by all who knew him and such an Icon in Country Music!!! He cut a wide path in our hearts! We love you Charlie! My prayers are with his family at this time of deep loss. Rest In Peace Charlie.” - Deborah Allen
"My heart goes out to Hazel, Charlie Jr. and their family. I always loved Charlie, and his music. He was the real deal and one of the great ones." - Lacy J. Dalton
“I’m hurt. Charlie was one of the nicest guys in country music. He was always there to help anyone and he will be missed by all.” - Johnny Lee
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Charlie Daniels, a true Country Music Legend. ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’ will live on as one of the most quintessential Southern Rock songs in history. My thoughts and prayers are with Charlie and his family. Rest in peace Charlie and God bless you.“ - Deana Martin
“What a huge loss not only in the music industry, but in the world. Charlie was simply one of the kindest, most loving patriotic friends I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. He loved his friends and country so deeply. I was honored and blessed to perform on his infamous Volunteer Jam. My heart is broken today and I send my prayers of comfort up for his precious family.” - Kelly Lang
“It’s hard to imagine country music without Charlie Daniels and the world will never be the same. Thankfully he left a legacy like no other that we can reflect on. You are loved and you will be missed!” - Shane Owens
“Charlie Daniels was a music icon, yet every time I played piano for Charlie he made me feel like I was part of the Charlie Daniels' family. He loved our country and devoted much of his time to encouraging and performing for our men and women in uniform. When my son Torre was in the Army, and he was about to ship out for his first tour in Iraq, Charlie met with Torre before he left, and he prayed with him. You have no idea what that meant to me. The devil can stay down in Georgia for all I care, because Charlie Daniels is heaven bound!” - Tim Atwood
"Rest in Peace to Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels. He was one of the true icons in country music and will forever be remembered. Charlie Daniels was a True American. Country Music has lost one of its finest ambassadors today. Prayers to the family of Charlie Daniels." - J.D. Shelburne
“It truly breaks my heart to hear of the passing of Mr. Charlie Daniels. As a fellow NC native, he was included in the soundtrack of nearly every road trip, bonfire night, and any other occasion! He was an extraordinary musician and such a joy to watch onstage - his spirit for music and performing was truly incredible! His family are in my thoughts and prayers during this hard time. He will truly be missed by fans all around!” - Paige King Johnson
“When I was a kid at boarding school listening to my roommate's Charlie Daniels albums, I had never been exposed to country music, and I didn’t know what I was hearing, I just knew that it grabbed me. So I transported the feel of it to my rudimentary songwriting on the grand piano in the common room of that dorm, and it has stayed with me ever since. Classic songwriting and musical authenticity can reach across a culture like nothing else. Thanks to Charlie for waking a powerful spirit, all over the world.” - Carrington MacDuffie
“A pioneer that stood for so many great things outside of music, a true patriot. He taught us all what a fiddle truly was while never being afraid to voice his opinion. He’s going to be deeply missed but his legacy will no doubt live on. Prayers and thoughts are with his family, friends and fans.” - Vonn Kiss
"This Legend, Charlie Daniels, was at the core of my roots and influences in music. We recorded "Just As I Am" together for his Gospel Album. "Oh lamb of God I come...I come," sings the hymn. An honor to call him my friend. Fiddle is gonna be roaring in heaven tonight! #RIP"
–Billy Ray Cyrus
"Charlie Daniels was someone you could lean on at any time or ask his advice. I am so blessed to have known him as a peer, as a friend and performed with him many times. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” well, the devil never had a chance! And now Charlie is playing that fiddle with the heavenly angels in the Big Man’s band. Some day I’ll see you again, Charlie."
"Every time I was around Charlie I felt like I was standing next to pure country. He sang about Faith, Patriotism, family and having good, clean fun. I’m so grateful that I got to meet and know a truly great man."
"Getting to open for Mr. Charlie was one of my very first memorable moments in country music. He’s an important part of my story. When Mom & I opened for Mr. Charlie in the 80’s, I was so young, so naive, and in awe of my heroes and sheroes in country music. I spent most of my time trying to talk to, hang out with and learn everything I could from the artists we played shows with. Mr. Charlie was always so kind to me. He always made me feel so important. His heart. Oh my. His passion for God and his country, it really was what made him such a gifted soul. I adore him!! He’d come over to me in a crowded room to hug me. He always made time for me and I respect him so much for the way he treated me and so many others in the room. During one of our moments backstage before a show, I was talking to Mr. Charlie about how nervous I was being onstage. He told me to “Never look at the empty seats.” I have not forgotten his words to me. Charlie Daniels is a maverick. His heart is bigger than most. He lived and he loved large!!!!! Thank you for your service to our great country sir. I love you so."
"We are very sad today at the news of Charlie Daniels passing. Charlie was a great entertainer, great friend, and a great American."
"Charlie was a big ol' teddy bear...one of the kindest, gentlest people I've ever known...with a wonderful sense of humor and a great outlook on life. I've played golf with him, shared the Opry stage with him, sat alongside him at the Titans football games, and always marveled at his talent and his tenacity. There's a big ol' hole in lots of our hearts today with the news of his passing."
"Charlie Daniels was a life force. His music was ancient and modern all at once and overlapped every genre. He was a giver to those in need and those who showed promise. A great patriot, an authentic American."
“He was one of my biggest heroes. One of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. RIP my brother Charlie.”
"Charlie Daniels' work on Earth is done. While we will miss him and his talents here, we know he has gone home now. Rest In Peace, old friend. You are so loved. Sending love to Hazel and the entire family."
"It's with a heavy heart that I am letting you know our good friend and Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels passed away this morning at Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, TN from a hemorrhagic stroke. He was 83. What a truly great man beyond just his obvious talents as a singer and musician. He was a force of nature and will be greatly missed."
"Charlie was loved by absolutely everybody! He was a sweetheart that you loved to hug on and wanted to be around and man, when he took to the stage, he was fire! He will be missed and adored from down here till we see him again."
"We lost a country music legend today. I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet Mr. Charlie Daniels but had quite a few friends who did, and all said the same of how an amazing of a Man he was as a musician and a person. I bet a band of angels in Heaven is gettin' its fill today!!"
"Not only was Charlie a legend in music, he was a true patriot and loved our country. It’s a sad day to lose such a great man."
"Hearing the news of Charlie Daniels passing is shocking and heartbreaking. Charlie’s music will forever be a pillar, not only in Country Music, but in American Music’s history. He will be greatly missed."
"My God, Charlie Daniels was easily the most humble man I’ve ever worked with! I was fortunate enough to play a couple of shows with him, including the 40th Anniversary Volunteer Jam and then again as direct support in 2019."
“If there was ever someone that put fiddle on the map, it was Charlie Daniels! I am so grateful I had a chance to finally meet Charlie earlier this year and tell him what a role model he has been to me. The Devil might’ve gone down to Georgia, but Charlie is now fiddlin’ and flyin’ high with Jesus!”