“I’ve been taking criticism all my life,” music star Charlie Daniels said in Backstory: Charlie Daniels, premiering Thursday, November 28, 11|10c on Great American Country. “People get upset about something you say. Just turn it off…don’t listen to it,” he added. The story of the artist who helped create the southern rock genre of music began 77 years ago in North Carolina where his family spent every Saturday night listening to the Grand Ole Opry. “That’s basically what I cut my teeth on,” Daniels said. At age 70, he was invited to become an Opry member.
Although Daniels popularized the fiddle as an instrument that can rock, he worked as a session guitarist when he relocated his young family to Nashville in the ‘60s. He found that he didn’t fit into the Nashville sessions style with his rowdy playing and wild appearance but that changed when he secured a spot on one of Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline recording sessions. As he packed up to head to a club gig, Dylan asked producer Bob Johnston why Daniels was leaving and was told another guitar player was coming in. “I don’t want another guitar player, I want him,” was Dylan’s response. “Those are the nine words that probably meant more to me than any nine words anyone’s ever said to me.” Daniels said. “I mean after not fitting in and not being a part of what’s going on in Nashville because of just being who I was. That went a long way with me.”
By ’72, Daniels had tired of studio work and was itching to perform with his own band. He created the Charlie Daniels Band, melding country, rock and rhythm and blues sounds and putting fiddle on rock radio for the first time. “People couldn’t decide what kind of music we played,” he said. “I said it doesn’t matter, we play American music.” Never one to shy away from what’s on his mind, CDB hits reflected the rebellious nature of the times that included Vietnam, Watergate and the hippie culture.
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” catapulted him to international stardom in 1979.
For more than 20 years Daniels has been a tireless supporter of America’s military with repeated tours all over the globe including active war zones. “He’s a national treasure, that’s all you need to know,” said General Terry M. Haston of the Tennessee National Guard. He also continues to pay it forward, mentoring up and coming artists and taking them under his wing. “Everything I’ve learned about the business part of the music business is from Charlie Daniels,” said country star Travis Tritt.
Yet with Grammy, CMA and ACM awards and multiple platinum album releases, it’s something else that makes Daniels most proud. “I’ve kept 30 people gainfully employed for 30 years and we’re working on it still. That is one of my most cherished accomplishments.”