Photo | facebook.com/charliedanielsband
At 82 years old, Charlie Daniels is still setting the stage on fire with his unique blend of rock and country.
Band: Alabama with special guest The Charlie Daniels Band
Date: Thursday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Venue: The Amphitheater at The Wharf, 23325 Wharf Ln. (Orange Beach), alwharf.com
Tickets: $16 – $80.50, available through Ticketmaster
Alabama invites its fans to come celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary with a special performance at The Amphitheater at The Wharf. Before Alabama takes the stage, The Charlie Daniels Band will energize the crowd with its legendary country sound. Still setting the stage on fire at 82 years old, this country/rock crossover artist has won dedicated listeners with hits such as “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “Long Haired Country Boy.”
These days, Daniels is still mixing genres with his longtime producer James Stroud with their side project Beau Weevils, as well as dropping pearls of wisdom through his pen with the recent release of a book. Daniels was gracious enough to take a few minutes from his vacation to chat with Lagniappe music editor Steve Centanni.
Centanni: When you first started out, one thing that made The Charlie Daniels Band unique was your incorporation of rock and country. How did that sound come to be?
Daniels: I’m 82 years old. When I was a kid, there were not near as many stations as there are now. They basically had to do the mandate of doing something for everybody. So, they played every kind of music. They started off the day with country. Then, they would go into something that the ladies at home would like. When the kids came home from school, they played whatever the popular music of the day would be. I remember when it was big band, which morphed on into rock. On Sunday, you’d get all kinds of gospel music and even a little taste of classical.
If you’re from the South, then you’re gonna be exposed to the blues. I had so many different kinds of music thrown at me when I was a kid, and I liked a little of all of it. I guess it kind of stuck with me when my creative juices started flowing.
When I actually started writing songs, it was kind of natural for me to incorporate a lot of different sounds. I’ve always been pretty irreverent about that — crossing one style or genre with another.
Centanni: What kind of reaction did you get for that country-rock sound when you started taking it to the masses?
Daniels: The powers that be in the music and radio industry, especially radio, have to have a label for everything. They want it to be one thing or another, and they never had a label for us. There would be songs on an album that would lean far enough in one direction or another where a radio station would play [them]. The rock stations would play songs and the country stations would find something they liked every once in awhile. They liked “Long Haired Country Boy” and “The South’s Gonna Do It.”
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was number one on country radio, and it was a big pop tune. I have always refused to take on a genre label. When they asked what kind of music we were, I’d say, “American music.” We play gospel, bluegrass, blues, hymns and all kinds of stuff like country, rock and jazz. That’s just who we are and what we do.
Centanni: With all that said, the modern country scene is filled with bands that walk a fine line between country and rock or pop, and they’re criticized for that. As someone who has been there and done that, what’s your opinion on all that?
Daniels: Well, you know, back in the day, country radio would play some of our songs that leaned more toward a rock direction. People would say, “You’re not country.” I’d say, “I never said I was!” Country music is whatever the country fan likes. That’s what country music is. Record companies are going to cater to whatever the radio stations cater to. Whatever they’re doing seems to be working.
Of course, the life of the artist doesn’t seem to last anymore. It seems like they’re disposable and an in-and-out situation. It’s working for making money. Record companies and concert promoters are making money. I’m kind of lost off in that world.
To old guys like me, country music has lost its identity now. It may just be and my taste. I can’t tell one artist from the other or one song from the other. With country, you knew who Hank Williams was and who Marty Robbins was and who George Jones was. You could identify the artists. I can’t do that anymore. That’s not any criticism. That’s just stating a fact. The only advice is that I’d give them is that as long as it works, keep doing it. When it stops working, go find something else to do.
Centanni: One of your latest projects is Beau Weevils, which you’ve got going on with your longtime friend and producer James Stroud performing with you. This was always something that you wanted to do with him. So, what was it like finally getting to do this with him?
Daniels: Well, it was great. We had worked together a lot as artist/producer. He had done some of the biggest country records that we ever had. He’s also one of the most soulful drummers around. He has an ability that I call “playing on the shady side of the beat.”
It’s extremely hard to find a drummer that does that, and I wanted to work with him. I thought we could do some great music together. Every time we got together, we’d say, “We really need to do something, but what are we going to do?” We didn’t know what to do.
I started writing these songs, and they all fit into enough of a genre that I felt like the record would work. So, we got together and said, “Yeah, let’s do this.” So, we went in and did it, and did it real quick. It didn’t take very long, and we had a lot of fun doing it. I’m very happy with the result. It’s just kind of a loose, sort of bluesy swamp beat that’s another side of me.
Centanni: Another thing that you’ve been doing is writing. You published “Let’s All Make the Day Count: The Everyday Wisdom of Charlie Daniels.” How do you make every day count?
Daniels: I think the older you get, the more you value every day. Every day becomes precious to you. I hate dissension and arguing and things you can’t do anything about. There’s a prayer that Alcoholics Anonymous people have that I have seen. It goes, “God, grant me the [serenity] to accept the things I cannot change, [courage to change the things I can] and wisdom to know the difference.” That’s a great prayer and a great philosophy.
The things that are important to you that you can do something about, you should do them. You can’t get too upset over politics. I write a lot about them and think a lot about them, because it affects the future of my kid and grandkids and all the people I love. People ask me what I do about things that I can’t change. Well, I vote and I pray. That’s as far as I can push it. I can’t do anything else.
Then there’s those things that you can do something about. You can be nice to the people you meet. You can be respectful and be attentive and care about people just in the way you speak to people sometimes and the way you talk. You should respect everybody. I respect the maid that cleans up the motel room as much as I respect the guy who owns the motel chain and try to treat them both the same. That’s a great source of satisfaction.
I’ve got no time for dishonest people and no time for people who are down all the time. Every time you’re around them, there’s something wrong and it’s somebody else’s fault. The world is falling on their head, and there’s nothing they can do. I don’t look at things that way. If you have something coming at you, get out of the way. Do something about it or have a better attitude about it. A lot of times, the people you’re around tend to affect you and the way you feel. I like upbeat people and people who can say, “I don’t know if I can fix it, but I can damn sure give it a shot.”
My whole thing is that it’s a blessing from God that I’m 82 years old and have the health to still make a living. I have the health to do it. I’ve had cancer, a stroke and some heart things. It’s just God’s grace that I’m healthy, and the cancer is gone away. That’s the blessings of your creator. I give God all the credit. I’m a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ. I certainly fail a lot. I don’t call myself a good Christian. I call myself a Christian. I love life, and I value every single day as precious to me.
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