From his Dove Award winning gospel albums to his genre-defining Southern rock anthems and his CMA Award-winning country hits, few artists have left a more indelible mark on America’s musical landscape than Charlie Daniels. An outspoken patriot, beloved mentor to young artists and still a road warrior at age 76, Charlie has parlayed his passion for music into a multi-platinum career and a platform to support the military, underprivileged children and others in need.
Raised among the longleaf pines of North Carolina, Charlie began his career playing bluegrass music with the Misty Mountain Boys. After moving to Nashville in 1967, he began making a name for himself as a songwriter, session musician and producer. Elvis Presley recorded a tune Charlie co-wrote titled “It Hurts Me,” which was released on the flip side of “Kissin’ Cousins.” He played on such landmark albums as Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline and tried his hand at producing on the Youngbloods’ Elephant Mountain and Ride the Wind.
His own unique voice as an artist emerged as Charlie recorded his self-titled solo album in 1970 for Capitol Records. Two years later he formed the Charlie Daniels Band and the group scored its first hit with the top ten “Uneasy Rider.” Since then the CDB has populated radio with such memorable hits as “Long Haired Country Boy,” “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” “In America,” “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” and of course, his signature song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1979 as well as single of the year at the Country Music Association Awards.
“I love what I do,” says Charlie of his 50-plus years in the music business. “I look forward to entertaining people. When show time gets here, I’m ready to go, ready to go play for them. It’s a labor of love. I just thank God I make a living at what I enjoy doing.”
Whether performing in the hit 80s movie Urban Cowboy, singing on Easter Sunday at his local church or leading an all-star cast at one of his famed Volunteer Jams, Charlie just exudes joy whenever he steps on stage and he’s always been quick to provide a platform for other artists to shine. In 1974 he invited some friends to join him at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium for an all-star concert he dubbed The Volunteer Jam. The event continued for years and was broadcast in the U.S. and internationally. Over the years, the Jam featured a diverse line up that included Willie Nelson, Ted Nugent, Roy Acuff, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Crystal Gayle, James Brown, Emmylou Harris, Amy Grant, George Thorogood, Kris Kristofferson, Little Richard, Tammy Wynette, Alabama, Oak Ridge Boys, B. B. King and the Allman Brothers.
As diverse as his live shows have always been, his discography has also reflected Charlie’s love of multiple genres. In 1994 he released his first Christian album, The Door, on Sparrow Records. The album won the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award for Best Country Album and “Two Out of Three” was named video of the year by the Christian Country Music Association. In 1997, Sony Wonder released Charlie’s first children’s album, By The Light of The Moon” Campfire Songs and Cowboy Tunes.
An astute businessman as well as talented musician, Charlie launched Blue Hat Records in 1997 with his longtime personal manager David Corlew. Over the past 15 years, the label has released such memorable albums as Blues Hat, Tailgate Party, Road Dogs, Fiddle Fire: 25 Years of the Charlie Daniels Band and his first bluegrass album 2005’s Songs From the Longleaf Pines and 2007’s album Deuces, featuring duets with Brad Paisley, Gretchen Wilson, Bonnie Bramlett, Travis Tritt, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Brenda Lee and Darius Rucker.
Over the course of his career, Charlie has received numerous accolades, including induction into the Grand Ole Opry and Musicians Hall of Fame. He’s been presented the Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music and was honored as a BMI Icon in recognition of his songwriting. He’s received a star on the Music City Walk of Fame.
Any conversation with the legendary artist, however, rarely includes any of his accomplishments. He’d rather shine the spotlight on the many causes that are close to his heart. He’s always been a staunch supporter of the military, and for the past several years has headlined a special concert each spring at David Lipscomb University benefiting the Yellow Ribbon Program which provides scholarships for veterans. In 2012 he welcomed Chris Young, Rascal Flatts, Darryl Worley, the Grascals and actor Gary Sinise to Lipscomb for a great evening of music.
Charlie also lends his time and talent to numerous other charitable organizations, including the Jason Foundation Golf Classic, an organization that targets teen suicide prevention, and the Galilean Children’s Home in Liberty, KY, which provides a home for abused and neglected children, “I’ve been affiliated with them for a long, long time and it’s just a great place,” Charlie says of the home founded by Jerry and Sandy Tucker. “They take in babies whose mothers are going to prison. They give kids a good stable Christian home and love them. It’s just a wonderful place.”
Each year Charlie also hosts The Charlie Daniels Celebrity Golf Classic & Angelus Concert in Hudson, FL, a benefit for The Angelus, a full-time residential facility and day school program for the severely handicapped. Charlie is also a member of the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Professional Advisory Board and has been a longtime supporter of the T. J. Martell Foundation and its numerous events aiding cancer research. He’s also the headliner every year for the Christmas 4 Kids concert at the Ryman Auditorium, which raises money to provide a happy holiday for needy children. “I have a very unique opportunity because of being in the music community,” Charlie says of using his celebrity status to aid worthy causes. “You try to give back to some extent. I do feel like people should. We should all do as much as we can.”