Charlie Daniels: Enjoying every single day

He is known for his fiery fiddle playing and with more than a half-century of music making under his belt, Charlie Daniels is not showing any signs of slowing down.

Fusing country music with southern rock, Charlie has earned the respect of those who got turned onto the band via songs like The Devil Went Down To Georgia and Long Haired Country Boy while also appealing to an alternate generation of jam bands fans like Widespread Panic, among others.

The Charlie Daniels Band will take the stage at Casino New Brunswick tonight.

Although he might be best known to audiences for his 1979 hit The Devil Went Down To Georgia, Daniels has maintained a fairly regular album release schedule over the past three decades.

With his most recent effort, The Land I Love, Charlie has assembled 15 songs that are patriotic in nature, a nod to the ongoing battles being fought by American troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

“It might surprise some to know but the United States has not actually finished a war in the past 50 years,” Charlie says. “And I do understand the reasons for going into Afghanistan and Iraq, but I truly feel that our military forces could be a lot further down the road had the troops been given a clear cut description of exactly what victory is rather than us suffering and standing for so much collateral damage to our troops.”

In perhaps one of the most clear-cut statements of frustration and yet understanding of the United States’ involvement in fighting these wars overseas, Charlie penned a song called “Let ‘Em Win Or Bring ‘Em Home.” Though Daniels makes clear that he understands that it is not possible to simply cut and run out of these countries when the going gets tough, he believes that if direction from the upper ranks of the military was more concise, troops would in turn have a better understanding of their roles in these conflicts.

“I feel that the United States has always made the mistake of judging the rest of the world and feel that if you are going to put America’s finest in battle, give them a goal to work towards. My newest single is more-or-less saying that once the troops have accomplished what they set out to do, bring them home.”

Charlie’s fiery passion for politics and his homeland has served him well over the past number of decades. After all, how many Grand Ole Opry members can also lay claim to having been honoured by the Pentagon with the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service? While he has been a regular visitor to troops stationed through Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Korea and elsewhere, Charlie started a charitable program that has donated more than 100 Gibson guitars in addition to drums, keyboards and microphones to deployed service members. Dubbed Operation Heartstrings, more than 13,000 pieces of musical accessories were sent to deployed service members in 2005 alone. Approaching his 75th birthday next month, a conversation with Charlie shows that there is much fire in his belly yet. This is a man passionate about his country but even more passionate about the music he is able to entertain fans with all over the world.

Not only is Charlie still able to connect with his loyal following of fans throughout the world, he has also experienced the good fortune of appealing to the “jam band” demographic, exposing him to a completely different generation of fans. Last October, he joined acclaimed Widespread Panic on stage at Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium and completely captivated the audience.

Charlie doesn’t seem fazed at his ability to appeal to music fans of all ages, whether they be eight years old or 80 years old.

“I feel that some of the crowd that would normally go see Widespread Panic are not necessarily any strangers to us,” he says. “In fact, I feel there is probably a large amount of fans that bleed over both ways. It is really amazing to me to see how many different kinds of people and the age groups that will be at a Charlie Daniels show.”

Charlie’s fans seem to be a loyal bunch, so much so that he has a special part of his fan club known as the Century Club that is especially for Charlie Daniels fans who have attended 100 shows.

“We give a belt buckle to all of the Century Club members and frankly, you would be surprised at how many there are,” he laughs.

Music is such an integral part of Charlie’s life that retirement is not even an option in the running for consideration at this point in his life. Charlie firmly believes that he is on this Earth for a reason and will continue playing and making music for as long as he is able to do so.

“What would I do with myself if I retired,” he laughs. “I am going to keep playing music until God has other plans for me. Until then though, I plan on enjoying myself every single day.”

Article published in September 8, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript