Charlie Daniels audioListen to the Charlie Daniels interview in its entirety by clicking this audio file.
The 10th annual Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival is merely one week away. Topping the bill for the Oct. 17-19 extravaganza will be the music of the Charlie Daniels Band.
Daniels will join other musicians, such as the Swingin’ Medallions, as well as a projected 36,000-strong crowd of attendees for what has now become one of the largest annual festivals in the area.
In anticipation of the show, Daniels granted an interview with the Bryan County News. He looked back at his 50 years in the music business and opened up about everything from his die-hard fan base to recording with Bob Dylan to military pride to the ever-changing state of radio and the music business.
With a unique blend of wailing fiddles and guitars, the music of the Charlie Daniels Band is nearly impossible to pin down to one genre. Daniels agreed, saying he has been influenced by the many different kinds of music he grew up listening to – and still listens to. He said he listens to "everything from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Mozart."
"I’ve always chopped the musical log and let the chips fall where they will," Daniels said. "I have a wide taste in music. If you look at my IPod and you go through it, you can find everything on there – bluegrass, rock, country, a lot of blues and jazz, classical. I just have a wide taste in music."
Daniels said much of his music is a fusion of the many different styles that were broadcast on the radio airwaves of the era he grew up in.
"When I was a kid, we didn’t have TV," Daniels said. "We had radio, and it was not mandated real stringently. Their mandate was to serve the community and that’s what they did. They played something for everybody. They started out in the morning playing country music, then they played music for the ladies that were around the house in the middle of the morning. Later in the afternoon, when the kids came home from school, they played whatever the popular music happened to be. You were always exposed to the blues and gospel music if you were from the southeast, as I was. So I had exposure to a lot of different kinds of music growing up. I guess when I got ready to do my own music, it was a process of osmosis and it all seeped out I guess."
A proven road warrior, Daniels has maintained a rigorous touring schedule through the past several decades. Certainly not showing his age of 72, his live shows have reportedly shown the same intensity as those of his heyday.
"I just love what I do," Daniels said. "I look forward to going to work. I look forward to the traveling. I enjoy waking up in a different motel parking lot every morning. It’s my life. It’s what I’ve been doing for a long time, and it’s hard to imagine my life without it. So, no, I have not considered retirement at all."
With hit songs like "In America" and "Still in Saigon" and a 2007-released "Live from Iraq" album, performed for U.S. troops, the Charlie Daniels Band has become synonymous with patriotism. Daniels said it is something he believes in very deeply and plans to fully display at the upcoming show in Richmond Hill.
"Let me tell you something, the people wearing those uniforms are the best we’ve got," Daniels said. "They’re the best Americans and they prove it everyday of their lives by laying their lives on the line. These people give up prime years of their lives to go and stand in the gap. Nobody makes them do it. They do it because they want to, because they’re patriots."
As much support as Daniels shows for the troops, he seems to have as much disdain for those who he believes steer support away from American soldiers.
“Nothing gets me hotter under the collar than some hopped up politician in Washington that sits behind the desk and reads newspapers and sticks his thumb in the air to see what the polls are doing and talks about our armed forces. It makes me want to grab him by the throat. I remember the day that Pearl Harbor was bombed. I was very young, but I remember it. I remember that height of patriotism. I remember the war effort and seeing this country operate at basically 100 percent with everybody pulling the same harness. It was an awesome sight to see, and I wish that our politicians would quit tearing us apart and would learn to get along together, which would go a long way toward helping us all get along together. There may me Democrats, Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, but we’re all Americans. We should remember that first. They should remember that first. The hell with the political party. If you've got some loyalty left over for the political party after you get through supporting America, then that’s OK - but remember America first.”
Daniels said the music of Bob Dylan has played a part in the lyrical direction of his music. Very early in his career, the two worked together as Daniels did session work for several Dylan albums.
“We went in to do ‘Nashville Skyline’, and we did it in about half the sessions that we had booked. Bob was a joy to work with. He’s an inspiration. Some of my favorite memories are working in the studio with Bob. What has impressed me so much about Dylan is that he has such a unique way of putting together the English language. He comes up with phrases that nobody else on this Earth would think of … it gives you something to shoot for – to be meticulous about lyrics. Not that you would try to copy what he does, but it makes you strive to do excellent work.”
Wherever Daniels and his band play live, a loyal batch of familiar fans are sure to follow. Daniels said he even has a section of his fan club, the “Century Club”, reserved for those who have seen the band live at least 100 times. Daniels traces it back to the seventies when the “Uneasy Rider” album came out, but said it picked up speed in 1974 with the “Fire on the Mountain” release, which featured radio hits like “South’s Gonna Do It”, “Long Haired Country Boy” and “Caballo Diablo”. The band’s popularity and fan base exploded by the time 1979’s “Million Mile Reflections” reached airwaves, featuring “Legend of Woolly Swamp” and the monster hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.
While thousands of bands have come and faded away over the last half a century, the Charlie Daniels Band seems to be as timeless and relevant as ever. Daniels said the lack of longevity that many of today’s artists suffer from could be traced to the industry’s current trend of focusing more on image and less on the ability to entertain.
“If you look good in a pair of tight jeans – that’s great, that’s wonderful, but, after a while, that’s not going to cut it anymore. In order to entertain people, you’ve got to give them something that makes them want to come back and see you for something other than your image.”
The Charlie Daniels Band will hit the Seafood Festival stage Oct. 18 at 9 p.m. To hear the interview with Daniels in its entirety, click the audio link attached to this article.