The Charlie Daniels Band is an American country and southern rock band fronted by (who else?) Charlie Daniels (born Charles Edward Daniels in 1936). Daniels is a singer, songwriter, guitarist and fiddler whose inputs deemed inestimable to the country, country rock and southern rock world. Daniels and his band are most remembered for their late 70s music era-#1 country hit “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”. His songs often send social and political messages, as evidenced in the songs “The South’s Gonna Do It,” “In America,” “Still In Saigon” and “Simple Man” – reflecting his views on the Iraq hostage crisis and the Vietnam war. Many other songs also became crossover hits such as “Uneasy Rider” (his first charting single), “The South’s Gonna Do It,” “In America,” “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” and“Still In Saigon.” Many of his songs still receive airplay on both pop and country stations all over the country. Daniels has received several accolades, including a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance for his biggest hit “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” in 1979, as well as honors from the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009. Despite his long career and contributions in country music, it was only in 2008 that Daniels was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
Early life and music career
Charlie Daniels is an American singer-songwriter, guitarist and fiddler born in Leland, North Carolina on October 28, 1936. He started taking up the fiddle and the guitar during his adolescence and this is where he also played in several local acts.
When he was in his early 20s, he decided to go professional, and so he formed his first band the Jaguars. They eventually landed a contract with Epic Records, releasing singles to little success. Nevertheless, the band continued to play. One of Daniels’ original songs “It Hurts Me,” was later re-recorded by no less than the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. Seeing that the band was going nowhere though, Daniels moved to Nashville to become a session musician. He emerged as one of the best-known fiddlers there. Daniels went on to work with Bob Dylan on several albums, Ringo Starr, and Leonard Cohen.
The Charlie Daniels Band
His self-titled debut album, released on Capitol in 1971, gained very little attention. The following year he formed the Charlie Daniels Band. The lineup was rounded out by Don Murray (lead guitar), Charlie Hayward (bass), Joe DiGregorio (keyboards) and James W. Marshall (drums).
The band followed the Southern rock style of the Allman Brothers. The ruse worked, and they achieved their first real hit with his self-penned song “Uneasy Rider,” which was issued on Kama Sutra label. It peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973.
The success of the song helped the album Honey in the Rock to earn a place on the Billboard 200 at #164.
In 1974 the band released a new LP Fire of Mountain, which eventually went gold in jut a relatively short time; it would eventually earn a platinum disc. Its single “The South’s Gonna Do It Again” became a top 40 pop hit. Saddle Trap (1976) became their first album to hit the top ten country album chart, going gold in the process.
The band kept on going, but sensing that trend towards Southern rock was gradually disappearing, Daniels adjusted the band’s style into a more straightforward country. This change seemed auspicious — in 1979 the Charlie Daniels Band earned their first #1 country hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which also landed its peak position at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Daniels won a Grammy award for his performance in the song. “The Devil’s…” album, Million Mile Reflections, became Daniels’ best-performing album so far, eventually, going triple platinum.
Although Daniels wasn’t able to sustain the success of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” he went on (rather ironically) to enjoy crossover hits in the country, pop, and even rock charts from Billboard. These hits include “In America,” (#11 pop, #13 country) and “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” (#31 pop, #80 country). His albums such as Million Mile Reflections: Full Moon (1980) and Windows (1982) went platinum and gold, respectively. His 1989 album Simple Man went gold too.
At the turn of the new millennium Daniels began releasing albums under independent labels (such as Blue Hat and Audium). He earned a considerable noise when his pro-Iraq sentiments were expressed in his song “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag,” which garnered so much popularity that it produced a spin-off publication Ain’t No Rag. In 2005 he was signed to Koch Records and began releasing several records whose styles and themes ranging from blues, bluegrass, country rock, Christmas tunes and live outtakes. Although Daniels is an already established country star, it was only in 2008 that he was able to perform at the prestigious Grand Ole Opry for the first time.
Daniels currently resides in the city of Mount Juliet in Tennessee; there’s a park there that’s also named after him. He is still active performing up to the present, mostly to oldies music and country music enthusiasts.