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Charlie Daniels is 76. He had a pacemaker implanted earlier this year. Yes, he’s in good health and “maintains a rigorous exercise regimen,” as he recently blogged on his Web site, charliedaniels.com. But there’s no denying the famed country-southern musician and band namesake could one day stop touring.
So it would make sense that more than a few country music fans would like to see Daniels perform before it’s too late.
“There might be some people there, especially at this time in my career, that I may be on their bucket list and they may come for that reason,” Daniels said in a recent phone interview to promote the Charlie Daniels Band performance at 8 p.m. Monday at the Grandstand at Monroe County Fair, 3775 Custer Rd., Monroe. “But I like to think they come to hear the music. That’s what it’s all about. That’s why we do it.”
Not that Daniels needs the additional concertgoers. The man responsible for “The South’s Gonna Do it Again,” “Long Haired Country Boy,” and his signature song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” maintains legions of fans nationwide, including a group he calls the Century Club, an elite status given those who have seen the Charlie Daniels Band live at least 100 times.
“Now think about that, that’s 10 shows for 10 years, five shows for 20 years, or whatever. That’s a lot of shows,” he said. “We don’t have to be on their bucket list, they come for the music. That’s the thing.”
Born in Wilmington, N.C., and raised in Gulf, N.C., Daniels was a fiddle and guitar wizard by his teens. But to make it in the music business required that he move from the small, rural town while in his early 20s.
“When I started there were very few places to play in my part of the country. We left town there in 1958 to try and see what we could get done and it’s just one of those things that if you’re going do it, you’ve got to cut the apron strings and leave home. If you’re going to be in the music business, you’ve got to be someplace where there is a music business, and that means you’ve got to go to Nashville, or New York, or L.A., or Chicago, or someplace.”
To break into the business, Daniels took advantage of every opportunity that came along “that made any sense at all,” he said. “And some, to be honest with you, that didn’t.”
He wrote the song “It Hurts Me,” which Elvis recorded in 1963, and several years later found steady employment as a session musician in Nashville, including playing bass and guitar on the late 1960s-early 1970s Bob Dylan albums “Nashville Skyline,” “Self Portrait,” “New Morning,” and “Dylan.” In 1972 Daniels formed his own southern rock band and by 1979 he landed the hit of his career with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The song enjoyed wide appeal beyond its country radio roots, and Daniels became the best-known fiddle player in the country.
Other hits that followed included “The Legend of Wooley Swamp,” “Still in Saigon,” and his pro-Iraq War anthem “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag.”
Reflecting on his long career in music, Daniels said he never had an idea of where he was going.
“Your plateaus keep changing. You want to do one thing and then you want to do something else and you want to take another step up the ladder. And you just keep working at it and working at it, and that’s the way it goes,” he said. “That’s how it works.”
The Charlie Daniels Band has released more than 20 studio albums, the latest being “Hits of the South,” a collection of mostly southern rock covers. It’s a record less of an homage to the genre as it is to those who created it, many of whom he’s known and toured with, such as the Marshall Tucker Band and the Allman Brothers.
“Their music has kind of become part of our lives and I think to some extent our music has become part of their lives over the years,” he said. “I have toured so much with the Marshall Tucker Band and all these people. They’ve been part of my life. Their music has been part of my life. It’s familiar music to me and it’s just natural for us to do it.”
The Charlie Daniels Band performs at 8 p.m. Monday at the Grandstand at Monroe County Fair, 3775 Custer Rd., Monroe. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $35 for reserved seats. Show tickets do not include gate admission. Information: 734-241-2600 or 734-241-5775.
Contact Kirk Baird at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.