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The Early Years

Charlie Daniels was born October 28, 1936 in Wilmington, North Carolina at the James Walker Memorial Hospital. He grew up in a family that respected God and knew hard work was a virtue.

Carlton Daniels, Charlie's dad, passed on a faith in God and a philosophy of life. "He was an honest, self-reliant man who loved music and singing, joking and laughing, good people and good food and his work." His work was as a lumber man. "He could look at a tree and tell you within a fraction how many board feet of lumber it would make after it was cut down," Charlie remembered.

As work for his dad was hard to come by, Charlie moved around the south a bit as a kid. He lived in Wilmington, Elizabethtown, and Spartanburg, South Carolina. He graduated from high school in Goldston, North Carolina in 1955, but during those years he found a love for music and hunting with his dad.

His first shot at music came when he was visiting a friend named Russell Palmer. Russell pulled out a Stella guitar and played "about two and a half chords." Charlie was immediately hooked, having wanted to play ever since he was a small kid listening to the Grand Old Opry on 650-WSM on Saturday nights with his folks.

He practiced a lot, out of necessity. "I never had what you'd call a natural talent as a musician, so I had to practice hard on every instrument I ever learned to play. And if I ever found anyone around town who could play, I'd bug them until they taught me what they knew." His practice paid off. Charlie is now a master on not only the guitar, but the mandolin, fiddle and banjo, as well.

He was in high school and building a set for the senior play when he almost ended his music career prematurely by cutting off the first knuckle of his right ring finger with a ripsaw. "The first thing I thought of when I looked down — it hadn't even started bleeding yet — was thank goodness it was on my right hand instead of my left. It would be tough picking chords with a short finger, but I can pick just fine with it."

Charlie and some friends formed a bluegrass band called The Misty Mountain Boys, and after a few setbacks, got a regular gig at a radio station playing every Saturday morning. Eventually the gig got moved to Saturday afternoon and the band was able to play a few local square dances, and make about five bucks apiece. Charlie played fiddle and sang lead vocals.

Charlie's family moved just as The Misty Mountain Boys were starting to land paying gigs, so when Charlie went with them, the band fell apart. Charlie wasn't out of the music business for long and landed a gig back in Wilmington as a guitar player for a girl named Little Jill that paid $50 a week. This was big money in the mid-fifties, and was as much as he earned at his day job. When Little Jill quit and the bar they played was shut down, the band moved across the street with Charlie leading the band and started making $80 a week.

The decision to work full time as a musician and end his day job as an inspector came out of an economic decision by the Taylor Colquitt Creosoting Company to lay off workers in the summer of 1958. There were two people in Charlie's department that were eligible for the layoff, but Charlie was not at the top of the list. Another man who had been there longer than Charlie who had a family to support was actually picked to be laid off because he was black. "Simply by virtue of my being born white, they were going to keep me and lay off Louis Frost," Charlie recalled. Charlie approached the foreman and talked him into letting him go and giving the job to Frost instead. Frost continued working at the company until retirement, and Charlie went on to pursue his life as a professional musician.

Life As A Musician

Charlie Daniels' career as a professional musician has now spanned five decades. Since his start with the Misty Mountain Boys back in the fifties, he's had numerous hits, won countless awards and is recognized as a legend in the music business. The following chronology of his career is taken from his website, Charlie Daniels.com.

1959: Charlie has by now been in several rock and roll and R & B groups. The longest stretch is with the Jaguars (1959-1967). They record an instrumental single in Fort Worth, Texas. It’s called “Jaguar”.

Early 60’s: Charlie, raised on country, a fan of bluegrass, and an adept rock and roll singer and guitarist, discovers jazz on a visit to Washington, D.C. The Jaguars begin to play Louis Prima shuffles, “Mack the Knife”, and “some really jazzy stuff”.

1964: Back to country and rock. Daniels cowrites“It Hurts Me,” and it’s recorded by Elvis Presley and put on the flip side of “Kissin’ Cousins”.

1967: Daniels is invited by producer Bob Johnston, who’s joined CBS Records in Nashville, to try Music City. He agrees, “I was playing a lot of clubs, and I wanted to get off the road.” He begins work as a session player. After being told by producers that he plays too loud, he joins Johnston on Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline. “It was the first time I felt at home in Nashville. You experienced a lot of freedom from Dylan. He liked what I did, and I was very much into what he was doing.” Charlie and his fiddle go on to other sessions and other stars, among them Ringo Starr and Marty Robbins.

1969: Charlie tries his hand as a producer, and when Johnston gets overloads with work, he suggests Daniels to the Youngbloods. He produces Elephant Mountain and Ride The Wind, the latter recorded live at a rock festival in Louisiana and at the Filmores East and West.

1970: Daniels cuts his first solo album, Charlie Daniels (Capitol Records). He forms the Charlie Daniels Band and joins the first wave of Southern Rock bands. The CDB joins Kama Sutra Records and records Te John, Grease and Wolfman, named after the band members’ nicknames. “Grease” was keyboard player Joel DeGregorio, still with the CDB. Daniels was just “Charlie” on occasion, “the Fat Boy”.

1972: Their next album, Honey in the Rock, includes “Uneasy Rider,” a talking bluegrass number which becomes a hit the following year, reaching #9 in Billboard in August 1973.

1974: The CDB issues Way Down Yonder, which will be reissued in 1977 by Epic as Whiskey. Recording Fire On The Mountain, including “The South’s Gonna Do It Again”, which hits the Top 30 , and “Long Haired Country Boy,” which peaks at #56. Daniels decides to record several songs live in concert and chooses an auditorium in Nashville. In a nod to the Volunteer State, the CDB calls the concert the Volunteer Jam and invites friends from the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band, and others to join them. “We had such a good time, we decided we should do this once in a while.”

1975: CDB issues the Night Rider album. A second Volunteer Jam in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, will result in an album, Volunteer Jam.

1976: With the album, Saddle Tramp, the CDB joins Epic Records. Daniels aligns himself with presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. “I didn’t think he had a chance. When I was asked about doing something for him, he was ‘Jimmy Who?’ But he called me one night. I read some clips about him, and felt good about him. We’d come out of a catastrophic political time...Carter personified honesty and goodness.” When ‘Jimmy Who?’ becomes President Carter, the CDB are among the performers at his inaugural.

1977: The CDB issues two albums, High Lonesome and Midnight Wind.

1978: More Volunteer Jams results in a two-record set, Volunteer Jam III and IV.

1979: Million Mile Reflections yields “Devil Went Down To Georgia”, which reaches #1 and for which Daniels wins the Grammy for Best Country Vocal.

1980: The CDB appears in the film, Urban Cowboy, another Jam brings another VJ (VI) album. CDB’s Full Moon includes “In America”. Daniels’ response to the Iran hostage crisis and the renewed patriotism it ignites. The record reached #11 in Billboard. “We’d just come through the sixties and the backlash of Watergate and Vietnam,” say Charlie. “I got the feeling that patriotism was almost dead. But then they took the hostages. I travel a lot, and everywhere I went, people were saying, ‘How dare that S.O.B. take our people! We oughta go over there...’. I never thought I’d see somebody standing up and saying, ‘Damn, we’re America man. How dare they do that!”. The CDB also hit the charts with “The Legend Of Wooley Swamp”.

1981: Yet another VJ and album (VII).

1982: In the Windows album, the CDB’s version of Dan Daley’s “Still In Saigon” reaches #22.

1983: The CDB issues a compilation, The Charlie Daniels Band - A Decade Of Hits.

1985: Me And The Boys album is released.

1987: The Volunteer Jams have continued nonstop since 1977, but a combination of business and financial difficulties - along with the time and energy required of the CDB staff - take their toll, and the 13th will be the last for a few years. The CDB releases its Powder Keg album.

1988: Homesick Heroes is issued out of CBS/Nashville and results in a Top 10 record on the country charts. “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues”.

1990: Simple Man is issued and rises to #2 on the country charts. The album is ignited by the title single, in which a simple man (“with simple attitudes,” Daniels explains) calls for the lynching of drug-dealers and slow deaths by the way of gators and snakes for murderers, child abusers and rapists. The song gets Daniels onto numerous talk shows, where he’s asked to explain himself. He wrote the song, the says, “out of frustration”. He’s read about a scandalous case in which a child was killed by her stepfather. “I know how I feel about it; I know what I’d like to do. Some of it’s kind of tongue-in-cheek; it’s a knee-jerk reaction. I don’t really want to take people out and leave them in the swamps...But violent crimes - that’s what that song’s about”. Daniels is also the subject of a long-form music video, Charlie Daniels: Homefolks and Highways. The CDB released its first holiday album, Christmas Time Down South.

1991: Renegade is released, and Daniels announces the return of the Volunteer Jam, in May in Nashville. “We took a three and a half year look at it and feel that we’re ready to do it again,” says Daniels. As always, the VJ will provide a stage for a wide mix of music. Including B.B. King, Steppenwolf, Tanya Tucker, and, of course, The Charlie Daniels Band.

1992: Charlie Daniels signs a new record deal with Liberty Records. Daniels says, “I have been a long time admirer of Jimmy Bowen. I like his style; we both kind of came to Nashville as renegades... Jimmy runs a different kind of record company - an energetic record company... Jimmy wants the Charlie Daniels Band to sound like us and be what we are. That means an awful lot to us”. Bowen says, “Charlie Daniels is a trend setter and an innovator. We at Liberty are proud to have him recording for us and look forward to a long association.

1993: Liberty Records releases the first Charlie Daniels album in April, titled, America, I Believe In You, and commences a tour. Dickies workwear, out of Ft. Worth Texas signs Daniels as a celebrity spokesman for the second year and announces their involvement as a sponsor of the 1993 tour.

1994: Charlie Daniels releases his first Christian album on Sparrow Records, titled, The Door. Produced by Ron Griffin, the project centers around material written by Charlie and the band, and includes a cowritten song with Grammy Award winner Steven Curtis Chapman. “Sunday Morning”, the first single release to Christian Country radio takes the #1 slot on the Positive Country chart. A video is released for the single “Two Out Of Three”, and is voted Video of the Year for the Christian Country Music Association. Charlie and Chris LeDoux celebrate Christmas, cowboy-style, through song and story at Charlie’s home, Twin Pines Ranch where “A Wrangler Cowboy Christmas” television special is taped for TNN with Charlie, Chris, Baxter Black, Diamond Rio and Lind Davis.

1995: Charlie Daniels is named Cashbox Magazine’s Best Positive Christian Country Performance by a Secular Artist for 1994. He receives a Dove Award and a Grammy nomination for his Christian album, The Door, and inks another contract to host the nationwide talent search television show, Charlie Daniels’ Talent Roundup, on TNN: The Nashville Network. A tour is set with Charlie, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Travis Tritt.

1996: Charlie’s second gospel album Steel Witness is released. The Charlie Daniels Band is a featured performer in the very successful “Southern Thunder Tour’ with Hank Williams Jr. and The Marshall Tucker Band. Charlie celebrates his 60th birthday with Volunteer Jam XVI - the first-ever Acoustic Jam - at The Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, TN. Guest performers include John Berry, David Ball, Tracy Byrd, Billy Ray Cyrus, Cledus T. Judd, Tracy Lawrence, David Lee Murphy, BlackHawk, Lorrie Morgan, Jimmy Hall and Victoria Shaw. Proceeds from the Jam Benefit TPAC’s Humanities Outreach Program (H.O.T.) and the T. J. Martell Foundation for cancer research. Charlie Daniels: The Roots Remain box set is released. The three-CD set features some of Daniel’s classic hits including “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”, “Long Haired Country Boy” and “Uneasy Rider”.

1997: Charlie releases Blues Hat, the bands first album on Charlie’s new label, Blue Hat Records. The first single features a remake of The CDB smash, “Long Haired Country Boy” with special guests John Berry and Hal Ketchum and is nominated for the Country Music Association’s Vocal Event of the Year. Sony Wonder releases Charlie’s first children’s album, By The Light Of The Moon: Campfire Songs and Cowboy Tunes.

1998: Charlie was presented The Pioneer Award by the Academy of Country Music. It is presented annually to an outstanding individual who has enhanced country music and contributed to its growth. Garth Brooks along with congratulatory messages from two American Presidents, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford and music by Travis Tritt and Marty Stuart made it a big surprise for Daniels. The Charlie Daniels Band releases Fiddle Fire / 25 Years of The Charlie Daniels Band on Blue Hat Records. The first single “Texas” includes guest appearances by Lee Roy Parnell and Ray Benson on both the recording and the video.

1999: The Charlie Daniels Band releases Tailgate Party, released on Blue Hat Records is a collection of songs that have inspired the band over the years. Charlie takes his historical Volunteer Jam on the road for the first time for Volunteer Jam Tour ‘99 with friends Molly Hatchet, The Marshall Tucker Band and for several dates, Hank Williams Jr. A charity partnership was developed between Charlie and Habitat for Humanity and several houses were built while on tour. Charlie receives the prestigious Living Legend Award from The Music City News/TNN Awards show.

Charlie and the band continue to tour, after releasing several new albums, including a bluegrass gospel album called Songs from the Longleaf Pines. They continue to tour and in 2007 brought the Volunteer Jam on the road again, this time with the Marshall Tucker Band and the Outlaws.

Quotes in The Early Years were taken from Charlie's book, The Devil Went Down To Georgia. You can get a copy of the book from his website. Chronology is courtesy of CharlieDaniels.com.

Other bio links:

About CDBFan.com:

The purpose of creating this site is to pay tribute to the Charlie Daniels Band. This is arguably the best Southern Rock band that was ever formed, that has outlasted any other band of it's type. Some people call it country, others call it rock, but whatever name you address this band by, they are classic American music personified.

The Charlie Daniels Band was formed around 1973 and has cranked out more than 35 albums of solid music. The range of style has hit everything from disco to bluegrass, and philosophy from polytheism to straight out of the Bible, God-fearing gospel. No matter the philosophy of the man that fronts the band, he has been as straightforward and vocal about his beliefs as a man can be, and you sure can't knock him for it.

The best known song the band made to date won a CMA and a Grammy award in 1979, and is still their signature song. The Devil Went Down To Georgia brought the band into popular music, and told the story of a young man who beat the devil in a fiddling contest. Charlie rosined up his bow and played his fiddle hard for that song and has done it over 200 a times a year every year since in concert.

This site is meant to be informative and entertaining, but not meant to take away from the official site at all. I also highly recommend joining the CDB Volunteers. It's run by Mrs. Ginger Ambrose and she puts out a great newsletter. They have contests and information about upcoming events and albums that come straight from the source. It's only $10 a year, and if Charlie comes to your town, you can get a backstage pass to meet him through this organization. He's one of the nicest guys in the business, and a genuine gentleman.

If you have a chance to see the CDB in concert you really need to go. You won't be disappointed. It is the most entertaining show you may ever see.

Please sign the guestbook, and say something nice about Charlie. Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy the site!


-- Matt

I'm not a lawyer, so if I'm breaking any copyright laws it is unintentional. All copyrighted material is property of their respectful owners.

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