“The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” is as iconic of a song as the man behind the fiddle who wrote and played it, Charlie Daniels.
I loved Daniels’ music and once got to see him in concert at the Tulsa Assembly Center on July 15, 1980, some 40 years ago.
I had wanted to see him in concert again, but it never panned out.
Daniels passed away on Monday, July 6 at the age of 83 of a hemorrhagic stroke at Summit Medical Center in Nashville.
Daniels is a legend in the country music industry. He loved his country, supported the military, loved people, was endeared by his fans and was a man of faith and principle.
That is a combination that is hard to find in the entertainment industry. Even though I never met the man, I’m honored to have been blessed by his life and music.
Daniels was born on Oct. 28, 1936 in Wilmington, N.C. According to Wikipedia, Daniels was raised on a musical diet that included Pentecostal gospel, local bluegrass bands and the rhythm and blues and country music from Nashville’s 50,000-watt AM radio stations, WLAC and WSM. As a teenager, Daniels moved to the small town of Gulf, N.C. where he graduated from high school in 1955. Skilled on guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin, Daniels formed a rock ‘n’ roll band and hit the road.
Daniels first met his wife, Hazel, of 56 years, in my hometown of Tulsa at the once popular Fondalite Club, where he was performing. Hazel, who said she wasn’t much of a clubgoer, came with a girlfriend that evening and caught the singer’s eye.
“Hey, I like that curvy little blonde over there,” Charlie said of meeting Hazel in a Taste of Country interview. “Hey, how are you doin’?”
The couple was married on Sept. 20, 1964 at the Justice of Peace’s office in Tulsa. Hazel’s parents, Daniels’ three band members and a couple of friends were on hand to witness the marriage. After eating lunch at a local cafeteria, the couple stopped and visited Hazel’s parents before settling into a hotel in what Daniels coined as a rough part of Tulsa. They lived there for the next few months while Daniels hit the road and performed his music.
Daniels credited Hazel with his legendary career, saying in an interview, “It simply would not have happened without her.”
The couple had one son, Charlie Daniels, Jr.
Daniels, who wore a big belt buckle and cowboy hat, recorded more than 30 albums throughout his legendary 50 plus year career. He wrote and performed such iconic songs as, “Long Haired Country Boy,” “The Legend of Wooley Swamp,” “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues,” “American Farmer,” “In America,” “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye, “Simple Man,” “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag,” “Trudy” “Uneasy Rider,” “Carolina (I Remember You),” and so many more.
He was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry.
On Friday, July 10, a public memorial service for Daniels was held at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Many country artists including Trace Adkins, Travis Tritt, Vince Gill and Gretchen Wilson all preformed songs in honor of Daniels. There were many speakers including his roadie, Roger Campbell, who took the stage to thank Daniels for his work and friendship.
“He was the only person in the business that would ever trust a tone-deaf man to be his guitar tuner,” Campbell said.
Storme Warren, a former CNN reporter and American television and radio broadcaster, also touched on Daniels’ life.
Warren, who had been a fan of Daniels since he was age 9, admitted that the iconic singer was his first celebrity interview. Four years later, when he had the chance to interview him again, Daniels joked that Warren, who was living in Southern California at the time, was getting better at doing interviews and told him he needed to move to Nashville.
“When Charlie Daniels tells you to move to Nashville, you move to Nashville,” Warren shared with the audience.
He went on to say that Daniels loved people and he always had time for them. Warren shared a story about the time he planned to start a television show.
Warren, who had Daniels’ cell phone number for quite some time, but had never used it, called him for advice. In true Daniels’ fashion, he simply told him to, “Do it Better.”
In this so called unsettled and troubling times, we all need to, “Do it Better.”
We need to live our lives to the fullest, chase our dreams and not let the fear that is running ramped across American these days take over our lives. Get up every day with an attitude of making life better for others, which in turn will make life better for yourself. Like Daniels said, we need to do it better.
I think that is a good thing and I’m sure Daniels would agree, too!
Have a great week and always remember that “Good Things are Happening,” every day and always.
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