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Charlie Daniels Credits God for 60-Year Success Story

Charlie grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina to a hard-working family who made their living by farming tobacco.  Church was an integral part of their lives and some of his earliest memories are of his close-knit family singing hymns around the piano.  After working all morning in the fields on Saturday, Charlie says at twelve noon, they would stop what they were doing and head to the movies.  His love and respect for all things cowboy started with those black-and-white cowboy movies.  Occasionally the theaters would have live acts between movies. “The idea of standing in front of a crowd of people playing an instrument and singing has always excited me,” he says.  “It still does.” On Saturday nights, Charlie recalls listing to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio. The show made an impact on young Charlie.  “I listened in awe, having not a clue that one day I would stand on the same stage and go out over those same air waves,” he says.  

One afternoon, Charlie went to friend’s house who had a guitar and learned his first chords.  “My fingers got sore and my patience wore thin, but I stuck with it until I could play G, C and sometimes a D chord,” says Charlie.  “That was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me.”  By the early 1950s, Charlie, then 16, learned to play the fiddle.  He never took a fiddle lesson and learned to play by ear.  “I learned all wrong.  I hold the fiddle wrong. I hold the bow wrong….it may not be proper, but as with so many things in life, it works for me.” By 1956, Charlie was becoming proficient on his guitar and was playing in bands six nights a week.  He stopped playing the fiddle and it would be a few years before he picked it up again. As he learned to build a following, Charlie learned no matter how many people showed up in the audience: never look at the empty seats.

Elvis Presley recorded a song Charlie co-wrote, called It Hurts Me, in 1962.  “Elvis Presley was the biggest artist on the planet, and to have him do a song I had co-written was almost past imagining!” Charlie moved his family to Nashville, Tennessee in 1967.  One day, Charlie played for Bob Dylan who asked Charlie to play on two more albums.  People started noticing Charlie’s name on the album credits.  Soon, he was getting calls to play with artists like George Harrison and Ringo Starr of the Beatles.  He even started producing albums for other bands. Then in 1975 Charlie wrote Fire on the Mountain  -- finally a hit on radio and music charts! “I had used the fiddle in a limited sort of way on earlier albums, but I realized that a lot of my fiddle playing style started right there,” he says. By 1976, the CDB was opening for bands like The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band.  Three years later, Charlie and his band members spent hours putting music together and The Devil Went Down to Georgia was arranged and finished.  The song climbed the Top 40 and their album, Million Mile Reflections, was selling faster than any previous releases. A year after its release, that album sold more than two million copies.  In 1980, CDB won a Grammy for Best Country Single of the Year for that song.

In 2008, Charlie was asked to join the Grand Ole Opry. “I had dreamed all my life about being a member,” he says.  In 2016, he was inducted in the Country Music Hall of Fame.  “It was a humbling experience to be one of three chosen for induction.”  Regarding his faith, Charlie says he always believed in God but after he experienced legalism in the church, Charlie walked away.  “I never stopped believing.  I just realized that I couldn’t live a totally sinless life,” he says.  After he decided to read the Bible to draw his own conclusions, Charlie says he was able to work out his own salvation. “We must believe He is the son of God, that He is the only way to the Father, that He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven,” says Charlie.  “One of the hardest things to grasp about the salvation of Jesus Christ is the simplicity.”

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Guest Info


Author of Never Look at the Empty Seats, Word 2017

Inducted in Grand Ole Opry 2008

Inducted in Country Music Hall of Fame 2016

Grammy-winner, Devil Went Down to Georgia, 1979

Performed in over 100 concerts in every state and in dozens of foreign countries

Has sold more than 20 million albums

Wife: Hazel, since 1964

One son


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