Charlie
Daniels

Charlie Daniels
  • Inducted
    2016
  • Born
    October 28, 1936
  • Died
    July 6, 2020
  • Birthplace
    Wilmington, North Carolina

Session Beginnings

The son of a lumberman, Charles Edward Daniels learned how to play fiddle and guitar in high school. Soon after he was playing in rock & roll bands. By the time Daniels was eighteen, Elvis Presley had cut “It Hurts Me,” a song co-written by Daniels and record producer Bob Johnston. At the urging of Johnston, Daniels moved to Nashville in 1967 to be a session musician.

He gained work quickly, playing on recordings by a range of artists including Marty Robbins, Claude King, Flatt & Scruggs, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen, Al Kooper, Ringo Starr, and, most famously, Bob Dylan. In addition to playing on Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, Daniels can be heard on Dylan’s Self Portrait and New Morning albums.

Songs

The South's Gonna Do It
Charlie Daniels Band

00:00  /  00:00

Still in Saigon
Charlie Daniels Band

00:00  /  00:00

Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues
Charlie Daniels Band

00:00  /  00:00

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and Other Hits

He began his career as a recording artist on the Kama Sutra Records label in 1970 and soon formed the Charlie Daniels Band, forging a southern rock sound. He broke through with a Top Ten pop single in 1973 with “Uneasy Rider,” and the next year began to define his sound with the album Fire on the Mountain, featuring the Top 40 pop hit “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.” Moving to Epic Records, he scored an even bigger hit in 1979 with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a rousing story song about a fiddle contest with Lucifer.

The record went #3 pop, #1 country, and sold more than a million copies. It earned the CMA’s Single of the Year Award for 1979 and a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. In addition, the Charlie Daniels Band was named the CMA’s Instrumental Group of the Year for 1979 and 1980. The cherry on the cake was the Charlie Daniels Band being featured singing the hit song in the blockbuster Hollywood movie Urban Cowboy (1980), which helped ignite a boom in country music’s popularity.

The success of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and its accompanying platinum-selling album, Million Mile Reflections, marked a turning point for the Charlie Daniels Band toward country music. From 1979 to 2011, the band placed twenty-nine hits on the country charts. Charlie Daniels became a member of the Grand Ole Opry cast in 2008.

The Charlie Daniels Influence

Among Daniels’s accomplishments was the launch of his annual Volunteer Jam concerts in 1974. These multi-artist extravaganzas, sometimes stretching past ten hours in length, became must-see musical spectacles for thousands.

During the jams, legends of country music such as Roy Acuff, Ray Price, Bill Monroe, Alabama, and Tammy Wynette shared bills with acts as diverse as Stevie Ray Vaughan, B.B. King, James Brown, Billy Joel, Little Richard, Steppenwolf, and Don Henley. A “Volunteer Jam Tour” including the Charlie Daniels Band, the Outlaws, and the Marshall Tucker Band crisscrossed the United States in 2007. Subsequently, tours kept the tradition alive.

In recognition of his “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers,” Daniels was honored as a BMI Icon in 2005 and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

During the Medallion Ceremony welcoming Charlie Daniels to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Museum CEO Kyle Young pointed toward Daniels’s rejection of musical labels. “When Charlie Daniels was asked how he does what he does,” Young said, “he answered, ‘I just try to play like me, and to sing like I talk.’”

Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press

The success of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and its accompanying platinum-selling album, Million Mile Reflections, marked a turning point for the Charlie Daniels Band toward country music.

Related Hall of Fame Members

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