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Charlie Daniels at 81: ‘I get a kick out of playing night after night after night’


Charlie Daniels at 81: ‘I get a kick out of playing night after night after night’

07 Nov 2017

Charlie Daniels has had one of the longest careers in show business.

Known for his contributions to country, bluegrass and Southern rock, he has been an active performer since the 1950s. After turning 81 on Oct. 28, Daniels has no intention of slowing down. He and his band will appear Nov. 10 at the Johnny Mercer Theatre.

“I just enjoy playing it all,” Daniels says. “Most of the stuff we do is stuff we’ve written. I get a kick out of playing night after night after night.”

Having played Savannah several times, Daniels is looking forward to coming back.

“Savannah is a great place to play and a great place to visit,” he says. “My wife loves to visit Savannah. We had a day off last time and had a great time.”

In Savannah, the crowd can expect to hear their favorite Charlie Daniels hits.

“We’ll do the familiar songs, and we’ve got some new songs people haven’t heard us play before,” he says. “You have to grab their attention. Our whole purpose is to entertain.”

Subjects for Daniels’ songs come from everywhere.

“You never know,” he says. “It could be an event. It could be something someone says.

“If you’ve got a God-given talent for writing, your mind stays on it,” he says. “It’s like a seed being planted.”

After high school graduation in 1955, Daniels formed a band and hit the road. He was adept at guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin.

In 1964, Daniels co-wrote “It Hurts Me,” a song Elvis Presley recorded. His first hit was the novelty song “Uneasy Rider,” from his 1973 third album, “Honey in the Rock.”

In 1975, he had a top 30 hit with “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.” Daniels won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1979 for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1979.

“For some odd reason, I thought ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ would be a great song,” he says. “Sometimes they come easy, sometimes they come hard. There is no set process to songwriting.”

As always, the band is booked for numerous events.

“We’ll do about 100 dates this year, some charity things and the Grand Ole Opry,” Daniels says. “I get physically tired, but I never get tired of playing music.”

Despite a few scares over the years, Daniels says his health is good. He intends to keep right on touring to share his music and love of performing.

“It’s something that you have created,” Daniels says. “The songs you have created are a big deal.

“Just getting onstage every night, I’m in my element,” he says. “I’ve devoted my life to entertaining. This is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Despite his obvious talent, Daniels did not come from a musical family.

“I came from a family that loved music,” he says. “I started playing at 14, 15, 16.

“One day, I learned to play a whole song and knew this is my profession,” Daniels says. “Desire has so very much to do with it. I was eaten up with it.”

When not performing, Daniels keeps busy.

“I enjoy outdoor things,” he says. “I like horseback riding, shooting guns, hitting golf balls.”

Daniels was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry on Jan. 19, 2008, and the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.

His career has led Daniels into some movie and television acting roles, including portraying himself in “Urban Cowboy,” “Yakety Yak,” “Take it Back,” “Trash Talk,” “The Fall Guy,” “King of the Hill,” “The Lone Star Kid,” “18 Wheels of Justice” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

Recently, Daniels’ memoir “Never Look at the Empty Seats” was released.

“We’ve got a companion album coming out that goes with the book,” he says. “The tunes go with the chronology of part of my career. I intend to go into the studio in November.”

Writing a book is rewarding, but not as much as being onstage.

“I enjoy it, but don’t enjoy it like performing,” Daniels says. “Performing is what keeps me going. I enjoy writing songs, but my whole thing without performing would not mean much to me.”


What: The Charlie Daniels Band

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 10

Where: Johnny Mercer Theatre, Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.

Cost: $60-$107