'The Devil Went Down to Georgia' fiddler always on the road.
By Tom Coombe Of The Morning Call
Country-rocker Charlie Daniels didn't even need to go on stage to get the crowd in Bangor cheering for him.
All it took was a question from members of opening act CrazyHeart — ''Y'all ready to see Charlie Daniels?'' — for the roughly 1,000 people at Bangor Memorial Park Sunday night to whoop and applaud.
Then there was the other question, which got as much applause and cut straight to the reason why many in the audience had come to the stadium: ''How many of you are here to support the veterans?''
The question came from emcee Storme Warren, the host of a cable TV country music show, who said he had roamed the audience before the show, talking to fans.
''Everyone feels this night is long overdue for our troops,'' Warren said.
Sunday night's concert bore the title ''A Salute to America's Newest Veterans,'' a mix of military grandeur and country music, capped by a performance by Daniels, a fiddler famous for his 1979 hit ''The Devil Went Down to Georgia.''
Daniels, 69, has toured constantly since then — his schedule lists 20 more dates this year — and has become an outspoken supporter of America's military men and women. His Web site includes a series of commentaries that end with the message ''Pray For Our Troops.''
Dozens of those troops were in the audience, some of them waiting in the VIP line to meet Daniels, others sitting in the stands. Rick Baughman, a Gulf War veteran from Saylorsburg who recently retired from the Marines as a gunnery sergeant, had waited since 3:30 p.m. — 90 minutes before the gates opened — to get in.
Baughman compared Daniels to comedian Bob Hope, who performed for troops in 47 USO tours over nearly 50 years. In recent years, Daniels has performed for troops stationed in the Middle East and Central Asia.
''What he's doing is a huge morale boost,'' Baughman said. His wife Marilyn said she had come to support the veterans — proceeds from the show went to the Slate Belt Veterans Association, a local advocacy group — but also because she loves Daniels' work.
''He's a legend,'' she said. ''No matter how old the music gets, he still sounds new to me.''
The concert drew a mix of people: polo-shirt wearing dads, men in 10-gallon hats, punk rock teenagers. People in the neighborhood held little cookouts, listening to the music from the comfort of their backyards under a cloudless sky. Bangor Mayor Joe Capozzolo, president of the Veterans Association, said the group is already planning for next year, and tossing around names of possible performers.
''I'm a ZZ Top fan myself,'' he said.