Monday, March 24, 2008
Bandleader Still Thriving as an Independent Act
By: Edward Morris
A beaming and grateful Charlie Daniels basked in the adulation of friends, fans and business associates at a party held Wednesday (March 19) at BMI's Nashville headquarters to celebrate the bandleader's 50th anniversary in the music business."I have had a wonderful time in the last 50 years," Daniels told the crowd, "and I'm ready to do another 50." The North Carolina native began performing professionally in 1958 in a band called the Rockets.
Jody Williams, BMI's vice president of writer-publisher relations, led a parade of well-wishers who came forward to stand beside Daniels and recite some of his more notable achievements. Also accompanying the guest of honor were his wife, Hazel, and son, Charlie Jr.Williams noted that "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," probably Daniels' best-known work, has been broadcast more than 4 million times. "Charlie helped create the Southern rock genre," Williams continued. "The West Coast had Jerry Garcia [of the Grateful Dead]. We have Charlie Daniels. ... Charlie's a bridge from the past to present."
Williams cited the long series of Volunteer Jam concerts Daniels has presided over since launching them in 1974, noting that they brought together artists of all musical stripes, including such luminaries as B.B. King, Don Henley, Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Ted Nugent, Little Richard, James Brown and Willie Nelson.
A representative from the William Morris Agency pointed out that during the 21 years the company has booked Daniels' personal appearances, he has played 3,000 concerts for a combined audience of 5 million people and, in the process, grossed $60 million.
Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen sent his congratulations, and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, delivered his in person. Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, Tennessee's adjutant general, praised Daniels for his longstanding support of the military. "If there's a patriot in our state," he said, "it's Charlie."Publicist Cathy Gurley, who represents the Spirit of America tour of stateside military installations, read a letter from President and Mrs. George W. Bush in praise of the Charlie Daniels Band's continued involvement in the program.
Williams presented Daniels a watch from the widow of Toy Caldwell, a founder of the Marshall Tucker Band and Daniels' long-time friend. It carried the inscription, "To Charlie in loving memory of Toy. I love you. Abbie Caldwell."
David Corlew, Daniels' manager and friend of 35 years, reminded the guests that Daniels initiated the now-common practice of making his albums available through an exclusive source when he signed such a deal 11 years ago with Wal-Mart. (Ricky Van Shelton made a similar agreement with Wal-Mart the same year.) Garth Brooks and the Eagles later followed suit. Corlew said Daniels sold 100,000 albums in nine months via that association.
Altogether, Corlew stated, Daniels has sold more than 800,000 albums as an independent artist. Copies of Deuces, the Charlie Daniels Band's latest album, were on display for guests to pick up on their way out.
Reporters packed a BMI conference room before the party started to have a few words with Daniels. Unlike most artists, he arrived early for the press conference and walked around the room to greet each reporter individually.Asked how he would advise younger artists who aspire to be around as long as he's been, Daniels said, "First of all, you make sure it's what you want to do ... and you've got to be where there is a music business.
"Raised in rural North Carolina, Daniels said he was 15 years old before he saw a picture on a TV screen. His link to the outside world, he explained, was through radio, and he remembered the first show he listened to was the Grand Ole Opry. He made his first visit to the Opry in 1954, first played on the program with Earl Scruggs' band and finally became a member this year. "I'm still in awe of that great institution," he said.
Daniels contrasted the music business today and what it was like when he came into it. He pointed out that he was in his 40s when he signed with Epic Records and began having his greatest chart successes. He said his first contract with Epic called for six albums, but that today's artists have to score hits immediately to stay on a label.
Being a bandleader means trusting your players' musicianship and instincts, Daniels said. "I don't tell people what to play," he explained. "I want you to do what you do." The biggest changes in the music business he's noted over the years, he said, have been in recording technology and travel. "The roads have improved a lot," he said. "You can get there faster."
Daniels said his greatest cause for satisfaction is that he's kept more than 25 people "gainfully employed" over the past 25 or 30 years. As to who's hot and who's not on the charts these days, he confessed, "I can't even tell you one song out of the Top 10 in any field of music."
View photos from the tribute to Charlie Daniels.
Saturday, March 08, 2008
A couple days ago, Charlie Daniels received a Career Achievement Award from the Country Radio Broadcasters. It honors the artists who have made "a significant contribution to the development and promotion of country music and radio." And he has certainly done that. But he's also made a smaller and perhaps less significant contribution to the world of music: He inspired a very unlikely fiddle player in my six-year-old daughter. If there was an award for that, I'm pretty sure he'd get that too.
Taylor Swift gets an awful lot of credit for bringing a younger demo into country music, but guys like Daniels are doing it too. While adults bask in Daniels' rebel brand of Southern country-rock, all my budding fiddler knew was that the music was so good she wanted to rosin up her bow and play that fiddle hard. She knew nothing of his heyday in the early 80s. She had no idea what his political stance was, or what his lyrics meant. ("Chicken in the bread pan pickin' out dough/Granny does your dog bite? No, child, no"
Who does know what that means?)
This Charlie Daniels epiphany my daughter had at such a young age gained some closure when Gretchen Wilson admitted in "Redneck Woman" that she knew all the words to every Charlie Daniels song. Her little mind seemed to reason that if he was good enough for Gretchen, he was certainly good enough for her. He is the quintessential country boy, she is the quintessential little girl. They made an odd pair the day she finally met him, and she asked him to autograph her pink fiddle. That fiddle, her first and therefore most beloved, has become something of a trophy in our house. If my prodigy sticks with this talent of hers, she may go on to win her own mantel full of ACMs, CMAs and Grammys. But the fiddle with Charlie Daniels' name on it will always be the one she treasures most.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Charlie was on hand to perform during a ceremony at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Avondale, La., on Saturday. According to The New York Daily News, Dotty England, the wife of Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, handled the official christening by smashing a champagne bottle across the hull.
Some 7.5 tons of steel, recovered from the Trade Center, are being used to fashion the boat's bow stem. The ship will be commissioned in New York City in the fall of 2009.
Charlie meanwhile took part in another ceremony last night. He received a Career Achievement Award during an event at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville.
Courtesy GAC -- Charlie Daniels Handling Shipping