By Jim Hagerty
When Charlie Daniels takes the Great Lawn Stage Thursday, Sept. 3, to open On the Waterfront, there will be no need to wonder if the veteran artist and his band will deliver the hits that have defined him as a sought-after concert draw.
Since the early 1970s, the Charlie Daniels Band has toured the world and back, including shows in Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia and Kuwait. With a more than 50-album catalog, including live albums and greatest hits packages and soundtracks, Daniels, like any artist with a storied career, has more than enough obscure and new songs on his roster to drum up a 90- to 120-minute set with a few hits sprinkled in. However, don’t expect the Wilmington, N.C., native to simply brush over the songs fans have come to know.
“We do the songs we are expected to do,” Daniels, who’ll turn 73 in October, said.
A mainstay on a variety of radio formats, he’s forged though attempts to label his sound and continues to champion a creed that keeps him going while some artists simply fade from popularity after a few spins through the airwaves.
“Above anything else,” Daniels said, explaining the secret behind his successful longevity, “I am an entertainer. People come expecting to hear ‘The Legend of Wooley Swamp’ and ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia,’ and you’ve got to give people an entertaining time.”
The term “entertainment” has been used somewhat loosely and known to include theatrics, visually-assaulting light shows and smoke that can, at times, overshadow the musicianship that goes into the songs being performed. For Daniels, there’s never been a need to place theatrics and schtick center stage.
“We entertain with our musicianship,” Daniels added.
Daniels began his career in Nashville as a session musician laying down guitar, fiddle and vocal tracks, as well as writing songs in the 1960s. He played on three Bob Dylan records and recorded with Johnny Cash before releasing his first solo project in 1971.
Daniels’ journey from the studio to the airwaves was not as defined as it is today. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, country radio was still centered on the traditional sounds of Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. When the fiddler hit the scene with an edgier, louder and more progressive sound, much of it fell on deaf ears. That’s when he began to realize labels had no place on his music. It’s also when AOR (Album Oriented Radio) took notice.
“I never considered myself a country artist,” he said. “And I think we were a bit wild for country radio at the time.
“The greatest thing about AOR radio was the parameters were huge,” Daniels continued. “As long as people liked it and bought the records, it got played. There were no categories.”
Daniels’ first hit, “Uneasy Rider,” charted at No. 9 in 1973. The No. 1 (U.S. Country Chart) “Devil Went Down to Georgia” followed a string of radio favorites like “The South’s Gonna Do It,” “Long-Haired Country Boy” and “Billy The Kid.”
Daniels won a Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance in 1979. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2008.
Still playing 90 shows per year, Daniels has no immediate plans to retire and said he’ll continue to do what he’s always done: entertain and write his music, letting it fall where it will.
Opening act Amanda Christine is slated to perform at 8:15 p.m. Charlie Daniels starts at 8:45 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased by contacting the Coronado Performing Arts Center at (815) 968-0595.
from the Aug. 26-Sept. 1, 2009 issue