Charlie Daniels was a singer and musician from the 1950s, best known for the number-one country hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” He was a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist in the genres of southern rock, country and bluegrass. He quickly became a legend in songwriting and country music.
In the beginning of his career, Daniels co-wrote a song that Elvis Presley recorded called, “It Hurts Me.” This song was written in 1964 with his friend, Bob Johnston. He also spent a lot of time working as a session musician playing multiple instruments including bass and guitar. He was a session musician for three albums by Bob Dylan and for some recordings by Leonard Cohen. In addition to being a studio musician, he also spent time producing music. He produced “Elephant Mountain,” an album by the Youngbloods from 1969.
Charlie Daniels’ recorded his first studio album, which was self-titled, in 1971. It took a few tries for Daniels to have a hit song, because his first hit, which landed number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, was from his third album. This was a novelty song called, “Uneasy Rider” and was released in 1973.
In addition to being an amazing guitar and bass player, Charlie Daniels is well known for his fiddle playing. He spent time playing fiddle as a studio musician and played for the Marshall Tucker Band’s albums “A New Life,” “Where We All Belong,” “Long Hard Ride,” and “Carolina Dreams.” He can also be heard playing fiddle on the love performance recording for the “Where We All Belong” album in 1974. In 1975 he also played fiddle for Hank Williams, Jr.’s album, “Hank Williams, Jr. and Friends.”
Charlie Daniels had a top 30 hit with the song, “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.” This song was released under the band, Charlie Daniels Band as a Southern rock anthem on their 1974 “Fire on the Mountain” album.
Daniels reached a whole new level of fame with his massive hit, “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” This song was released under the Charlie Daniels Band on the 1979 album, “Million Mile Reflections.” This song reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance. In 1980, this song became a major crossover success on rock radio stations and was included on the movie soundtrack for “Urban Cowboy.” A hard rock version of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” was put on the video game, “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” as the final guitar battle.
A sequel to “Devil Went Down to Georgia” was recorded with Mark O’Conner in 1993. This song included Daniels and O’Conner playing fiddle together while Johnny Cash, Marty Stuart and Travis Tritt sing. This version is included on Mar O’Conner’s album, “Heroes.”
Running off of the “Devil Went Down to Georgia” success, in the late 1980s and 1990s, most of Charlie Daniels’ albums and singles were hits on the country charts. He released some gospel and Christian music and in 1999 made a vocal appearance on “All Night Long” with Montgomery Gentry on their debut album.
In addition to being a beloved country singer/songwriter and musician, he also spent time in the film and musical industries. His speaking voice was used in the 1999 musical, “The Civil War.” In the film industry he composed the score for, “Across the Line” and he guest stars as himself in episodes of “King of the Hill.” He also made a musical guest appearance in “Veggietales” and wrote the theme song for “Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson’s Hairbrush.”
Charlie Daniels won many awards and was recognized for all of his accomplishments in music. He was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame (1999), Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame (2002), the Grand Ole Opry (2008), the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum (2009) and the Country Music Hall of Fame (2016). In October 2005, at the 53rd annual BMI Country Awards, he was honored as a BMI Icon. In 2009 he was awarded a Walk of Fame Star at the Music City Walk of Fame. He has a total of around 30 studio albums and 54 singles that are still listened to and enjoyed today.
Charlie Daniels passed away July 6, 2020 from a stroke at the age of 83. He will be remembered as the amazing singer/songwriter and musician that he was. The music he made throughout his career will live on.
Written by Allison Jones