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Charlie Daniels (born 28 October 1936) is an iconic southern rock and country musician. He is an acclaimed guitarist, singer and fiddler (his fiddle solo in the smash hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is one of the most memorable melodic and technical accomplishments in modern Country Music.)
Daniels was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, US and was raised in a rural Gulf town in Chatman County. He grew up listening to genres spanning from Pentecostal Gospel to R&B. Naturally he also listened prolifically to country and bluegrass. Daniels became an accomplished and versatile musician at a young age, having learned the mandolin, fiddle, guitar and banjo before high school graduation. Though Daniels had been in several bands in his teenage years he did not play professionally until the age of 21. Daniels started his own rock n’ roll band called the Jaguars and immediately started gigging. The Jaguars went to the studio with legendary folk/country producer Bob Johnson in 1959 to record their debut album. The album did not gain much traction; however, this did not deter Daniels from playing and writing new material. In 1963 Elvis Presley released a Charlie Daniels’ original “It Hurts Me” gaining the artist a good bit of attention.
Realizing the struggles of The Jaguars, Daniels dissolved the group and moved to Nashville,Tennessee to become a session musician. Daniels landed some incredibly high profile spots as a session musician working on the following four Bob Dylan albums: “Nashville Skyline”, “Self Portrait”, “New Morning” and “Dylan”. Daniels also acted as a session musician on Ringo Starr’s album “Beaucoups of Blues” and produced the Youngbloods’ album “Elephant Mountain”. Daniels success as a session musician continued as he struck up a working relationship with poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen. He performed on the two classic albums “Songs from a Room” and “Songs of Love and Hate” and also went on tour with Cohen in the late 60s.
By 1971 Daniels released an album of his own, his self-titled debut through Capitol Records. Though it would eventually be recognized as a classic it received little attention upon release. Daniels’ follow up “Te John, Grease, & Wolfman” came out the following year, but his breakthrough did not occur until he released his 1973 “Honey in the Rock” with the Charlie Daniels Band.
Daniels formation of the Charlie Daniels Band marked a stylistic deviation in his career, but a successful one at that. The group adopted a hard driving, country boogie sound typified by the likes of the Allman Brothers Band. The group seemed to grow in popularity with each successive album release. After the 1973 hit “Uneasy Rider” the band put out their 1974 album “Fire on the Mountain” which went gold in a few moths and eventually went platinum. The band’s follow up record “Nightrider” contained the song “Texas” which secured a place for itself in the Top 40 country charts. In 1976 the band scored their first Top Ten album with “Saddle Tramp”.
The group noticed a decline in interest for Southern Rock music and once again shifted the direction of their sound going further into country roots. This phase of the Charlie Daniels band saw the release of their most successful song to date, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. For the first time in the group’s career they were able to have a song place in the pop charts, reaching all the way to #3. Though the Charlie Daniels Band maintained interest with the general public and had a platinum and gold record (“Full Moon” and “Windows” respectively) they did not have another mainstream hit until 10 years after the release of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. This was the 1989 single “Simple Man”.
The band’s success as a recording group began to dwindle in the 90s; however, their concert performances were still in high demand. The group continued recording material throughout the 1990s and 2000s releasing Gospel and Christian records as well as scores for movies such as “Across the Line”. In 2008 Charlie Daniels was invited by Martina McBride to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry and the following year he was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame Museum.