Even if you haven't heard of The Charlie Daniels Band, you've heard the The Charlie Daniels band. Although the band may be a one hit wonder in the pop music world, The Charlie Daniels band has been together since 1970 and remains booked until the end of 2007. Defying all attempts at classification, their music has won a Grammy awards as recently as 1996, as well as awards from the Country Music Association, Christian Country Music Association, BMI, Music City News, Record World and more.
In the Beginning
According to Charlie Daniels himself, "The first thing I wrote that was recorded was in the late 50’s but it was nothing really big." Before recording his own full album, Charlie Daniels was involved with many other artists' music. He co-wrote "It Hurts Me" of Elvis fame and contributed his fiddle playing to Bod Dylan, Ringo Starr and Marty Robbins. He even steps in as a producer for The Youngbloods on Elephant Mountain and Ride the Wind. Eventually Charlie Daniels released the solo album Charlie Daniels in 1970. Later in the same year, the The Charlie Daniels Band was formed.
On the Road
During the remainder of the 1970s, The Charlie Daniels Band released 12 albums. Some memorable singles include "Uneasy Rider", "The South's Gonna Do It Again", and "Long Haired Country Boy." In 1976, presidential hopeful Jimmy Carter asked Charlie Daniels to help him out. Daniels remarked that at the time, Jimmy Carter was "Jimmy Who?" but, after reading up Carter, Daniels decided to help. Subsequently, The Charlie Daniels Band played at Carter's inauguration.
The biggest event for The Charlie Daniels Band during this period was the release of the Million Mile Reflections album. At this point, the band had traveled across the country by bus, from coast to coast, for years and racked up over a million miles on the road. Hence, the high mileage name. One track was "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" which went to the number one spot on the country and pop charts. This became the quintessential Charlie Daniels Band song that everyone has heard, regardless of whether or not they were aware of the band. It earned Charlie Daniels the Grammy for Best Country Vocal, as well as three Country Music Association awards.
Through the 1980s, The Charlie Daniels Band continued to release a truly prolific volume of music. Some reactionary pieces such as "In America" and "Still in Saigon" reflect Charlie Daniels' patriotism and devotion to the United States Armed Services.
In 1990, The Charlie Daniels Band released Simple Man. The title track depicts how to deal with drug dealers and murderers--lynchings and slow deaths by alligators, respectively. Needless to say, Charlie Daniels came under a lot of fire for that and was asked to explain himself on various talk shows of the day. He admitted to writing the song out of frustration and added that he does not want to leave people in the swamps die and whatnot. Good news for murderers near the Okefenokee. Incidentally, The Charlie Daniels Band also released their first holiday album the same year.
The 1990s and 2000s passed on without any pop hits. The Charlie Daniels Band began to release Christian albums during the '90s and won some awards through various Christian music bodies.
The sound of The Charlie Daniels Band is impossible to place under one genre. The band has certainly won awards from various country music bodies, but that surely isn't the exclusive sound in their music. I think many people are quick to regard them as country due to the lack of fiddle playing in most other genres. But there are folk, bluegrass, jazz, and rock and roll elements in their classic work. All of my favorite songs could probably qualify for spoken word at the same time. You don't have to like country music to enjoy these songs. Even though Charlie Daniels Band is classified as country, it is not today's country. It's similar to branding Johnny Cash as a country artist, then comparing him to Garth Brooks. There's no twangy bullshit and, God forbid, no steel guitars.
The only way to truly understand The Charlie Daniels Band is to listen to their music. My personal favorites are "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," "Uneasy Rider '88," "Uneasy Rider," "Stroker's Theme," and "The Legend of Wooley Swamp." The part that really stands out about all these songs is Charlie Daniels' delivery of the lyrics. He is not singing a song, he is telling a story with a band in the background. It is something completely unheard of in contemporary pop music and I think it's a welcome change. We don't have story-tellers anymore, but Charlie Daniels didn't get the memo about retiring. Even the classic fiddle playing of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" is such an integral part of the story that it isn't really music, it's a plot device. Go listen to these songs now. Right now, stream them in the background and cruise the nodespace.
For the record, Charlie Daniels has, throughout his career, refused to label his music as anything other than "CDB music." He never called it country or bluegass or folk. He goes on to add, "It's purely American music with something for everyone. At least that's what I've hoped for in my 40-plus years in music."
- CDB Instant Live Massapequa, NY 7/26/05
- CDB Instant Live Toledo, OH 7/29/05
- CDB Instant Live Mendon, IL 7/30/05
- CDB Instant Live Janesville, WI 7/31/05
- CDB Instant Live Lucasville, OH 8/9/05
- Songs From The Longleaf Pines
- A Carolina Christmas Carol
- Freedom and Justice for All
- A Merry Christmas To All
- Redneck Fiddlin' Man
- How Sweet The Sound: 25 Favorite Hymns and Gospel Greats
- Volunteer Jam/Classic Live Performances: Volume Two
- Volunteer Jam/Classic Live Performances: Volume One
- Tailgate Party
- Fiddle Fire: 25 Years of the CDB
- By The Light Of The Moon
- Blues Hat
- The Roots Remain
- Steel Witness
- Super Hits (platinum)
- The Door
- America, I Believe In You
- All-Time Greatest Hits
- Christmas Time Down South
- Decade of Hits (triple platinum)
- Full Moon (platinum)
- Volunteer Jam VI
- Million Mile Reflections (triple platinum)
- Midnight Wind (platinum)
- High Lonesome
- Saddle Tramp (platinum)
- Volunteer Jam
- Fire On The Mountain (platinum)
- Te John, Grease and WolfmanV
- Charlie Daniels (solo)