On the morning of July 6, 2020, Country Music Hall of Famer and Grand Ole Opry member Charlie Daniels died at the age of 83 after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke. Aside from his own band, Daniels played with other music legends like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bob Dylan.
Daniels was a highly-skilled fiddle player.
Daniels was born on October 28, 1936, in Wilmington, North Carolina. His musical upbringing consisted of Pentecostal gospel and local bluegrass, rhythm blues and country music. By the time he graduated high school in 1955, Daniels had become adept at playing the guitar, fiddle, banjo and mandolin. After high school, Daniels moved to Nashville to pursue his music career.
Most famous for his fiddle-sawing, number-one country hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, Daniels also co-wrote It Hurts Me with friend and producer Bob Johnston, which was later recorded by Elvis Presley. It took Daniels a little more time to get his own big break.
Daniels’ first hit, Uneasy Rider, was off of his third album, Honey in the Rock, and peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Top 100. During this time, he continued to play fiddle for other acts like Marshall Tucker Band and Barefoot Jerry.
In 1979, Daniels won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance for The Devil Went Down to Georgia, which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 in September of that year. The song became Daniels’ most iconic and continues to be played regularly on classic rock and country music radio stations across the country.
Though Daniels never served in the military, he was a strong supporter of the men and women of the armed forces, having played multiple USO Tours for troops overseas. Charlie Daniels Band even released an album called Live from Iraq in 2007. The album was recorded during the band’s 2006 USO tour of Iraq. Daniels was also a supporter of numerous charities, including The Journey Home Project, which aims to help returning veterans adjust to civilian life. “Only two things protect America,” Daniels often said. “The grace of almighty God and the United States Military.”
Daniels’ hit, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, has also become a popular song for fiddle players to cover and demonstrate their skills. One such player named Paddy was covering the song at his bar, Paddy’s Irish Public House, in Fayetteville, North Carolina in early 2007. The establishment was frequented by a Fort Bragg soldier who was there that evening.
It was a slow night and the soldier took no notice of the older man sitting next to him at the bar. As Paddy sawed away and recounted the tale of the battle between the young fiddle player and the Devil, the old man began to chuckle. “This is my song,” he said.
“Yeah, I love this song too.” The soldier responded.
“No, this is MY song!” The old man said with a grin.
“Holy crap! You’re Charlie Daniels!” The soldier was amazed at the country music legend’s presence in the bar. “Hey Paddy!” The soldier called out. “How ’bout letting Charlie here play?”
Similarly amazed at Daniels’ presence in his bar, Paddy gladly gave up his fiddle for the legend to play. That night, Daniels gave a hard-played and passionate performance for a small, but incredibly appreciative audience. In fact, Daniels played so hard at Paddy’s that he broke two of the man’s bows sawing away at the fiddle. It was intimate performances like this that Daniels enjoyed the most. His patriotism and passion for music will be greatly missed.