Charlie Daniels turns 80 today. He is still producing top quality music and is still an iconic symbol of the South and the Southern musical tradition.
Most people are familiar with his hits–“The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and “Long Haired Country Boy”–but these tunes are a conspicuous though minimal part of a career that spans five decades.
Daniels began his career by writing tunes for other country music stars, including Elvis, and playing bass as a background musician in Nashville. He then helped lead the 1970s Southern cultural revival and was one of the driving forces behind the founding of Capricorn studios in Macon, GA. Daniels reassured Southerners who had been vilified by nearly two decades of bad press that indeed the South had something to offer. He simply said what everyone south of the Mason-Dixon knew; Southerners had always been the backbone of America.
Even today, his Volunteer Jam is one of the top live events in the United States and has typically drawn many of the biggest names in Southern music to its stage, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s when members of every major Southern band showed up to play.
Daniels lives on a ranch in Tennessee. He has never abandoned his roots. Tunes such as “Georgia,” “Carolina, I Remember You,” and “Tennessee,” still sing thousands of Southerners home.
Below are a few lesser known selections from his catalog. They span his solo career from 1971 to the present, showcase his ability to play multiple instruments, highlight his ability as a songwriter, and emphasize that Daniels is more than just a good musician, he is a friend. That, more than anything else, is why Charlie Daniels represents the South. He shows that Southern hospitality means something in an age of consumerism and plastic pop culture.
Thirty Nine Miles From Mobile (1971)
Southbound Superjam with remaining members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Dickie Betts from The Allman Brothers Band (1978)
Big Balls in Cowtown (2016)