Charlie Daniels was one of the most influential musicians of the last century. As the front man of his namesake band, Daniels was a founding member of the purely American artform known as “Southern Rock”. The Charlie Daniels Band released such classics as “The Souths Gonna do it Again”, “Long Haired Country Boy” and “Simple Man”, but they are best known for their landmark hit “The Devil went down to Georgia”. This was a band that deflated stereotypes and broke new ground. They were also revered by other bands for their supreme musicianship and amazing entertaining ability. Sadly, Charlie Daniels died unexpectedly in July of 2020. He was 83 years old. The North Carolina born Daniels was intensely admired by fellow musicians but at heart, Charlie was a fan of music. Throughout the years, he was proud to share his opinions on some of the most legendary entertainers of his generation. What follows are excerpts from interviews that feature Charlie Daniels’ reflections on his favorite musicians.
On Bob Dylan:
“I think Bob Dylan had more to do with changing the face of popular music than anybody that I know of. We talk about innovators; he is the first. He was before the Beatles; he was before any of these people we think about being innovators. Bob Dylan was doing it his way saying ‘Here it is. If you like it, fine. If you don’t, I’m sorry but here it is, this is me and this guitar and this harmonica and my songs and you may not understand what I’m saying but you listening anyway’. And it was so different, it was so raw, it was so real, it was just so thought provoking. The way it affected me was the freedom that he experienced. I wanted some of that, I wanted to do that. Of course, I knew I never could write songs like Bob Dylan”.
On the quintessential Bob Dylan Song:
“The quintessential Dylan song for me that personified what he did in the songs that he wrote would be ‘The Times They are a Changin’. He was documenting a very real situation that was going on at the time where the two generations for the first time in history were really at loggerheads about styles, about music, about war, about what was socially acceptable and what was not…This is happening weather you like it or weather you don’t like it. So don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the halls. Mothers and fathers, your sons and your daughters are beyond your command, your old road is rapidly fading. Get out of the new one If you can’t lend your hand for the times they are a-changin’. It was true”. In 2014, Daniels recorded an album of Dylan covers and included “The Times They are a Changin’”.
“The Times They are a Changin’” – The Charlie Daniels Band (2014)
On Garth Brooks:
“I’m a big Garth Brooks fan. I love Garth Brooks. I think Garth is one of the best things that’s happened to the music business in that he’s very sincere about it. He works really hard. He tries to give people their money’s worth. He’s just really good for the business”.
On Duane Allman:
“A lot of people didn’t even know what slide guitar was until Duane Allman came out and started playing it. And then he raised it. If you even go back and start listening to the old slide guitar players who were considered masters in their day, and they really were, Duane Allman raised the playing of the slide guitar to a whole other level that had never been done before. The first time I heard him I just thought, ‘what is this guy doing? Good gosh! He can move a bar that fast and that soulful’? And he had that sound, that killer type of a sound. I never got to meet that man, but he sure was one of my favorite all-time musicians”.
On Jimi Hendrix:
“I never was a big of Hendrix fan as a lot of people were. I like Jimi Hendrix. I got to see him live about two weeks before he died at the Isle of Wright. I was working there with Leonard Cohen. I like Jimi Hendrix, but I never was as big of Hendrix freak as a lot of people were, but I very much admire what he does”.
On The Beatles:
“I love the Beatles. I worked with two of the Beatles…The way I see it with the Beatles, they got so big so quick, they could do just about anything they wanted to. And they took all that talent and started experimenting with it. And they started following their own star and just seeing where they could take it to. And the result was some great music”.
On Lynyrd Skynyrd:
“Ronnie [Van Zant] was my old buddy. He was just a good ole’ down to earth red neck boy. Skynyrd plays the kind of music that transcends generations. Skynyrd is one of the purest rock n’ roll bands in the world. The Rolling Stones are no purer rock n’ roll band than Lynyrd Skynyrd is. That’s what they are. They are a sure enough rock band. Every time they go on stage, every time they cut a record, that’s what they’re doing. They can’t help it”.
On the Greatest Rock Song:
“’Stairway to Heaven’ is a good song but to me, ‘Layla’ and ‘Free Bird’ are right up there with the best of ‘em”.
On Eric Clapton:
“I like Eric Clapton a lot. I like a more melodic approach. I love Duane Allman. If it’s guitar, I love it, really. But I think Eric really kind of brings it all together. He’s not out on one side or the other, he can do it all. He can do pure old Delta Blues or ‘Tears in Heaven’. He’s just got it all”. For his 1991 album “Renegade”, Daniels covered the Clapton classic “Layla”.