Remembering Charlie Daniels

Charlie Daniels was a country and Southern rock icon.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

July 6, 2023

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Charlie Daniels; Photo by Erick Anderson, eafoto

Charlie Daniels (born Charles Edward Daniels) was born on October 28, 1936, to William Carlton and LaRue Hammonds Daniels. With roots planted in the Goldston/Gulf area of North Carolina, Daniels graduated high school in 1955 and almost instantly began pursuing his passion for music. He started out by writing music, teaching himself to play the guitar at just 15 years old, and touring with a rock n’ roll band called the Jaguars. The band of young hopefuls didn’t see much success collectively, but on his own, Daniels stood out as a promising artist.

A North Carolina Native

His first major feat came in 1964 when Elvis Presley cut one of his songs titled, “It Hurts Me.” At this point in time, Charlie Daniels’ gift for music was coming to light and he was ready to take the next leap. That same year, Daniels tied the knot with his other half, Hazel, and made the move to Nashville with hopes of making it as a songwriter, studio musician, and producer. It didn’t take long for those in Music City to recognize his talent as a fiddle and guitar player.

Charlie Daniels; Photo Courtesy Charlie Daniels Facebook
Charlie Daniels; Photo Courtesy Charlie Daniels Facebook

With his impressive reputation, Daniels was recruited by his longtime friend and producer, Bob Johnston, to play on three Bob Dylan albums: Nashville SkylineSelf Portrait and New Morning, as well as Ringo Starr’s 1970 record, Beaucoups of Blues.

A True Passion For Music

Daniels unveiled his self-titled debut album as a solo artist in 1971 via Capitol Records and then formed the Charlie Daniels Band. The group was quick to earn a hit with “Uneasy Rider.” It carried them into the Top 10 on pop radio. This track was featured on their first album, Fire On The Mountain, which was released in 1974 on Kama Sutra Records. “Uneasy Rider” was the first of many essential songs to come from their certified gold breakout album, as it also offered “Long Haired Country Boy,” “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” and “Trudy.” 

Over the course of five consecutive decades, Daniels charted 34 singles on country radio and became known for his contributions to Southern rock, country, and bluegrass music. Within his successful catalog, his signature song will always be known as 1979’s number-one hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

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Passed Away On July 6, 2020

When Daniels passed away in 2020 from a hemorrhagic stroke at age 83, he left behind a legacy like no other. The disheartening news came from Summit Medical Center in the Hermitage area of Nashville, Tenn. 

A Philanthropist 

His impact went beyond the music industry as he acted as a patriot, a mentor, and a passionate supporter of numerous causes. On top of his Dove Award-winning gospel albums and genre-defining southern rock anthems, Charlie Daniels used his platform and resources to give back to the military, underprivileged children, and others in need. He also devoted countless hours to various charitable organizations such as The Journey Home Project, the annual Christmas 4 Kids Tour Bus Shows, and many Volunteer Jams.

Throughout his career, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist received numerous accolades, including the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music in 1998, the BMI Icon Award at the 53rd annual Country Music Awards in 2005, and more. Additionally, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009, and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2008. 

ACM Spirit Award

As a result of all his efforts, Charlie Daniels will soon be celebrated at the upcoming ACM Honors. He will receive the ACM Spirit Award, which honors the contributions of Merle Haggard, who racked up 20 ACM Awards in his career, including the Triple Crown Award. According to a press release, this award was created to celebrate a singer-songwriter who continues the legacy of Country Music legend Merle Haggard by following his/her own path, crafting great songs, and epitomizing Haggard’s spirit through genuine performances and great storytelling.  

Previous recipients of the ACM Spirit Award include Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Toby Keith, Miranda Lambert, and Chris Stapleton.

Charlie Daniels memorial service; Photo Provided
Charlie Daniels memorial service; Photo Provided

Laid To Rest

Daniels’ funeral was held in 2020 at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. and featured many industry friends including Travis Tritt, Gretchen Wilson, Trace Adkins, and more. Together, they gathered at the church to remember all his years of friendship, faith, and contributions. The service concluded a week-long series of tributes for the artist who also received a memorial in his home of Mt. Juliet, equipped with a 21-gun salute and helicopter flyover.

Charlie Daniels left behind his wife of more than 50 years, Hazel Juanita, as well as their son, Charles William Daniels, and two grandchildren. 

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.