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Charlie Daniels comes to Hiawassee

Opens up about Bob Dylan and President Obama

POSTED: March 3, 2011 1:30 a.m.

He's a simple man. But fiddler Charlie Daniels, whose legendary career has spanned more than 50 years, continues to leave his unique mark on country and Southern rock music.

The Charlie Daniels Band will perform this Saturday at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee.

The band, with Daniels, 74, as fiddler and lead singer, gained popularity in the 1970s with hits including "The South's Gonna Do it Again" and "Long Haired Country Boy."

In 1979, Daniels wrote "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" with the group — their most recognizable hit to date.

"At the time for what was happening with radio stations, and what they were playing at the time, I thought it would be a good song," Daniels said.

"I had no idea that we'd be sitting here talking, all this many years after it came out in 1979, and it would still be a very viable thing in the music business."

The song, which details an epic battle between the devil and a fiddler named Johnny, and features Daniels tearing up the fiddle at various intervals, continues to get airplay.

"A lot of people around the world, if you asked them who Charlie Daniels was, they would tell you he's the guy that did ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia,'" he said, adding that he gets autograph requests from around the world as a result.

Daniels said the inspiration for the song came from the title phrase.

"We needed a fiddle song for an album we were doing," he said.

"We went in the rehearsal studio, and I had this phrase in my mind. Where it came from, I couldn't really say for sure, it was just ‘the devil went down to Georgia,' and it started from there," he said.

But Daniels' career started two decades before that big hit, and after it, he continues to produce songs that strike a chord with fans.

He credits another iconic figure with giving him a step up early in his career — Bob Dylan.

Daniels appeared on Dylan's album, "Nashville Skyline," in 1967.

"Dylan was always kind enough to put the musicians' names on the records. He gave them credit," Daniels said.

"It was a very prestigious thing, especially in that day, to have been part of a Dylan album."

He said he enjoyed the freedom Dylan allowed.

"He was very free with people in the studio. He wanted you to play what you played. He wanted your personality on his record," he said.

"Doing those albums with him brought a lot of recognition to me that I had not had before."

In 1990, Daniels released "Simple Man," in which he railed against "crooked politicians," drug dealers and rapists. The song rose to number two on the country charts.

The always-outspoken Daniels, who said he doesn't belong to a political party, aligned himself with President Jimmy Carter when he was a candidate in 1976.

"I'm an American patriot. I'm concerned about our nation. I don't look at it as political; I look at it as common sense," he said.

"The only problem is that you cannot very well discuss the state that the nation is in without discussing politics these days."

He doesn't shy away from criticizing President Obama's policies, but Daniels, who writes two columns on his website per week, said he doesn't talk about politics on stage.

On stage, Daniels entertains.

"I look forward to getting on stage in front of people. I love to entertain people," he said.

"It's such a big part of my life, and I think that's got an awful lot to do with (my success.)"

When young fiddle players ask for advice, Daniels — who is perhaps one of the most well-known fiddlers in the world — tells them not to play like him.

"I hold the fiddle wrong, I hold the bow wrong, I put too much pressure on the bow," he said.

"I would not want to see any young fiddle player start out trying to play like I do because I taught myself. I had nobody to teach me."

His advice to young musicians — or anyone who wants to find success — is all about hard work.

"Devote yourself to doing your profession and very little else," he said.

"When I first started playing, when every one else was going to movies and football games, I was sitting at home playing my instrument. I didn't do anything else much.

"... The crux of my life was creating music. It was, and is, such an important part of my life, that I devote an awful lot of myself to it. A lot of my energy, a lot of my time. I think that's necessary. I think you have to do that."

 



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