Charles Edward “Charlie” Daniels was born October 26, 1936 in Wilmington, North Carolina. He grew up there on a diet of Pentecostal gospel music, bluegrass, country and rhythm & blues and initially planned to become a rock ‘n’ roller. After spending the ’50s as an obscure singer-songwriter, though, Charlie finally attracted music industry attention as the co-writer of Elvis Presley’s 1964 hit “It Hurts Me” that lead to work as a versatile Nashville session musician. Among other things, Daniels played on several LPs by The Marshall Tucker Band, three Bob Dylan albums and produced an LP by The Youngbloods (“Elephant Mountain”).
In 1973, Charlie Daniels became a star himself by recording a comical hippie ballad entitled “Uneasy Rider” (Kama Sutra 576). It became a Top 10 pop hit that summer and set the stage for his Southern rock anthem “The South’s Gonna Do It” (Kama Sutra 598) which peaked at #29 in 1975. The next year Daniels cracked the country Top 40 for the first time with “Texas” and “Wichita Jail.”
Charlie’s greatest year was 1979, the year he recorded “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” (Epic 50700), a platinum seller which reached #1 country and #3 pop. It was not only named the CMA’s “Single of Year” but earned Charlie a Grammy Award for the year’s “Best Country Vocal Performance.” The song’s sensational success lead to its inclusion in the 1980 hit movie “Urban Cowboy” – a film in which Charlie and his band appeared. Daniels also reached Top 20 on the country charts in 1979 with “Mississippi.”
Two more pop hits followed in 1980: “In America” (Epic 50888) – which was Charlie’s reaction to the 1979-81 Iran Hostage Crisis – and “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” (Epic 50921). In 1982 Charlie scored again with “Still In Saigon’ (Epic 02828), an effective portrayal of the plight of the American Vietnam veteran ten years after the war’s conclusion. Later Charlie Daniels country hits included “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” (1986), “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” (1988), “Cowboy Hat in Dallas” (1989) and “Simple Man” (1990).
Amid many concert, TV and film appearances, Charlie Daniels was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2007, he was invited by Martina McBride to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry. His induction by Marty Stuart and Connie Smith took place during the January 19, 2008 edition of the Opry in Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium. In 2009 Charlie Daniels was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
Daniels now resides in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, where the city has named a park after him. You’ve probably seen Charlie dozens of times playing fiddle in TV commercials for GEICO auto insurance.