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December 26, 2014

Charlie Daniels got big break from Bob Dylan

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Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2014 8:38 pm

The year was 1969 and a young musician named Charlie Daniels was knocking on doors in Nashville, Tenn., looking for his first big break.

That same year, legendary folk singer Bob Dylan, one of the most well-known artists of the era, also came to town to record his ninth studio album, "Nashville Skyline," and the meeting between the two proved to be the crack in the wall Daniels was seeking.

In preparation for some 15 recording sessions, producer Bob Johnston had booked another guitar picker, but for some reason that guy couldn't play on the very first session, so Johnston asked Daniels to fill that slot. Daniels went in, played the first session as requested and without much thought to it, began to pack up his equipment to leave.

As he did so, Dylan asked Johnston where Daniels was going, and Johnston told him he had another picker coming in to the play the rest of the sessions. At that point, Dylan looked at Johnston and spoke two short sentences that ring loudly in Daniels' ear to this day.

"He told Bob, 'I don't want another guitar picker. I want him,' which were the greatest nine words anybody had every spoken about me at the time," Daniels said. "I put everything I had into it, and Bob liked it and kept me around for the rest of that album and two more. So he definitely had quite an impact on my career."

The simple fact that an artist of Dylan's caliber was kind enough to include his name in small print on the liner notes of those albums carried huge weight when he ventured out on his own a few years later, Daniels said.

"With an artist like Bob Dylan, people read the backs of the albums because they wanted to know as much about him as they could," Daniels said. "So when they read back there, there was this guy Charlie Daniels. So when I'd come along they'd say "Oh you played on the Dylan album" which gave me a lot of legitimacy.

"It really kicked things up a bunch of notches for me. I didn't have quite as much trouble with name recognition when I first starting trying to do something on my own."

It's also the reason those who attend the Charlie Daniels Band concert tonight at Center Stage in Rainbow City will hear one and possibly two songs from his latest project, "Off The Grid-Doin' It Dylan," which was released in April. Leah Seawright will open the show starting at 7:30 p.m. with CDB set to romp and stomp after that.

Depending on how long CDB is allowed to play, fans can expect to hear either "Tangled Up In Blue" or "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," and both if there's time. While the songs are definitely a tribute to Dylan, they'll be done in a distinctly CDB style, Daniels said.

"We tried to pick songs that we could put our own particular sound to," Daniels said. "It's obviously Bob Dylan's songs, but it's obviously CDB playing them."

The project came about after CDB was asked to record some music for the AMC cable series "Hell on Wheels," and had to do it using only acoustic instruments since the show is set in the 1800s. The band members liked the acoustic-only sound so much they decided they should record an album, and it didn't take long to decide that Dylan's catalog was where to go get the material.

"It's a bottomless well, 50 years worth of material to chose from to get 10 songs out of, so that's where we went, and that's what we did," Daniels said. "If we came across a song that we didn't feel like we were ready to do, we just moved on. That's the beauty of the Dylan catalog. We just moved on and went to another song."

Die-hard CDB fans don't have to worry, however. The main fare for the night will be the classics they've grown to love -- and expect -- over the years.

"You owe that to people," Daniels said. "That's why they come to see you. They don't know anything about your new stuff. They want to hear the stuff they've heard on the radio. If I went and played a show without playing 'Devil Went Down To Georgia,' they'd feel like I cheated them."

Daniels would feel like he'd cheated the audience as well, so that's why, in addition to the rocking country fiddle classic, the set list will include "Legend of Wooley Swamp," "Long-Haired Country Boy," and maybe "Simple Man," a socially conscious classic released almost a quarter century ago that is as pertinent, if not more so, today than it was back then.

When it hit the airwaves back in 1990, "Simple Man" derided "pantywaist judges" who slap drug dealers on the wrist, "the rapin' and the killin' and the child abuse," and attributed many modern-day societal woes to the fact that people are "living by the law of the jungle, not the law of the land." It was controversial enough at the time that 18 country radio stations across the country refused to play it, but almost 25 years later, Daniels still stands by his song.

Prefacing his comments by saying, "I'm not a politically correct person," Daniels expressed his attitude is that "the truth is the truth" about the state of our country, then and now.

"There are a lot of people out there walking the streets that have no business out there whatsoever," Daniels said. "But some dad blame judge, some bleeding heart judge, just keeps turning them back out on the street. 'Well, we'll give you another chance. We're going to give you probation' or 'we're going to give you six months' or something.

"Then the first thing you know, some productive citizen has been gunned down in the streets by these idiots. That's what 'Simple Man' is all about."

What Daniels has today to help share his opinions that he didn't have 25 years ago is social media, and he takes full advantage of it. He does a twice-weekly opinion column on the CDB website called the "Soap Box," and it provides as biting a political commentary as you'll find on any of the networks. He also has 191,000 Twitter followers and has posted more than 34,000 Tweets since his son, Charlie Jr., introduced him to social media "kicking and screaming" in 2009.

He wants his Twitter followers and his "Soap Box" readers to know one thing, for sure. With Charles Edward Daniels, what you see is what you get.

"Everything on Twitter that has not got a CDB hashtag on it because it's informational, everything that is done, every opinion and that stuff is me," Daniels said. "I have never had anybody ghostwrite anything for me. I do two (Soap Boxes) a week. I do them every week, and everything that is signed by me is me. I am not going to put my name on something I didn't do."

Daniels will turn 78 on Oct. 28, and says he's slowing down, but between all the Tweeting, the writing, the 105 to 110 shows CDB will play this year and eight to 10 more Grand Ole Opry appearances, it's sure hard to tell. Asked what his secret was, Daniels didn't hesitate with his answer.

"The secret is that it's the blessing of God that He has given me something to do that I love as much as I love playing music," he said. "Suffice it to say, I probably move a little slower and jump a little lower, but I still pump a lot of energy into it, and I have no plans for retirement.

"As long as it's God will and people want to hear me and I have the health to do it, and that's all looking pretty good right now from my point of view."

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