Country Music

Country music legend Charlie Daniels dies at 83

Country Music legend Charlie Daniels, best known for his monster 1979 hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” died Monday of a hemorrhagic stroke. He was 83. According to a press release from his representatives, the acclaimed Country Music Hall of Fame and Grand Ole Opry member died at Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, Tenn., where doctors determined his cause of death. Daniels accumulated a slew of accolades and awards during his long career in music, including his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Musicians Hall of Fame and becoming a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He also won a Dove Award for gospel albums and a coveted Grammy Award for best country vocal performance by a duo or group. While The Charlie Daniels Band had numerous hits and remained a staple in Country music radio, his most enduring hit was a tale of a young man named Johnny who challenged the devil to a fiddle-playing contest and came away with a violin made of gold. “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was No. 1 on the country charts in 1979 and No. 3 on the pop charts. It was voted single of the year by the Country Music Association. “Few artists have left a more indelible mark on America’s musical landscape than Charlie Daniels. An outspoken patriot, beloved mentor, and a true road warrior, Daniels parlayed his passion for music into a multi-platinum career and a platform to support the military, underprivileged children, and others in need,” a statement from Daniels’ representatives reads. In addition to his music, Daniels was a major advocate for several causes that were close to his heart including supporting the U.S. military with The Journey Home Project, which he founded in 2014 with his manager, David Corlew, to help veterans. “My manager, myself and some other people started this Journey Home Project to help — we’ve come to find out there is a great need for assistance by veterans who are returning from their service. Most of the people that we deal with haven’t gotten that,” Daniels told Fox News in 2019. “We all know the agencies that are tasked with helping our military people are bureaucracies that, by nature, grind slow,” Daniels added at the time. “So there are immediate needs and slow bureaucracies, and we kind of step in and try to help out.” Daniels also worked closely with the Jason Foundation, a Nashville-based nonprofit started by a father who lost his teen son to suicide. Daniels previously said that after looking at the data, he knew he could help veterans and needed to educate people on just how close to tragedy we might be at any given moment. According to The Tennessean, Daniels is survived by his wife, Hazel, and son, Charlie Daniels, Jr. Daniels, a singer, guitarist and fiddler, started out as a session musician, even playing on Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” sessions. Beginning in the early 1970s, his five-piece band toured endlessly, sometimes doing 250 shows a year. “I can ask people where they are from, and if they say `Waukegan,′ I can say I’ve played there. If they say `Baton Rouge,′ I can say I’ve played there. There’s not a city we haven’t played in,” Daniels said in 1998. Daniels performed at White House, at the Super Bowl, throughout Europe and often for troops in the Middle East. He played himself in the 1980 John Travolta movie “Urban Cowboy” and was closely identified with the rise of country music generated by that film. Daniels, a native of Wilmington, N.C., played on several Bob Dylan albums as a Nashville recording session guitarist in the late 1960s, including “New Morning” and “Self-Portrait.”

I was stunned to hear of Charlie’s passing.  Saw him in the ’80s in St. Louis at one of the infamous “Summer Jams” at the original Busch Stadium, and leaned on the stage when he played.  He was quite the entertainer and a man of great character; something one doesn’t say often about those in the entertainment business.  Thanks for the tunes and your inspiration, Charlie.  R.I.P.

Mike Huckabee: Farewell, Charlie Daniels — you lived a life done well

A message hit my inbox on Monday morning that shook my world. It was an email from Charlie Daniels’ publicist who told me Charlie had passed away unexpectedly from a stroke. I was numb for a few minutes trying to process it. Charlie had been a guest on my weekend TBN show just a couple of weeks ago. He talked passionately about his projects for veterans. No one loved them more than the legendary singer, songwriter and musician Charlie Daniels. His career spanned almost 70 years and touched virtually every genre of music from pop, southern rock, country and blues. He was an unmatched musician, capable of playing every instrument on the stage and doing it better than anyone else on that stage. His shows and appearances were epic because of the sheer level of energy Charlie put into every performance. He performed every set as if it was his last. His book “Never Look At the Empty Seats” revealed his commitment to his fans that whether a venue was packed or not, he would give his all every time he appeared. He never thought about those who didn’t come — he took the stage and emptied himself to the last ounce of energy he had so as to leave everything on the stage for those who WERE there. No one left disappointed at a Charlie Daniels show. Off stage, Charlie Daniels was the consummate gentleman. For a man of his stature in the entertainment industry, he was humble, thoughtful and selfless. His band and crew adored him. He was loyal to them and treated them like family. He took care of them as if they were family. He freely gave advice, encouragement and assistance to young performers and genuinely sought to help them to stardom. He never had to feel threatened because (to borrow a line from one of his great hit songs), he was “the best that’s ever been.” He never said that about himself, but everyone who was ever around him sure did! Charlie Daniels was a man of sincere, authentic and demonstrable faith. His personal faith was not pious or put-on, but powerful and persuasive. When he spoke of God, he talked about someone he personally knew, not just a conceptual God “out there somewhere,” and he spoke with clarity and conviction and never with reluctance or timidity. As a true American patriot, he spoke and sang for the working men and women of America. He had fans from all walks of life, but Charlie stayed close to his working-class roots. His song, “Simple Man” was in many ways a personal reflection of who he was. He loved America deeply and devotedly. He spent blocks of his personal time giving to those he treasured most — veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. Whether playing free concerts, raising money to help veterans get medical aid or a new home or just shaking their hands and thanking them, Charlie Daniels believed in those who fought for his freedom. And they — and all of us –believed in him. Rest in Peace, my friend. We will catch you on the other side. Keep a seat for us.

Thanks Mike for the moving eulogy.  Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (R) is the author of that piece.  Many folks don’t know that Mike plays bass guitar.

Kenny Rogers, country music icon, dies at 81

Kenny Rogers, a longtime star of country music, died Friday night, according to a statement posted by his family. He was 81. Known for such hits as “The Gambler,” “Lady,” “Islands in the Stream,” and “Lucille,” Rogers died peacefully at home in Sandy Springs, Ga., of natural causes at 10:25 p.m., the statement said. In all, Rogers had 24 No. 1 hits and was the winner of six CMA Awards and three Grammys, the family’s statement said. Born in Houston, Texas, Rogers was raised in public housing along with seven siblings. He had his first gold single at age 20 with a song called “That Crazy Feeling” under the name Kenneth Rogers. He then joined a jazz group, the Bobby Doyle Trio, as a standup bass player. His breakthrough came in 1966, when he was asked to join a folk group called the New Christy Minstrels. The band reformed as First Edition and scored a pop hit with the psychedelic song, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).” After the group disbanded in 1974, Rogers pursued a solo career and his 1977 hit “Lucille” crossed over to the pop charts and earned the crooner his first Grammy. “The Gambler,” written by Don Schlitz came out in 1978, which became Rogers’ signature song he later developed into a series of television movies that he starred in. One of his biggest hits was “Lady,” written by Lionel Richie, a chart topper for six weeks straight in 1980. Other hits included “You Decorated My Life,” “Every Time Two Fools Collide” with Dottie West, “Don’t Fall In Love with a Dreamer” with Kim Carnes, and “Coward of the County.” Over the years, Rogers collaborated with several female duet partners, most notably, Dolly Parton. The two were paired at the suggestion of the Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb, who wrote “Islands in the Stream.” “Barry was producing an album on me and he gave me this song,” Rogers told the Associated Press in 2017. “And I went and learned it and went into the studio and sang it for four days. And I finally looked at him and said, ‘Barry, I don’t even like this song anymore.’ And he said, ‘You know what we need? We need Dolly Parton.’ I thought, ‘Man, that guy is a visionary.’ “From the moment she marched into that room, that song never sounded the same,” Rogers added. “It took on a whole new spirit.” Rogers and Parton toured together, leading to an HBO concert special. The two later recorded “You Can’t Make Old Friends” in 2013. That same year, Rogers was a winner of the CMA’s Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He received a total of 10 awards from the Academy of Country Music. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Rogers sold more than 47 million records in the United States alone. He was a superstar for six decades before retiring from touring in 2017 at the age of 79. Despite his crossover success, Rogers always preferred to be thought of as a country singer. “You either do what everyone else is doing and you do it better, or you do what no one else is doing and you don’t invite comparison,” Rogers told The Associated Press in 2015. “And I chose that way because I could never be better than Johnny Cash or Willie or Waylon at what they did. So I found something that I could do that didn’t invite comparison to them. And I think people thought it was my desire to change country music. But that was never my issue.” Last May, Rogers was admitted to a Georgia hospital for dehydration, amid rumors that his overall health was failing. In 2018, health problems prompted Rogers to call off shows during what was billed as his farewell concert tour. “Kenny Rogers has been working through a series of health challenges and has been advised to cancel all performances through the end of the year to focus on recuperation,” a statement from the singer’s management said at the time. “I didn’t want to take forever to retire,” Rogers was quoted as saying. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to say farewell to the fans over the course of the past two years on ‘The Gambler’s Last Deal’ tour.” In addition to his musical craft, Rogers had a chain of restaurants called Kenny Rogers Roasters and was a partner behind a riverboat in Branson, Mo. He was involved in a number of charitable causes, including the Red Cross and MusiCares. Rogers is survived by his wife, Wanda, and his sons Justin, Jordan, Chris and Kenny Jr., as well as two brothers, a sister and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, his representative said. The family is planning a private service “out of concern for the national COVID-19 emergency,” a statement posted early Saturday read. A public memorial will be held at a later date.

We’re very sorry to hear of Kenny’s passing.  The last couple of years his health was in decline.  So, this wasn’t a big surprise.  “The Gambler” was definitely a class act.  Thanks for the tunes, Kenny.  R.I.P.