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Charlie Daniels at 75


Still Playing Music Despite the Loss of Friends and Fellow Musicians


by Derek Halsey


When the Charlie Daniels Band tours America this year, you can bet that they will play their hit song, “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” That song first appeared on the Million Mile Reflections album which was Daniels’ biggest selling recording ever, reaching the impressive Triple Platinum status. It is the song that, along with his total body of work, probably won him a coveted member- ship on the Grand Ole Opry in 2008. However, long before “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” gained popularity in 1979, the Charlie Daniels Band (CDB) cut a swath across the United States beginning in the early 1970s.


Sometimes touring with the fellow


southern rock legends the Marshall Tucker Band (MTB), the CDB performed many concerts in big and small towns alike in the pre-Million Mile Reflections days of the mid-1970s, a time that many fans view as the band’s Golden Age. Daniels first gained radio airplay with his song “Uneasy Rider” in 1972. That was followed by the successful 1974 album Fire On The Mountain, which featured future CDB standards like


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“South’s Going To Do It Again,” “Long Haired Country Boy,” “Trudy” and “Caballo Diablo” as well as one of the best live southern rock per- formances ever recorded, “No Place Left To Go.” Fire On The Mountain was the first of a series of classic CDB albums produced by ace musician and Alabama Music Hall of Famer Paul Hornsby that helped to define an era. The Hornsby-pro- duced recordings by the CDB include; Fire On The Mountain, Saddle Tramp, Nightrider, High Lonesome and Midnight Wind. These projects are filled with some of Daniels’ best story songs, numbers that could only be written by someone well-traveled. Daniels has added some of those old school gems to his concert set lists in recent years includ- ing “Saddle Tramp” and “Billy The Kid.” “Let’s take ‘Billy The Kid,’ first of all,” says Daniels. “I was in


El Paso, Texas, back in my wild, misspent youth and I was sitting on a city bus and Pancho Villa (Mexican revolutionary in the early 1900s) used to hang out in that part of the country. I got to thinking about a song about Pancho Villa. It just came into my mind; ‘the southern part of Texas, east and west of El Paso, where the mighty Franklin Mountains, guard the trail to Mexico,’ and I was sitting there looking at the Franklin


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