By Rick Kennedy, managing editor
In speaking with the legendary Charlie Daniels, almost immediately his down-home spirit, humility, and honesty are evident as well as a razor-sharp memory for an artist, now 81-years-old.
“Oh yeah, I remember being there in Hope back in the 1990s, because those were the biggest watermelons I had ever seen,” Daniels said as he is asked about his latest appearance here, which was the 1992 Watermelon Festival.
Since that time, Daniels and his namesake band, the Charlie Daniels Band, have continued to make music, perform live across the country, and build on yet another generation of fans.
Daniels has been active as a singer and musician since the 1950s, and he has long been considered a national treasure, raising funds and later performing at the 1977 inauguration of then-President Jimmy Carter.
“That is true, I was there. That was still one of the greatest nights in Washington DC. It was the most down-home night with Billy and Jimmy, and going up there and having a good ole time,” he readily recalls.
In more recent times, Daniels has performed at a National Rifle Association (NRA) event earlier this year, where he was honored.
“I’ve been very blessed by the good Lord to be able to do what I do, and to do what I love, and to continuing performing, which I will continue to do as long as the good Lord sees fit,” Daniels said.
“And I am, first and foremost, a Christian; I do my best everyday to follow Jesus and do the will of the Father, and then, I am so blessed and grateful to the all the fans, because they’ve honored and rewarded me with a good life and allowing me to do what I love to do.”
Daniels comes into Hope on November 2, sandwiched in between a leg of his current tour that includes Dubuque, Iowa, and St. Louis, Missouri, but Daniels said, “You know, the size of the venue doesn’t matter to me, its the size of the heart and the size of the show, and I always bring my best; that is what the fans deserve, and nothing less.”
Although best known for his timeless hit, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which won a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1979, Daniels has endued as a multi-talented showman, playing the fiddle, the guitar, and performing vocals that amazingly sound the same today as they did in 1979
Even on the pre-concert conference call, his voice and tone are instantly recognizable, no different than the popular Skoal commercials he did back in the 1980s.
“I am who I am, and I’ve always said find out who you are and be that person, no matter what,” Daniels said.
Although being known in recent years as a Country music star, Daniels and his music have often defied labels; he actually owns a Dove award for Gospel music, and he has crossed over into Southern rock with songs like “South’s Gonna Do It Again,” and “The Legend of Wooley Swamp.”
He is also known for American-based anthems, with songs like “In America” and the poignant “Still in Saigon.” And, he played fiddle in collaboration with another famous Southern Rock group, the Marshall Tucker Band, in the mid-1970s.
“I would say that my musical influences have been every where. I got my start in Bluegrass, and over the years, I’ve admired and performed so many different styles of music,” he said.
Hempstead Hall Director Dolly Henley said, “People tell me all the time about the entertainers we should bring into Hempstead Hall. The return of Charlie Daniels has come up over and over again; people still remember he was in Hope at the Watermelon Festival. He was a big draw then and now over 25 years later, it looks like we could have a possible sell out,” she said.
Tickets for Charlie Daniels are still available at Hempstead Hall at hempsteadhall.com or by calling 870-722-8565.
By Rick Kennedy, managing editor