Like the State of Texas, Charlie Daniels is partly Western and partly Southern. His signature “bullrider” hat and belt buckle, his lifestyle on the Twin Pines Ranch (a boyhood dream come true), his love of horses, cowboy lore and the heroes of championship rodeo, Western movies, and Louis L’Amour novels, identify him as a Westerner. The son of a lumberjack and a Southerner by birth, his music – rock, country, bluegrass, blues, gospel – is quintessentially Southern. In fact, even his bent for all things Western is Southern, because his attire, his lifestyle and his interests are historically emblematic of Southern working class solidarity with the “lone cowboy” individualism of the American West.
In 1955, Daniels formed a rock ‘n’ roll band and hit the road. While enroute to California in 1959 the group paused in Texas to record “Jaguar,” an instrumental produced by the legendary Bob Johnston, which was picked up for national distribution by Epic. It was also the beginning of a long association with Johnston. The two wrote “It Hurts Me,” which became the B side of a 1964 Presley hit. In 1969, at the urging of Johnston, Daniels moved to middle Tennessee to find work as a session guitarist in Nashville. Among his more notable sessions were the Bob Dylan albums of 1969-70 Nashville Skyline, New Morning, and Self Portrait. Daniels produced the Youngbloods’ albums of 1969-70 Elephant Mountain and Ride the Wind, toured Europe with Leonard Cohen and performed on records with artists as different as Al Kooper and Marty Robbins.
Daniels broke through as a record maker, himself, with 1973′s Honey In the Rock and its hit hippie song, “Uneasy Rider.” His rebel anthems “Long Haired Country Boy” and “The South’s Gonna Do It” propelled his 1975 collection Fire On the Mountain to Double Platinum status. Following stints with Capitol and Kama Sutra, Epic Records signed him to its rock roster in New York in 1976. The contract, reportedly worth $3 million, was the largest ever given to a Nashville act up to that time. In the summer of 1979 Daniels rewarded the company’s faith by delivering “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which became a Platinum single, topped both country and pop charts, won a Grammy Award, became an international phenomenon, earned three Country Music Association trophies, became a cornerstone of the Urban Cowboy movie soundtrack and propelled Daniel’s Million Mile Reflections album to Triple Platinum sales levels. By 1981, the Charlie Daniels Band had twice been voted the Academy of Country Music’s Touring Band of the Year.
“I used to say, ‘I’m not an outlaw; I’m an outcast,’” says the Grammy Award winning star. “When it gets right down to the nitty gritty, I’ve just tried to be who I am. I’ve never followed trends or fads. I couldn’t even if I tried. I can’t be them; I can’t be anybody but me.”