Charlie Daniels: Devil Went Down to Southern Illinois

Charlie Daniels: Devil Went Down to Southern Illinois
Venues & Businesses
Walker's Bluff

Who: Charlie Daniels Band / Tyler Farr / Logan Mize
What: country-western showcase
When: 2012-05-18
For decades, Charlie Daniels has been one of the most well-known voices in country music. With hits
Brian Wilson

For decades, Charlie Daniels has been one of the most well-known voices in country music.  With hits like “The South’s Gonna Do It,” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” and “Still in Saigon,” Daniels and his band have created some of the most successful songs in country music, and have influenced a host musicians working today.

On Friday, May 18, the Charlie Daniels Band will come to Southern Illinois to perform at Walker’s Bluff at 5 p.m. along with warmup musicians Tyler Farr and Logan Mize.

Nightlife recently spoke with Daniels about his history in country music, his changing political views, and what he has in store for the future.

For tickets, visit <> or call (618) 453-6000. Tickets are also available at the Walker’s Bluff General Store by calling (618) 956-9900. Lawnchairs and blankets are welcome for this event.

For more information, visit <>.

You started out as a session musician in the 1960s, playing for people like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. What was this experience like? Do you feel like being involved in folk music had an influence on your work later on?

Well, it was a great experience. I learned a lot of different stuff from both guys, actually.... I had never been involved with music that fragile. It taught me another whole side, a lyrical side where the lyrics were so important that you could never let the music override them or never let the music overshadow them. Dylan was just, it was an incredible experience touring with him because he was very creative in the studio. He wanted you to play your best.

Your music, especially in the early to mid-seventies, has a very autobiographical feel. Was that you living through your music with true autobiography or were these constructed narratives? Was this influenced by your experience with the more fragile side of folk you spoke about?

Some autobiographical, some vicariously autobiographical. I certainly have not lived everything that I have ever wrote about. But I would probably have personal experiences that would at least get me thinking in a certain direction, or meet a person who would get me thinking in a certain direction, and it just takes off from there. Songwriting is a god-given talent. You just kind of need something to germinate the seed, and once it’s going you just kind of push it along and try to make it grow. It may grow in a totally different direction from what you started it out to be. I’ve kept song ideas in my head for as long as fourteen years. I have a lot of stuff now that’s just in my mind that are just at different stages of being finished, and I have had things start out as one thing and end up as another. I think we’re the sum total of our experiences, and then whatever unique talent that God gives us we add experiences to our talent and that’s what our music is, if you do it honestly, if you’re not gonna play with a cookie-cutter or something.

It’s interesting to see the change from some of your earlier songs, like “Uneasy Rider” or “Long Haired Country Boy,” in which you portray yourself as being very much a part of antiestablishment thinking to your newer work in which it seems you’ve essentially reversed your political position. What do you think caused that change?

The world has gone away from me, that part of the world. That part of the world that I viewed as antiestablishment got too antiestablishment, got too far out of hand and got too permissive. It’s just gone. What I promoted as antiestablishment just no longer exists. It just went away from me, it pulled away from me.

I still have the same attitudes as far as other people’s freedoms and anybody that takes advantage of somebody else just because they’re more powerful than the other person is or whatever. But to be antiestablishment right now, boy, you’re way out there. I mean, I don’t affiliate with Occupy Wall Street. I did affiliate with when I saw that the Vietnam War was getting turned into nothing more than political football, and that young people were being killed there.... I started turning not against the troops, but against the war. There was a lot of things that were going on in society, the Nixon years with the lying and all the things that were going on, the enemies’ list and all these things. I was very anti-that.

I mean, nowadays it’s like people blowing things up and shooting people, and I’m not into that. It’s not me. I don’t want to carry it that far. The world’s just kind of gone away from me. I’m anti-abortion. I’m anti- so many things that people are for... it’s just gone away from me. It’s just left me behind. That train’s gone away down the track, and I’m not going with it.

You’ve seen so many drastic changes in the field of country music over the years. What’s it been like to see those changes?

To be perfectly honest with you about it, I have no idea what’s going on in country music or really any other kind of music anymore. I don’t listen. I don’t watch American Idol. I don’t watch Dancing with the Stars. I don’t listen to the radio. I watch an award show on TV and there are people on there that I don’t even know, never heard of before, that have hit records and stuff. I don’t really listen to the music.... When I listen to the radio for thirty minutes and I can’t tell you one melody that I heard and I can’t whistle it or sing it or hum it, it loses my [pauses]... that’s fine, but to me, I’d rather put an Eric Clapton album on or listen to the Allman Brothers or Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, stuff that I like to listen to.

I just don’t get a kick out of a lot of the stuff. It’s very similar to me. It’s what the thing is now and that’s fine. I had my day. There was a day when the kind of stuff we’re doing was in vogue, and now that changed. When we came in and did it, we changed somebody else. Somebody’s changed it now.  Somebody will change it again. It will constantly be changed. What I’m saying is not against what’s going on. It’s just not my cup of tea.

You celebrated your seventy-fifth birthday last year, and you’ve been playing country music for over half a century now. What’s next for you?

Well, doing the same thing I do. I’m happy doing what I do. I like going around the country playing music for people, and I will probably go into the studio sometime this year and do something, but I don’t know what it’s gonna be yet. I don’t put any blinders on. When I start to write and something goes in a jazz direction, that’s just the way it goes. My band is capable of playing it, and we may sit down and record it. If it goes in a bluegrass direction, you know, let’s go do that. So I don’t really know what’s gonna come out of my mind, but whatever turns out to be the best music that I feel we have available when we get ready to record is what we’ll put down. As far as genre and all that kind of stuff is concerned, I really don’t know, to be honest with you about it.

who:  Charlie Daniels Band / Tyler Farr / Logan Mize

what:  live music (country-western showcase)

where:  Walker’s Bluff

when:  Friday, May 18