CHARLIE DANIELS 1998 INTERVIEW
CHARLIE DANIELS AND ELVIS PHANTOM
“Now I'm the kind of man who wouldn't harm a mouse/ but if I catch someone breaking into my house/ I've got a 12 gauge shotgun waiting on the other side/ as far as I'm concerned there ain't no excuse/ for the raping and killing and the child abuse/ I've got a way to end all that mess/ just take them rascals out in the swamp/ put them on their knees and tie them to a stump/ and let the rattlers and the bugs and the alligators do the rest.” - Simple Man - Charlie Daniels-Jack Gavin-Charlie Hayward-Taz DiGregorio.
When Charlie Daniels co-wrote the B-side of an Elvis Presley single Kissin' Cousins he should have struck a nice little earner.
But there was one big problem - Charlie and legendary producer Bob Johnston had to share royalties with a silent partner for the tune, It Hurts Me .
“Yeah, Elvis was listed as the third writer and we were forced to split it three ways,” Charlie laughed in a call from his Twin Pines quarter horse stud at Mt Juliet near Nashville on the eve of his second Australian tour.
“It's still earning royalties for me but it could have been even better.”
Splitting royalties soon became a tradition for Charlie and band mates who are among the survivors in a business where the fame flame is snuffed by short term use by dates.
The 1964 partnership with Johnston - who was also instrumental in Michael Murphy's breakthrough with Wildfire - landed Charlie career making sessions with Bob Dylan on Nashville Skyline and also with Ringo Starr and the late Marty Robbins.
Johnston hired Daniels, now 61, to produce two Youngbloods albums featuring Jesse Colin Young.
It led to Charlie's self- titled solo recording debut in 1970.
The singer had been working kicker bars throughout the Deep South for a decade with a band called The Jaguars whose music embraced country, blues, jazz and pop - a hybrid dubbed Dixie Rock.
Now, 32 albums and two Grammy Awards later, Daniels performs at the Mercury Lounge at Crown Casino with a band whose longevity is the envy of all.
Keyboard player Taz DiGregorio has been with Charlie for 25 years and bassist Charlie Haywood for 22 years with drummer Jack Gavin (12) and guitarists Bruce Brown (9) and Chris Worner (3) the new Dixie rockers on the block.
“When we first toured Australia we had two drummers,” Charlie recalled.
“We still play a lot of hard edged stuff with a big beat to it.”
The year was 1980 and Charlie's fame flame was ignited by his Grammy for The Devil Went Down To Georgia .
Although Australian commercial radio played Charlie in the seventies his only exposure now is ABC and community radio, notably Nu Country FM that returns for its 19th broadcast on Saturday with a new call sign - 94.9 FM.
UNEASY RIDER 88
“He looked like a girl but he talked like a guy/ he had lipstick on and mascara in his eyes/ and everybody in that place looked just about like him/ I said Jim this ain't our kind of bar/ let's just go on out and get back in the car/ 'Cause there's gonna be trouble/ ain't no sense in taking a chance/ we was getting up getting ready to leave/ when somebody grabbed old Jim by the sleeve/ and this good looking girl was asking my buddy to dance.” - Uneasy Rider 88 - Charlie Daniels.
Daniels is best known here for his Dixie Rock - captured graphically in his 1996 three CD boxed set The Roots Remain - but he has diversified in the nineties.
He won a Grammy for Amazing Grace: A Country Salute To Gospel in 1996 and a Dove award and nominations for his gospel albums The Door And Steel Witness.
The singer has also released a Western album By The Light Of The Moon and a blues disc Blues Hat that featured a sanitised update of Long Haired Country Boy with veteran country stars John Berry and Hal Ketchum.
“When I wrote that song in 1974 it was kind of a tongue in cheek kind of thing,” Daniels drawled.
“I get stoned in the morning, I get drunk in the afternoon. I didn't really mean I did that every day. Now drugs are such a major problem it's not really good to make light of them. It's a serious thing and it's ruining so many people's lives. I've lost friends and seen horrible things happen to people because of drugs. I don't take the situation lightly at all anymore. The song still means the same thing although I changed that line.”
Fiddle champ Mark O'Connor has reprised The Devil Went Down To Georgia while satirist Cledus T Judd recently parodied the hit as Cledus Went Down To Florida .
Charlie's 1973 redneck versus hippie parody Uneasy Rider was also revamped as Uneasy Rider 88 - the saga of two cowboys stranded in a transvestite bar.
STILL IN SAIGON
“Every summer when it rains/ I smell the jungle, I hear the planes/ I can't tell no one, I feel ashamed/ afraid someday I'll go insane/ that's been ten long years ago/ and time has gone on by/ now and then I catch myself/ eyes searching through the sky/ the ground at home was covered in snow/ and I was covered in sweat/ my younger brother calls me a killer/ and my daddy calls me a vet.” - Still In Saigon - Dan Daley.
Daniels has retained his sense of humor despite the traumas that prompted his social justice comment tune and album title track Simple Man .
“I get distressed with things that are going on in my country,” says Charlie.
“I see things developing that my government and judicial system don't seem to be doing anything about. There's things that really disgust me and one is putting up with crime. There's things that distress me in my country,” Daniels, a hard line anti-Vietnam war activist, changed his tune when draftees became the victims and he recorded the Dan Daley penned hit Still In Saigon .
“The people who went to that war for America , it was like trying to swim with handcuffs on,” Daniels revealed, “to hell with that, if you're going to war, you go to war. You shoot everything in sight that has an enemy uniform on. I got disgusted with what was going on. I felt we were dribbling lives down the drain. That was why I was against the war - we were wasting the cream of our youth on something that were never going to win. It was the politicians I was so annoyed with.”
Being able to speak, sing and write from the hip has always been one of the fiddler's strengths - so is the altruism spawned by the Charlie Daniels Volunteer Jams which have been a fertile melting pot of all roots music genres.
The 16th Jam in 1996 was an acoustic event after 15 predecessors which also included reunions of the Allman Brothers in 1986 and Lynyrd Skynyrd .
Charlie recently recorded a new disc Revival - saluting peers including Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Grinderswitch, Hootie & The Blowfish and Z.Z Top.
Although the singer appeared in the Urban Cowboy movie his recent contributions have been music for the Burt Reynolds movie Stroker Ace and cameo roles in The Fall Guy and Murder She Wrote.
Charlie could be excused for hanging up his fiddle and guitar and kicking back with Hazel - his wife of 33 years - and his horses and other livestock.
But that would end a career that has spanned four decades and earned sales of 17 million plus albums - and, yes, Charlie has been nominated for another Grammy in 1998.