Charlie Daniels: A Million Miles to Indianapolis

originally posted to | Indy’s Alternative Voice

The temperature was well above 90 degrees by mid-morning.  Charlie Daniels and his band were getting ready to play a Brickyard 400 pre-race gig at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2008.

Daniels came on stage at noon that day and captured the sweaty crowd with 75 minutes of hits from the past 40 years, from “Uneasy Rider” to “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” “Long Haired Country Boy” to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”. The show (loud and arena-like in presentation) also reminded why Daniels is a country music legend – he commanded the stage with a catalog of songs any songwriter would envy, and was able to create a big-but-intimate show, cranking up the volume on his songs without losing their core.

Daniels, who turns 75 in October, makes a return to Indianapolis with a September 10 concert at The Venue Conference Center, a new facility on the city’s West side.

Daniels is 30 years removed from his best-selling trio of albums, which began with the 1979 triple-platinum release Million Mile Reflections. But his popularity as a recording artist and a hard working performer (the album title Million Mile Reflections refers to how many miles Daniels had traveled by the album’s release)  allows him to keep a full touring schedule.

He recently released The Land Than I Love, a 15-track patriotic album, with a new song (“Iraq Blues”), traditional songs (“Star Spangled Banner”) and reworkings of some of his own tunes, including “Still in Saigon”, “American Farmer”, and “In America”. Recording a patriotic album for Daniels makes sense; he is a regular contributor to USO tours who often heads to war zones to play for American soldiers.

When he called from his tour bus before his show in Tulsa, Ok., the longtime resident of Mount Juliet, Tenn.,  who has never been shy sharing his opinions, both political and patriotic, admitted that he doesn’t always trust politicians, whether they’re on the left or the right.


ROB: I saw your show at the Speedway a couple years ago. You were “bringing it” that day; full of spark. How do you still do that?

Charlie Daniels: Love of profession, I love what I do. I like the writing songs, the recording, and everything. The thing that keeps me in this, the reason that I do this is because I get to perform on stage in front of people. I just thank God I can make a living doing what I enjoy doing, with a bunch of people I enjoy doing it with. I’ve got the best band I’ve ever had. I love playing with these guys. It’s just understood in our band “Hey, we don’t do bad shows”. Some shows are better than others because sometimes you have more to give than you do other times. But we always do a good show. And when I get to the point where I can’t do it or don’t feel like doing it with energy and with enthusiasm and with just, as you say, bringing it, I’ll quit doing it.

ROB: It was probably more than a health scare earlier this year (Daniels suffered a stroke on January 15) . How long did it take for you to recover? You were out of the hospital in a couple of days, but did it take you a month or two to get your energy back?

Daniels: You know, actually it was a period of maybe just a few days. The shock was, “Hey, I had a stroke” type thing. The hand of God was on me, no doubt about it. I was 20 miles up on a (Colorado) snowmobile trail when it happened. They flew me to Denver. I stayed there a couple of days, and I got on back home. Then, it was about getting the meds right. Should you take two of these and one of these with these, how often, when, what time of day? And getting my lifestyle cleaned up to the point that I’m really, very much into exercise and watch what I eat a lot more than I ever have in my life. But I went back to work. To answer your question, it took probably a week, ten days of adjustment. I wasn’t sitting around staring at the wall. It was like, “Hey, this has happened. Now, let’s deal with it”. I give all the credit to God that I didn’t have any more damage than I had. .

ROB: Did it affect your motor skills?

Daniels: No, not really. The only residual I have is in my left hand and arm. I have some numbness and a little stiffness there. They say it could go away in time. That’s what I’m hoping and praying for. But if it doesn’t, that’s not something I can’t live with. I’d just rather not have it. Somebody comes to see me play, and they’re not going to be able to tell. And that’s a big deal to me.

ROB: As we talk, you are part of (conservative radio host) Sean Hannity’s tour (with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Christian artist Michael W. Smith). How has that been?

Daniels: There’s thousands of people that will get together tonight in Tulsa, and in Dallas tomorrow night . They’re good people, they’re working people, they’re taxpayers, and they’re churchgoers. They’re people that are confused, that would like to see America get back on a firm footing again, but they don’t know how to go about doing it.

Everywhere you go – and I travel this country coast-to-coast and border-to-border just about every year – there’s a huge amount of uncertainty that is being generated out of Washington, DC. It’s that people don’t feel like they know what’s going to happen next. To be honest with you, people don’t trust the government anymore. And I think that’s on both sides of the spectrum. I think it’s on the left side and the right side.

People say, “Why don’t you run for office?” I say I’m not qualified to run for office – that’s the point. You want qualified people. You don’t want me. I am not a politician. But people think because I’m opinionated that I’d like to do that. But I really don’t. I’m just an American, taking advantage of a right that’s been paid for in blood that I can express my opinion, whether it’s agreed with or whether it’s not agreed with. Whether I come from the left, the right, the center, whether I am a Democrat or a Republican, an Independent, I have the right. Even if I’m out on the fringes, I still have a right to stand up and say the way that I feel about things. Anybody can speak their mind in this country. I wish everybody would start by going to the voting booth. That is a precious right.

ROB: You’ve done so much work for kids, and for the soldiers in IRAQ and on USO Tours. I was happy to see that the Grand Ole Opry invited you to become a member. It happened as you were doing the kids concert. Is that right?

Daniels: I was. We were doing a concert at the Ryman Auditorium that we do every year, it’s called Christmas For Kids, to benefit underprivileged kids at Christmas time. And Martina McBride came out and walked out of stage and said that I had been invited to join the Grand Ole Opry. It was very, very special and so was the induction, which also took place at the Ryman. It’s hard even to articulate how deeply I feel about this because I’ve been such a long time fan of Grand Ole Opry. And I was beginning to think it wouldn’t happen. But thank God it did; it’s wonderful.

ROB: And well deserved. Charlie. I’m gonna let you go so you can get ready for your show.

Daniels: I appreciate you talking to me. And I’m gonna get a little exercise here and get ready to go to work. Come see us when we are up there.

VIDEO: Recent Charlie…

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