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CHARLIE DANIELS,
1936-2020

Charlie Daniels, the fiddler/guitarist/songwriter who rose to fame during the Southern rock movement of the 1970s and sustained his career with country and gospel efforts, died today in Hermitage, Tenn. He was 83.

The cause was a hemorrhagic stroke according to doctors at the Summit Medical Center where he died. Daniels suffered a mild stroke 10 years ago and had a pacemaker implanted in 2013.

Best known for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” a country chart-topper in 1979 that won the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group and a CMA Award for Single of the Year, the North Carolina native’s career started in bluegrass in the 1950s and after a move to Nashville resulted in him working as a session musician and songwriter.

In the 1960s, he played on albums by Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Al Kooper and others; in the early 1970s, after he signed with Capitol, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and Lynn Anderson were among the country acts who recorded his songs.

Daniels scored his first Top 10 hit in 1973 with “Uneasy Rider” from his third album, Honey in the Rock. While getting the Charlie Daniels Band started, Daniels was also playing fiddle and guitar on records by other acts in the nascent Southern rock scene—Marshall Tucker Band, Elvin Bishop, Grinderswitch and Martin Michael Murphey among others.

The Daniels Band, after moving to Epic, peaked in popularity from the mid-1970s into the early 1980s with Top 40 albums such as Million Mile Reflections, Fire on the Mountain, Full Moon, Saddle Tramp and Windows, and the hit singles “The South’s Gonna Do It,” “In America” and “Still in Saigon.”  In 1974, he started the Volunteer Jam that would bring together rock and country acts; the last edition, the 20th, was held in 2018.

In 1980, he appeared as himself in the film Urban Cowboy that helped him develop a country following. His 1989 release Simple Man went #2 country and its follow-up, 1991’s Renegade, was #25 country.

“There are few artists that touched so many different generations in our business than Charlie Daniels did,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer. “Today, our community has lost an innovator and advocate of country music.”

In 1994 he released his first Christian album, The Door, on Sparrow Records; it won the Dove Award for Best Country Album. His first children’s album, By The Light of The Moon: Campfire Songs and Cowboy Tunes, came out in 1997.

Daniels and his manager David Corlew launched Blue Hat Records in 1997, releasing about a dozen Daniels albums over the course of 20 years. 

Daniels was still actively touring and 50 dates lined up from August to December this year and March to July in 2021.

Daniels is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry and Musicians Hall of Fame and received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music and the BMI Icon award.

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