Charlie Daniels Band
At this point in his life, Charlie Daniels doesn’t need to tour. Who would blame the 76-year-old musician if he decided to put his feet up at his Twin Pines Ranch outside of Nashville, where he could look at his Grammy Award and gold and platinum albums and maybe go into town for the occasional appearance at the Grand Ol’ Opry, where he became a full-fledged member in 2008?
Instead, Daniels and his band spend more time on the road than many performers half his age. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love what I do,” Daniels said from a tour stop in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “I’m addicted to entertaining people. I love recording, I love writing, all those things, playing live music and getting on stage.
“I have no desire to stay in one place. Being on the road is as natural to me as getting up and driving to a job in the morning is for someone else.”
The road brings Daniels to Hartford Wednesday for a concert at Sharon Speedway.
One of his only concessions to age is to make the stage as comfortable as possible, especially for those outdoor shows in the middle of August.
“Last year we played a date in Omaha where it was 112 on the pavement,” Daniels said. “Very obviously, I could not do that. I told the road manager we need to make some kind of arrangements to make the stage cooler.”
Daniels said he now has a small air conditioning unit, which just looks like another amplifier up on the stage, that can produce just enough cool air to make summer heat and stage lighting a little more bearable.
In addition to touring, Daniels continues to make new music. His latest release is “Hits of the South,” which includes new recording of some of his signature songs and Daniels’ rendition of other southern rock staples, like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” (yes, there’s a fiddle solo along with all the guitar solos), The Outlaws’ “Can’t You See,” The Allman Brothers’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” and The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” The Band cover, originally released on his 2007 duet’s album “Deuces,” has Daniels singing with Vince Gill and opens with a fife-and-drum style percussion riff that gives the Civil War-set tale a military feel.
“That was kind of fun,” Daniels said. “Vince does it in a higher register. It was right at the top of my range.”
After releasing most of his music in recent years through his own Blue Hat Records, “Hits of the South” is being distributed through RED Distribution, a subsidiary of Sony Music. Daniels said has the same control over his music, but the partnership will make it easier to do more with his past catalogue since many of his best-selling albums were released by Epic Records, another Sony company.
Despite having a new record to promote, Daniels said he probably won’t be playing many songs from “Hits of the South” at Sharon Speedway.
“I feel like it’s incumbent for people to play the songs people associate with you,” Daniels said.
And in more than 40 years touring as the Charlie Daniels Band (and about 55 years in the music business), he has plenty of those.
Daniels first found success on rock radio and the pop charts with ’70s songs like “Uneasy Rider,” “The South’s Gonna Do It” and “Long-Haired Country Boy.”
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” in 1979 made him a household name, as the tale of a fiddle duel with Satan topped the country charts, peaked at No. 3 on the pop charts and won Daniels a Grammy Award for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group.
Country radio was more likely to play his singles after that, but he continued to straddle radio formats with such hits as “In America,” “Still in Saigon” and “The Legend of Woolly Swamp” while country fans embraced “American Farmer,” “America, I Believe in You” “This Ain’t No Rag, It’s a Flag” and other patriotic anthems.
“Once you get through the list of what you need to play, you don’t have many spots left,” Daniels said. “You gotta play what the people want to hear.”
Daniels plans to keep making new music, though, even as sales have dwindled for all artists and veterans have found its easier to resell the old hits than it is to get many of those old fans to sample new songs.
“If there’s music I’ve written, there’s no sense to keep it to myself. I want to record it and people can download it or buy it on a disc, whatever they want.”
Clearly, Daniels likes to be heard, and not just musically. He’s a vocal supporter of U.S. troops, and he makes lengthy blog posts on his website (www.charliedaniels.com) where he weighs in two or three times a week on President Obama (not a fan), U.S. deaths in Benghazi, big government and occasionally lighter topics, like NASCAR or his exercise routine (Click on “soap box”).
Daniels isn’t interested in resting on his laurels. When asked if he had any goals left that he hadn’t achieved yet, Daniels said he has the same professional aspirations he’s always had.
“Every show sold out, every album platinum,” Daniels said. “That’s would be the great thing. It’s not going to happen, but it’s something to shoot for.”