Charlie Daniels, Southern Rock Pioneer and Fiddle Great, Dead at 83
By: Stephen L. Betts of Rolling Stone
Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Daniels, who played bass and guitar on Bob Dylan’s 1969 Nashville Skyline LP and would go on to pioneer the burgeoning Southern rock movement with his namesake Charlie Daniels Band, died Monday at 83. His publicist confirmed Daniels’ death from a hemorrhagic stroke to Rolling Stone.
With his fiery fiddle at the forefront of much of his recorded output, the leader of the Charlie Daniels Band paved the way for the mainstream country-rock success of that group and others, including Alabama and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and crossed over into the pop charts with his best-known song, 1979’s Grammy-winning “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” A country chart-topper about a fiddle contest between a boy named Johnny and Satan, the song also spent a pair of weeks at Number Three on Billboard‘s Hot 100.
Charles Edward Daniels was born October 28th, 1936, in the seacoast town of Wilmington, North Carolina, the only child of teenagers William and LaRue Daniel — the “s” at the end of his name was the result of a mistake on his birth certificate. Two weeks after Daniels started elementary school, his family moved to Valdosta, Georgia, bouncing between there and Elizabethtown, North Carolina, until finally moving back to Wilmington. A feverish bout with childhood measles forced Daniels to wear eyeglasses for most of his life, making him a target of school bullies, but the youngster, who grew up on Saturday matinees of Western films and Saturday nights spent listening to the Grand Ole Opry, would soon find his niche performing and writing songs.